Dave McCourt thinks some thoughts...

Garden visitors

Posted in: Me, Miscellany

One thing I love about living in the country is the wildlife. Even though it is all around rather annoyingly the critters can be quite shy: a glimpse here and a scrabbling sound there. I’ve only seen a live badger once in eight years here and I’ve never seen a fox – although when I visit friends in London I see several Basil Brush impersonators jumping over fences or crossing the roads.

So it is very nice when animals are kind enough to stick around long enough for me to see them. After last year’s Natrix Natrix excitement, I saw the first slow worm for some time: found thanks to Holly accidentally treading on it in the bushes (it seemed OK afterwards). Although they look like snakes, slow worms are legless lizards – the main difference being that lizards have eyelids and can blink. Slow worms (Anguis fragilis) are sadly in decline possibly due to domestic cats, which is a real shame as they are beautiful things and they can have a very long lifespan of up to 30 years in the wild. Gardeners will like them as they eat snails and slugs.

Slow worm

Slow worms are a favourite of mine. Another is the Maybug or Cockchafer (Common cockchafer: Melolontha melolontha and Forest cockchafer: Melolontha hippocastani). They only appear at the end of April/May time, hence the colloquial name, and I often see them flying into the window at night. They make quite a loud tapping sound on glass as they are quite big for UK insects (up to 3 cm and fairly solidly-built, a bit like a cockroach). The larvae live up to a metre underground for three to four years and so sometimes Maybugs aren’t seen at all in some areas for several years. Their main feature is their beautiful eyelashes or leaves: males have seven and females have six.


This one which was dozing by the back door is a male. Maybugs only live for six or seven weeks and that combined with their larvae cycle means they can be infrequent garden visitors, so enjoy them while you can.