Sunday, 15 June 2014

Ant and bee

It's moth Heaven at the moment - here's a Scarlet Tiger
drying out after the thunderstorm which I mention below

One of our very nice neighbours (and eggbox suppliers) is laid up with a fractured leg, an extremely frustrating thing to happen as summer gets into its swing. But she has some compensation in the time she can spend watching local birds and their behaviour. Last night, she gave us a brilliant description of a large thrush 'anting'.

This is an extraordinary process whereby at least 20 species of bird have been observed either rubbing themselves with individual ants or 'dust-bathing', as the thrush was doing, on or near an ants' nest. As you can read here, the reasons for the practice are the subject of debate, all these years after it was first described in a scientific paper in 1935.

By coincidence, I have been visited by a micro-moth which has a special relationship with another insect, the bee, a dependence which has earned it its English name, the Bee moth. This is easier to use than the Latin form with which all our poor micros are saddled, but for the record, that is Aphomia sociella; and actually it's not just useful for the record but as a description of the way the caterpillars of the moth are social, part of those famously close-knit entities, bumble bees' and wasps' nests.

For reasons which again leave scientists uncertain, these potentially harmful hosts allow the caterpillars to live in the nest, nibbling up debris, old wax cells and sometimes small bee and wasp larvae as well. Appropriately for a moth with such an interesting but largely hidden history, the Bee Moth hides its distinctive colouring except at close range. What looks like a small grey smudge at first sight in the eggboxes is actually a beautifully-clad creature, whose outfit includes jaggedly angled patterns and a particularly delicate sheen of sea-green.

This afternoon I encountered a less friendly relationship between this Light Emerald moth, below, and a spider. When I took the picture, I sadly assumed that the moth was dead. But when I broke the web, it began fluttering violently, shook off the last sticky strands and soared away. Luckily the robin was patrolling elsewhere.

We've been away and I'm a bit behind with trap-reporting, but here are some highlights of the last couple of nights. On Friday there was a spectacular thunderstorm at 11.30pm so I padded out in my pyjamas and turned the light off, uncertain as to what might happen if it was struck by lightning. In the morning, however, there was a fine complement of visitors in and around the trap and here are some of them.

Another Scarlet Tiger, showing its bright red underwing after a crash landing

That common but lovely moth, the Burnished Brass

I think this is a Plain Golden Y,  a misnamed moth if ever there was one

And here's another - the Single-dotted Wave seems to have several dots to me

No quarrel with Beautiful Hook-tip as a choice for this one, though

The eccentric Barred Straw, the only UK moth apart from the Spinach... rest like this
A Green Oak Tortrix nestling up to a Pug (which I will need a lot more time to ID)

Ditto with this micro although I think... may be a pallid version of this familiar but beautiful
visitor, Pseudargyrotoza conwagan

This is one of the Eudonia micros

And this will let you know soon

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