As I mentioned in an earlier post, this exceptionally wet summer has made a discernible impact on the UK's insect life. I'm no expert, but it seems to me that there are fewer insects about, in terms of both the numbers of individuals and the range of species.
At this time of year, the flowers of hogweed (Heracleum sphondylium) and angelica (Angelica sylvestris) should be buzzing with many different kinds of flies, bees and beetles... but this year they are virtually deserted.
One insect that's doing well, despite the weather, is the common red soldier beetle (Rhagonycha fulva). It seems to be more abundant than ever.
An alternative name for the species is 'the hogweed bonking beetle', which gives a pretty good indication of where you can expect to find it and what it's likely to be doing there.
I don't know who first came up with this name, but the word 'bonking' suggests that it probably dates from the 1980s. I'm sure Victoria Coren and chums at Balderdash & Piffle could give us a precise etymology, but I believe this twee euphemism for sexual intercourse probably originated in the era of the Sloane Ranger.
Less than a centimetre long, these tiny orange beetles enjoy active and uninhibited sex-lives. They will do it anywhere, any time. Although hogweed is their favourite rendezvous, they will also use ragwort (Senecio jacobaea) and many other flowers.
Apparently soldier beetles get away with such brazen behaviour because insect-eating birds won't touch them - the bright colouration is a warning that they don't taste good.
Without wishing to sound like a voyeur, I must admit that I enjoy photographing them in flagrante. They are usually so engrossed that they completely ignore the camera, making them ideal subjects on which to practice your macro technique.
Well, that's my excuse anyway! By the way, did you know that there's a Flickr group entirely devoted to Insect Porn?