Friday, 11 April 2014



Many plants and animals have been given names that conjure up funny images.  When I go out to the garden and see the Runner Beans with their tendrils that run along bamboo poles my thoughts wander to comic images of vegitables running races on little legs. 

The common names of plants and animals are bursting with examples like this.  I have taken fifty such names and translated them into pictures.   You may never have heard of some of the species I have chosen to illustrate, for instance do you know about the the Long Nosed Cattle Louse?  From photographs I can see that this common parasite is a brown, ugly and disgusting creature, but the name conjures up an altogether cuter more appealing little animal.

Another disgusting parasite I would prefer not to see in real life is the Tapeworm, but my imagined tapeworm smells of cotton and would be at home in a sewing basket

Amongst the many interesting plants and animals I came across none was more strange than The Vampire Squid from Hell 

Vampyroteuthis infernalis

This fascinating creature lives in the darkness of deep water.  Along it's limbs are bioluminescent white discs that it can switch on or off.   When threatened it ejects a sticky cloud of  bioluminescent mucus containing innumerable orbs of blue light.  These floating coloured orbs distract potential enemies long enough for the squid to switch off it's lights and escape to hid in it's coffin.

Bugs and Pests provide endless opportunities for fun.  There are the Fruit Flies

and Carrot Flies

and Horse Flies that bite us in the summer

Another nasty biting insect is the Bed Bug

Not everyone has heard of the aptly named Robber or Assasin Flies.

If their name conjures up thoughts of insect bank raids and murderous attacks on the innocent.........then you are not far off the mark.  These nasty little beasties ambush other insects, sometimes in mid flight, and stab their victims with a knife like proboscis through which they inject a poison.  The poison is an enzyme that paralyses the victim and liquefies the insides into a semi digested soup which the fly then sucks back up.

Weevils, with their long noses, are charming to look at.  But many species of weevils ruin crops, like the Carrot Weevil which is a big pest in North America.

There are of course some very beautiful insects that are beneficial to us  Think of the Peacock butterfly with its gorgeous eyed wings.  The caterpillars feed on stinging nettles.

and the name caterpillar lends itself to parady

The furry Caterpillars of Garden Tiger Moth are called Wooly Bears.  So far I have only drawn the adult version of this insect

Another beautiful insect with eyed wings is the Eyed Hawkmoth.   There are other hawk moths with wonderful names: The Elephant Hawkmoth which has caterpillars that look like little elephants.  

Moths have such wonderfully imaginative names; there are Old Ladies, Puss Moths, Mouse Moths and Magpie Moths

The Dragonfly: How can a dragon be a fly?  By being extra small and having very delicate wings of course.

and perhaps the dragon flies are there to protect the even smaller Damsel Flies?

Then there are many species of  Cuckoo Bumble Bees which get their name fromtheir habit of laying their eggs in the nests of other bees

We have all heard of Stag and Rhinoceros Beetles

Another insect to make it into my top 50 was the Gooseberry Sawfly

 Which reminded me that the name Gooseberry was opportunity for more fun

By the Waters Edge you will find Bull frogs and Bullrushes

and if you hear the sound of snoring look out for the Snoring Puddle Frog

I am sure you have heard of Cat Fish

but how about The Black Eared Cat Birds from Queensland Australia whose calls resemble the mewing of catsThey would have to fly to California if they wanted to catch Mouse Birds!

Again birds are a rich source of names.   This is the African Fish Eagle

And this is a bird you might find in an Office; The Secretary Bird

in Africa you would find Zebra Finches

if you live in Britain and look out of your window you might see a Cock Robin

 but you would never find Cardinal Finches in Rome because they live in North America

or Turtle Doves in the sea because they cannot swim

In the sea you find sea animals like Lions, Giraffs and Cows, well Sea Cows

 and Sea Lions

and Giraffe Seahorses

and hairy old hermits who are a bit grumpy

The Hairy Hermit Crab

with their spotted dogs

as you stand on the beach and look up you will see the sky you is full of flying fish

and when you go for a swim you will see Eagles and Butterflies gliding effortlessly through the water

In Turkey the Dogs fly

and on the Galapagos Islands there are Elephants

Your garden is a dangerous place to go.  Did you know that Hooded Crows are often called Hoodies, and a group of Hoodies is called "a murder"

also in your garden you have Dandy Lions with fluffy yellow manes and cravats

in America you might see flying pigs

at the Garden Centre you can buy White Egrets on Stalks

or Swans flowers with their beautifully arched white necks

and scented Bee Orchids

you will know all the World has gone batty when you look up and see a flying bulldog.