Sunday, 8 February 2015

Early Purple Orchid

It's not too early to look for Early Purple Orchids. Here's a rosette I found today in a wood where I saw them flowering last spring...

Tuesday, 26 August 2014

Bronze Shieldbug - A quick change of clothes

A final instar Bronze Shieldbug Troilus luridus nymph was sitting on a willow leaf at Priory CP on Sunday, so I brought it home to take a better picture. Two days later it is now an adult and looking considerably different! (It still has the final segment of the right antenna missing though). I'll take it back to Priory tomorrow when I go to work.

Saturday, 23 August 2014

Macrosiphoniella millefolii

What may be a county-first according to Alan Outen, Macrosiphoniella millefolii feeding on Yarrow. Found near Roxton on 17th August 2014

Sunday, 10 August 2014

Wasp Spider season

It's Wasp Spider season again. This one was at Sandy Smith NR yesterday.

Saturday, 26 July 2014

Terellia longicauda

Worth looking around the flowers of Woolly Thistles for the distinctive fly Terellia longicauda which lays its eggs in the head, here at Mowsbury Hill. (longicauda translates roughly as "long tail"). Alan Outen thinks may be a first county record.

Here's a hopeful male hangling around too:

Sunday, 20 July 2014

Palomena prasina?

On an oak leaf near Wilstead I spotted this clutch of eggs on 14th July. Bernard and Sheila suspect they may be Palomena prasina the Green Shieldbug.

On 20th July this is how they look now. Can't help but call them "minions"! (Created from a photo stack using CombineZP).

Glad I photographed them when I did because only about 6 hours later this is how they looked:

And nearly 20 hours later they are now in a huddle. No idea why they are doing this rather than feeding. Maybe time will tell. (Yes they are still alive as I've gently prodded a couple).

(I've now googled this behaviour and found this link which suggests they may do this until they turn into 2nd instar which may take a week or more).

Saturday, 21 June 2014

Odynerus spinipes

This female Odynerus spinipes wasp was busily provisioning her nest today at Sandy Smith NR. Like most species of solitary wasps this one has a very narrow view of what it considers suitable food for its young, in this case, weevil larvae. The nest cavities are inside the soil behind the vertical face on the left but this genus (Odynerus) builds an elaborate curved chimney over the entrance hole but we aren't sure why as other genera manage perfectly well without one. There must be some advantage to justify the expenditure of time and energy required to make it.

Tuesday, 3 June 2014

Speckled Wood life-cycle

A butterfly fluttering around its larval foodplant is always worth watching to see if it is a female looking to lay eggs. At Mowsbury Hill LNR on 26th April a female Speckled Wood (with larger light patches than males) was hopping from plant to plant at ground level. After she moved off one patch of grass I looked for an egg and it was easy to find on a blade of grass. It appeared to the eye rather whiter than it appears in this photo. About the size of a grain of salt it's amazing to think this was manufactured inside a butterfly and will itself become a butterfly in a few months, the second of probably three broods this year.

On 5th May this was the newly-hatched 1st instar larva, about 3mm long:

On 7th May it is now a 2nd instar larva and about 1mm longer:

Having now travelled to Dorest and back with me(!) it has surprised me by pupating overnight (23rd-24th May). The caterpillar seemed much too small and the pupa is tiny, only 12mm from end to end! I have my fears that it may have been infected by something - time will tell. Here's the newly formed pupa with two white features of "something" inside.

Much to my surprise the pupa seems to have progressed normally and is nearly ready to emerge (3rd June):

And the final product, released at Mowsbury Hill (3rd June) within a few metres of where the egg was laid 38 days earlier. I'm astonished that a normal-sized speckled wood could emerge from a pupa that seemed about the right size for a small heath, and that it could transform from a caterpillar to a butterfly in only 11 days. I'm glad that I still find some things wonderful!

Sunday, 1 June 2014

Moleskin and beyond

Some other sightings on Sundon Hills and Sharpenhoe Clappers:

A female Common Blue waiting for a large cloud to clear:

A fragrant orchid always looks better with an insect on it, in this case a Sphaerophoria(?) hoverfly:

What I always think of as a "mint moth", Pyrausta aurata:

A cluster of emperor moth caterpillars on bramble:

White heleborine underneath beech:

Grapholita pallifrontana - 2

I did go to Sundon Hills today to look for Grapholita pallifrontana and was successful this time, finding this one on the path along the foot of Moleskin. I suspect this will be confirmed to be a new 10km square for the species.

But to make a liar of me this one actually was sitting on wild liquorice rather than alongside it:

Saturday, 31 May 2014


I found a small patch of Adder's-tongue at Mowsbury Hill today, a plant that I'd never seen there before, though there are previous records.

Grapholita pallifrontana

Now is the time to be looking for the rare micro moth Grapholita pallifrontana, which is a UK BAP Priority Species. Here's one of three that I found today at Mowsbury Hill LNR. They sit on top of foliage, usually alongside, rather than on, wild liquorice its larval food plant throughout much of the day so are fairly easy to spot once you get your eye in. They do a wonderful gyratory dance when they notice your presence.

I checked most of the known liquorice sites two years ago and found the moth at all but one. That was Sundon Hills, where there is much liquorice along the foot of the scarp westwards from Moleskin. I'd be surprised if the moth isn't there. Worth looking if you are in the area. Records to David Manning of course if you find it.