Nature Studies by Michael McCarthy: The dazzling wings that define summer

What is the supreme marker of high summer? What sensations most come to mind of hot, lazy days? Do you see a yellow beach, a blue pool, or hear the shouts of children splashing? Do you hear the purr of an evening lawnmower? Do you taste rosé wine, chill and savoury in its glass? Do you smell a barbecue aroma wafting across from a neighbouring garden?

Damselflies in distress forced back to UK by climate change

Damselflies don't sound like they'd do anything as dramatic as invading anywhere, and the dainty damselfly sounds like it would do so least of all. But that's what's happening in southern England, as several species of these delicate, smaller relatives of the dragonflies cross over from the continent and start establishing populations here.

Top Trumps: All creatures great and small

Butterflies vs bats. Squirrels vs stag beetles. The natural world is at war – but don't worry, it's all for a good cause. Holly Williams plays a game of wildlife Top Trumps

Nature Studies by Michael McCarthy: Such intoxicating displays of mimicry

Very occasionally a book comes along which enables you to see the world in a different way, and I have just discovered one. The title is Butterflies: Messages from Psyche and the author is Philip Howse, a retired Professor of Entomology at the University of Southampton. Published six weeks ago, the book is large-format, and since it is profusely illustrated with splendid photographs of butterflies and moths, many of them magnificent tropical species in bravura colours, your first thought is: coffee table. Yet something radical is going on in these pages which marks this volume out as one to be read rather than left lying around in your sitting room.

Nature Club: Calling amateur naturalists

Britain has an extraordinary tradition of wildlife-watching – and our new Nature Club is a chance for readers to get up close with flora and fauna

Nature Studies by Michael McCarthy: Small species: spare parts that matter

An American botanist once suggested to me that I should think of the living plant and animal species of the earth as the parts of a dismantled Boeing 747, laid out on the ground. If 10 per cent of those parts were removed, he said, would you still be happy to fly in the Jumbo Jet, if the plane were put back together without them? Hardly, I said. So by analogy, he said, would you think you were safe on planet Earth with 10 per cent of its parts missing?

Bees fitted with tiny ID tags for study

Bees are being fitted with tiny radio ID tags to monitor their movements as part of research into whether pesticides could be giving the insects brain disorders, scientists said today.

Revealed: the wasp species impervious to evolution

Evolution has not altered the fig wasp in 34 million years, scientists have discovered.

Large blue thrives after transplant from Swedish island

Naturalists hope that this summer will prove to be a record year for the emblematic large blue butterfly, which was declared extinct in Britain in 1979 but has experienced a remarkable renaissance after it was re-introduced from Sweden in 1984.

Faerie queen Jessica Albarn draws on nature for inspiration for her first book

It turns out you really can't trust a faerie. Or, at least, not the ones that appear in illustrator Jessica Albarn's first book, The Boy in the Oak. Meant for adults and children alike, it's the story of a lonely, destructive boy who is cruel to nature, trampling on flowers, carving his initials into trees and frightening creatures. In return, a group of faeries – who take on the guise of the insect that reflects their personality, from dragonflies and butterflies to wasps and ladybirds – trap him in a magical oak.

Nature Studies by Michael McCarthy: The Duke of Burgundy lives. But for how long?

If you enjoy the series of cartoons by Gary Larson known as The Far Side, you may remember one which is a split panel, with the top half labelled "The Names We Give Dogs" and the bottom half labelled "The Names Dogs Give Themselves". In the top are two simple men and a simple mutt, and one man is saying to the other: "This is Rex, our new dog." In the bottom are three dogs, talking together. One says: "Hello, I am known as Vexorg, Destroyer of Cats and Devourer of Chickens," while the second dog, standing with the third, smaller dog at his side, says: "I am Zornorph, the One who Comes By Night to the Neighbour's Yard, and this is Princess Sheewana, Barker of Great Annoyance and daughter of Queen La, Stainer of Persian Rugs."

