Monday, 5 August 2013

Prickly personality

I was picking runner beans for supper yesterday when I found this rather alarming object in possession of a bean I wanted to pinch off. Slightly less alarming when I tell you that it was roughly half as big as a lemon pip, but it was impressively well-armoured against enemies its own size. 

It's the larva of a Harlequin ladybird, a species of great ferocity whose young cannibalise one another if they get the chance. Woe betide any aphid which encounters an adult ladybird too; they are like dragonflies in the speed and ruthlessness with which they Hoover up prey.

That is not how we see them in our sentimental cultural portrayal of animals of course; as for example in my bicycle bell. I show this because after eating our runner beans, Penny and I went for a spin round Kidlington, as did an impressive number of Silver Y moths such as the one shown, rather blurrred, sorry, nectaring from a thistle-type plant below.

I followed it round a clump of thistly flowers until it appeared to speed off. Then a tickle revealed that it has sped only as far as my right leg. Here are leg and moth below, with my trainers down in the distance. This is a genuine day-flying moth rather than one disturbed from its slumbers by the ting of my bicycle bell.

Lovely though it may be, my leg is not the image I'll leave you with. Here in rapid succession are two of my fingers hosting a Marbled or Tawny Marbled Minor.  After yesterday's rather brown spectrum of moths, I've also added a Swallowtailed moth on a well-chosen eggbox, a Buff Ermine which chose a gaudier perch, a perky green V-pug (I think) which thinks it's a butterfly and one of our long-stay visitors, an Elephant Hawkmoth; these are now entering their third month of coming to the trap. Also one of the most delicate of the 'Laura Ashley moths', a Clouded Silver, a species which has moved north dramatically in recent decades, like the BBC. Let Government departments do likewise.

And finally, a couple of interesting points relating to earlier posts. Yesterday in Comments, Phil Gates whose blogs make fascinating reading (click on his name in the Comment) described how Large, Small and Green-veined Whites were attracted to white sweet peas he grew one year, conceivably mistaking the flowers for fellow-butterflies. This reminded me of a picture I took a couple of weeks ago of a wild rose bloom doing the same thing - it had me fooled.

And thanks to the excellent Upper Thames Butterfly Conservation (first link on the left at the top of the blog), I can pass this on from their member Dave Wilton about the puzzling micro I featured on Thursday with its hindwings folded forward and upwards in butterfly style. Here's a pic of it followed by Dave's explanation. Many thanks to him.

"This is Batia unitella and it wouldn't normally be sitting in that way. The shock of entering the trap, possibly after striking the hot light bulb on the way in, may have caused the wings to get out of synch with each other. Often this situation sorts itself out the next time the moth tries to fly."

I hope so. Certainly it managed to take flight apparently normally when I took its eggbox to a shrub and gave it a gentle blow.

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