Sunday, 21 August 2016

Captain Beaky

Human features can be deceptive, for example when a face seen directly from in front looks well-proportioned but a sideways view reveals a prominent chin or nose. Ditto with insects. This fly or wasp above seems handsome enough, if you like such creatures. But look below: It's a Cyrano de Bergerac of the insect world.

What it is, is another matter. I'd be grateful if anyone can tell me (Update: and now Katie in Comments has, for which many thanks indeed. See more below) , if only to add interest to the current quiet times in the moth trap. Wet and surprisingly blustery weather has coincided with the usual mild hiatus between summer and autumn moths. There are plenty of visitors in the eggboxes but only occasionally something out of the ordinary.

Above are a couple of Marbled Beauties, very pretty moths, and below a rather heavily-barred Carpet which I'm afraid I can't immediately identify.

Next a Bloodvein and a Green Carpet, both with attractive TV aerial antennae,

And a Coxcomb Prominent, one of several from the distinctively-shaped Prominent tribe which have been calling by all Summer.

Lastly, a very ordinary photo of a very ordinary Small Tortoiseshell; but for some reason, it's quite unusual to see butterflies in garden centres in spite of the vast nectar banquet on offer. This was one of the exceptions.

Update: And so back to my strange fly-like creature which Katie helpfully IDs in Comments as a Scorpion Fly. If you follow the link she gives and Google further, there is much interesting information about this curious creature, including the fact that males can be killed by females during night-time mating. Possibly because of this risk, they often present their partner with a gift such a dead small fly, a habit which I've also noted among spiders in past blog posts.

As for the name, steered by Katie, I found this excellent picture, left, by David Nicholls on Nature Spot which shows the male genitalia - and the reason for 'scorpion'! Further update: as you can see from Katie's second Comment, I should have said 'Scorpionfly' rather than Scorpion Fly because these curious beasties are not actually flies. They are Mecoptera (meaning 'long-winged' in Greek. This may seem a nice distinction but, as Katie points out, clarity is all in these matters, especially now in the age of the internet. Mind you, if you Google, you will find that nearly all references divide the word - ie scorpion fly - so I fear that this particular battle may be lost.


Katie (Nature ID) said...

Hi Martin -
Your Captain Beaky is a female scorpionfly (not a true fly) in the Order Mecoptera, possibly Panorpa germanica? I encourage you to look-up the names, so that you can see what the males look like and why they are called scorpionflies. Here's a link for your convenience:
Apologies for the previous deleted comments.

Martin Wainwright said...

Thanks so much Katie - very much appreciated. I will follow your advice and update the post accordingly. Hope you are continuing well. All warm wishes as ever, Martin

Katie (Nature ID) said...

Scorpionfly (single word), not scorpion fly (two words), because it is not a true fly (Order Diptera). I once had a medical entomology professor who was keen on properly acceptable common-name usage. In this day and age of word-based internet search terms, no one seems to know anymore, and anything on the internet might be incorrect. Heavy sigh.

Martin Wainwright said...

Whoops sorry, I'll amend that. Yes the effects of the internet and many and various - and, I suspect, habit-changing and tradition-breaking

Thanks again and all warm wishes


Katie (Nature ID) said...

It's funny, because no one writes 'butter flies'.

We've had some gorgeous moths come to our stairwell in the past week, such that I've been tempted to take a few pics to send you. Unfortunately, I no longer have the patience to attempt to ID them. I'm back to, "Oooh, pretty moth."