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: