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Yes! Here's proof of what every gardener in Britain has always known - it's a jungle out there! These are just some of the hungry predators waiting in your undergrowth, exposed by scientists at the Natural History Museum in London. They used a pounds 250,000 electron microscope capable of magnifying the little devils up to 200,000 times so that we can finally see them eye to eyes. They may not be a pretty sight - but they're not all enemies waiting to strike the minute your back is turned. MATTHEW BENNS rep...


1. Small tortoiseshell butterfly

(Aglais urticae)

The tortoiseshell is a welcome guest. Natural History Museum bug expert Lee Rogers says: "Butterflies love to eat nettles and weeds. As caterpillars, they like to tuck into wild plants and as butterflies they love wild flowers. They help with pollination as they fly from bloom to bloom."

2. Money spider

(Peponocranium ludicrum)

These merciless predators also love to eat aphids. Spider specialist Paul Hillyard says: "They have big fangs which are sharp enough to puncture the body of any bug caught in its web and inject it with venom. When the victim has been reduced to froth, the spider sucks it up."

3. Seven spot ladybird

(Coccinella septumpunctata)

Everybody loves a ladybird - and no wonder. Rogers says: "The ladybird feeds on the aphids which feed on the plants in the garden. They don't bite, they only nibble - sometimes on people's skin to get at the moisture."


4. Aphid

(Aphis fabae)

This little beast is known to gardeners as black fly, black blight and a few more things we can't print in a family magazine. Rogers says: "They feed in high numbers and if there are too many of them they will kill a plant. The aphids use a sharp hollow needle to pierce plants and drink the plant's food source, sap."

5. House fly

(Musca domestica)

Yuk! The house fly is probably the dirtiest flying bug around. When it lands on your dinner you can be sure it was sitting somewhere unpleasant only moments before. Rogers says: "They are scavengers which come off dead and rotting animals to land on clean eating surfaces and food. They carry germs on their sticky feet and in their droppings."

6. Ant

(Lasius niger)

The ant is a vicious meat eater with enormous strength - thankfully they are only a few millimetres long. Rogers says: "The black garden ant can be a pest if it gets indoors. It will go after anything, particularly sweet things."

7. Bee mite

(Varroa jacobsoni)

The 1.5mm long bee mite is threatening Britain's pounds 13 million honey industry and the pounds 6.9 billion a year agriculture industry which relies on the bee for pollination. Museum mite specialist Dr Anne Baker says: "These mites hitch-hike on bees' legs. The female rides on the bee into the hive and lays her eggs in the bees' egg chamber. When the mites hatch they feed on the developing bees leaving them weak and deformed."


Experts at the Natural History Museum place the dead bugs in a sealed vacuum chamber inside an electron microscope and bombard them with electrons. The image they create is shown on a TV screen and photographed using normal film. Electrons only show shades of white and black so the colour has to be put back by using an image processing computer.


Being bugged? Don't resort to chemical warfare, says environmentalist and TV personality David Bellamy. "Resist getting out the insecticide," he says. "If you drench your garden with it you'll kill the good bugs as well as the bad ones and your problems will be even bigger.

"Anyway, aphids can stick up two fingers to these chemicals after a short while and then you will have even more of them to deal with. The thing to do is encourage ladybirds by having plenty of plants."

The Natural History Museum's Wildlife Garden has 14 different habitats ranging from chalk grassland to bluebell woods. For more information phone 0171

938 9123.
No portion of this article can be reproduced without the express written permission from the copyright holder.
Copyright 1997 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

Article Details
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Title Annotation:Features
Author:Benns, Matthew
Publication:The People (London, England)
Date:May 4, 1997

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