Crisis may be over for honey bees as more survive winter

More honey bee colonies made it through this winter than last year despite the harsh conditions, the British Beekeepers' Association says today. But while there was a "small and encouraging improvement" in survival rates this year, the UK's honey bees are still not healthy enough, the organisation's president Martin Smith warns.

New to nature, the moth that disguises itself as droppings

A new species of moth which has markings that make it look like a bird dropping, protecting it from predators, has been discovered in Devon.

Butterflies: Not just a pretty pair of wings

Clive Farrell has been fascinated by butterflies since boyhood. He explains why his conservation project for these vibrant creatures carries an urgent message

Getting close to nature: It's time to grasp the nettle

Contact with nature is good for us – yet we're discouraged from getting too close. The 'don't touch' culture is getting out of hand, says Peter Marren
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The week Hollywood got scared and had to grow up a bit

The week Hollywood got scared and had to grow up a bit

Sony suffered a chorus of disapproval after it withdrew 'The Interview', but it's not too late for it to take a stand, says Joan Smith
From Widow Twankey to Mother Goose, how do the men who play panto dames get themselves ready for the performance of a lifetime?

Panto dames: before and after

From Widow Twankey to Mother Goose, how do the men who play panto dames get themselves ready for the performance of a lifetime?
Thirties murder mystery novel is surprise runaway Christmas hit

Thirties murder mystery novel is surprise runaway Christmas hit

Booksellers say readers are turning away from dark modern thrillers and back to the golden age of crime writing
Anne-Marie Huby: 'Charities deserve the best,' says founder of JustGiving

Anne-Marie Huby: 'Charities deserve the best'

Ten million of us have used the JustGiving website to donate to good causes. Its co-founder says that being dynamic is as important as being kind
The botanist who hunts for giant trees at Kew Gardens

The man who hunts giants

A Kew Gardens botanist has found 25 new large tree species - and he's sure there are more out there
The 12 ways of Christmas: Spare a thought for those who will be working to keep others safe during the festive season

The 12 ways of Christmas

We speak to a dozen people who will be working to keep others safe, happy and healthy over the holidays
Birdwatching men have a lot in common with their feathered friends, new study shows

The male exhibits strange behaviour

A new study shows that birdwatching men have a lot in common with their feathered friends...
Diaries of Evelyn Waugh, Virginia Woolf and Noël Coward reveal how they coped with the December blues

Famous diaries: Christmas week in history

Noël Coward parties into the night, Alan Clark bemoans the cost of servants, Evelyn Waugh ponders his drinking…
From noble to narky, the fall of the open letter

From noble to narky, the fall of the open letter

The great tradition of St Paul and Zola reached its nadir with a hungry worker's rant to Russell Brand, says DJ Taylor
A Christmas ghost story by Alison Moore: A prodigal daughter has a breakthrough

A Christmas ghost story by Alison Moore

The story was published earlier this month in 'Poor Souls' Light: Seven Curious Tales'
Marian Keyes: The author on her pre-approved Christmas, true love's parking implications and living in the moment

Marian Keyes

The author on her pre-approved Christmas, true love's parking implications and living in the moment
Bill Granger recipes: Our chef creates an Italian-inspired fish feast for Christmas Eve

Bill Granger's Christmas Eve fish feast

Bill's Italian friends introduced him to the Roman Catholic custom of a lavish fish supper on Christmas Eve. Here, he gives the tradition his own spin…
Liverpool vs Arsenal: Brendan Rodgers is fighting for his reputation

Rodgers fights for his reputation

Liverpool manager tries to stay on his feet despite waves of criticism
Amir Khan: 'The Taliban can threaten me but I must speak out... innocent kids, killed over nothing. It’s sick in the mind'

Amir Khan attacks the Taliban

'They can threaten me but I must speak out... innocent kids, killed over nothing. It’s sick in the mind'
Michael Calvin: Sepp Blatter is my man of the year in sport. Bring on 2015, quick

Michael Calvin's Last Word

Sepp Blatter is my man of the year in sport. Bring on 2015, quick