Locusts, spiders, scorpion, honeybees


In Haren botanical garden in the northern Netherlands, there are not just plants and birds.

There are two buildings for insects. I went to both on 21 April.

The honeybee building has many inhabited beehives in various styles and shapes. Though it was a rather cold and windy spring day, the bees were flying and bringing in nectar. Usually, 10 degrees centigrade is considered to be the minimum temperature for bees to become active outside their hive. It was about 11 degrees.

Honeybees in Dutch nature reserves: here.

The other building is the insectarium, the insect house. A bit difficult to find, as there was no sign at the entrance.

After the entrance, there is a room with exhibits of dead insects. Many of them stick insects, which also predominate in the insectarium’s live collection. The biggest one is a Phobaeticus serratipes, which we will meet later here in a terrarium.

After another door, the building becomes a bit warmer (though not as hot yet as in the Victoria amazonica hothouse behind it). Here are scores of terrariums, housing insects, and also some of their spider and scorpion arthropod relatives.

This video is called African grasshoppers (Locusta migratoria) in terrarium.

In the first terrarium near the entrance were scores of migratory locusts, in their migratory mode (there is also a non-migratory mode which does not harm agriculture). Montagu’s harriers nest in Groningen province (where Haren is). In winter, they are in Africa and eat migratory locusts.

The locusts in this terrarium feed on bamboo leaves.

In the next terrariums are tarantula spiders from various countries.

Theraphosa leblondi is from South America.

In the next terrarium, Poecilotheria fasciata is from Sri Lanka.

Next, a Mexican red-kneed tarantula. This species is often kept as a pet. In right circumstances, it may become thirty years old.

In the next terrarium, an emperor scorpion. And many young, and a few adult, crickets, as scorpion food.

Then, a couple of the Hierodula membranacea praying mantis species. They get crickets and flies as food here.

Next, Pachodna butana beetles from Africa. The adults here eat banana, the larvae salad and other vegetables.

Then, death’s-head cockroaches. They had a piece of apple for food.

Then, rare cave crickets from Mozambique. They are fed on bits of cucumber.

Then, Ventralla quadrata crickets from Malaysia. They get bramble, raspberry, and rhododendron leaves as food.

Next, Tropidacris collaris grasshoppers. Among the biggest grasshoppers in the world, they eat bramble leaves here; differently from their native South America.

I have by now walked the full length of the insectarium. Close to the door to the Victoria amazonica hothouse are terrariums with cockroaches.

Blatta lateralis are from Central Asia. They get apple.

Archimandrita tesselata are from South America.

Madagascar hissing cockroaches are, as their name says, from Madagascar. They also get apple for food. Young cockroaches in this terrarium are now about one-third of the adults’ size.

Along the other side of the insectarium, I walk slowly back to the entrance.

In the first terrarium here is the second longest insect of the world: Phobaeticus serratipes, a very big stick insect from Malaysia.

This is a Phobaeticus serratipes video, about a still not fully grown animal.

Like other stick insect species, Phobaeticus serratipes eats only leaves. Here in Haren, the stick insects do no get leaves from their tropical homelands, which would be expensive, but from the Netherlands. They don’t seem to mind. Phobaeticus serratipes gets bramble and oak leaves here. The big number of young animals in the terrarium seems to indicate the food works.

Next, a terrarium with two stick insect species. Alienobostra brocki from Costa Rica eats here bramble, raspberry, hazel and oak leaves.

Its roommates, Extatosoma tiaratum from Australia, eat oak, bramble, raspberry and ivy.

Also two species in the next terrarium. A Phyllium lead insect from the Philippines, together with Aretaon asperrimus from Indonesia,

This is an Aretaon asperrimus video.

Next, Peruphasma schultei, discovered in 2004 in Peru. Here, they eat honeysuckle, privet, and lilac. Two of the animals mate, a small male on a bigger female.

In the next terrarium, again two species. Parapachymorpha spinosa is from Thailand. The other species, Haaniella erringtoniae, is from Malaysia.

Next, one of the two species is Heteropteryx dilatata from Malaysia. They are the second heaviest insect species in the world. The other species here, from New Guinea, is Eurycantha calcarata.

The next species, Oreophoetes peruana from Peru, is unique, because it is colourful and feeds only on ferns.

Then, in the next terrarium bugs, in the narrow sense of the word. Platymerus biguttatus assassin bugs from Cameroon feed on insects (here: crickets).

Next, two colourful African beetle species share a terrarium. They are Eudicella smithii and Eudicella grallii. They eat banana,

Chlorocala africana are the beetles in the next terrarium. Originally from Uganda, here the adults get banana, and the larvae get oak humus.

In the final terrarium, again a praying mantis species: Phyllocrania paradoxa from Madagascar.

Birds and botany in Haren


This Dutch video is about lilies in the Haren botanical garden in the northern Netherlands.

In Haren is the largest Dutch botanical garden.

At the moment, its hothouses are being repaired after damage during the frosty winter, so they are not accessible.

Only the Victoria amazonica hothouse is open.

So are two buildings with insects: the insect house, and the honeybee building.

I will write about the arthropods in a later blog post. Now, first about plants and birds in Haren, as I saw them on Saturday 21 April.

In a pond near the entrance, coots nest. They have new-born chicks. In the morning, I did not see the chicks, as a parent then protected them against the cold. Later, when it was sunnier and warmer, I saw them. The other parent repeatedly swam to the nest with fresh nesting material.

A jay. A blackbird.

A robin on a bush, singing.

Then, a shower, which I spend in the insect house.

After the rain had stopped: chiffchaff and greenfinch.

Wood anemone flowers.

A song thrush and a chaffinch singing.

Then, flowers which have become rare in the wild in the Netherlands: snake’s head fritillaries. Both purple and white flowers. A small number of the white-flowered kind grows also in Haren, outside the botanical garden, in a nature reserve.

A male chaffinch in a tree. Two wood doves just below it.

Common butterwort is a perennial carnivorous plant. It used to be common in the northern Netherlands. Today, however, the botanical garden is the only place in Groningen province where it grows.

In 1935, people started planting a pinetum in a part of the garden. Sometimes, one should see squirrels there. I did not see any today.

A few years ago, the water in the garden attracted kingfishers. Harsh winters mean that they disappeared. I hope that they will be back.

One of the bigger trees is a Sequoiadendron giganteum, a giant redwood, from North America. One of the biggest, though it is still relatively young.

A great cormorant flying.

A carrion crow on a treetop,

A grey heron flies away.

A buzzard circling in the air near the garden’s marsh.

A willow warbler sings.

Many pondskaters in the water of the “Celtic” garden.

Then, a green woodpecker. First, I hear its “laughing” sound; then I see it fly away.

Just outside the garden is a small deer park, with fallow deer, muscovy ducks, a turkey, a male and a female peacock, chickens and goats. And magpies.

Cuckoo flowers.

Blue tit. Great tit.

Then, a female blackbird sits down invitingly, with her tail up, on a wooden bridge. The male blackbird comes and they mate.

In the Victoria hothouse, no Victoria amazonica flowers today.

Finally, in the arboretum, there is a big birch tree, of the Betula ermanii species. It was already there when the garden started in 1920.

An ambitious project aims to catalogue the world’s entire plant species by 2020: here.