Thursday, 14 June 2018

Plumping up

Things are humming along in the Imperial Caterpillar Nursery, with my charges now adding green and gold to their initial black-n-spiky appearance. Their brothers and sisters are thought to be doing well in Headington, too, and further consignments are going off shortly to a neighbour's children, also in Oxford, and a stained glass artists and entomologist in Abingdon. Feeding them on hawthorn has been a blessing compared with the willow which I have used previously. It stays fresher longer and grows all over the place round here. Picking it reminds me of my mother's insistence that we could eat it ourselves, when hungry on walks, and her claim that country people valued it so much that they knew it as 'bread and cheese'. It tastes like neither.

Meanwhile, Penny and I have been down at the grandchildren's in London where the White Ermine Nursery is also flourishing, breeding the little creatures in the top picture of the composite above, from eggs laid by a female moth which my granddaughter (a tremendous fan of White Ermines) took home after her last visit here. The second picture, going clockwise, shows what these little creatures do to a dandelion leaf and the third is a mixture of caterpillar poos and the Mermaid's Jewels which are felt to be essential to the colony's well-being.

My only slight concern is over the way that the catties are clustering on their ceiling, rather than being absorbed in the delicious replacement dandelions which we collected yesterday. Still, they made hay with the previous crop, so I cannot see why they shouldn't get back to munching again. We will all monitor the situation.

Walthamstow where the grandchildren live is extremely urban but Londoners are very good with their gardens and parks and there is plenty of foliage for insects in scruffy and neglected corners. We are always spotting interesting things, the children especially with their fresh and hawk-like vision. Above for example is a Plume moth with its umbrella-furled wings, sunning itself on a parked car.

Finally, we spotted this interesting spider while playing in the garden. I will Google 'white spider' but if any passing arachnophile recognises the species, please let me know. Update: and very many thanks to ace entomologist and stained glass artist Vikki Rose for telling me that this is a Crab Spider. They are fascinating creatures which don't make webs (although they can produce silk) but lie in wait in foliage and ambush prey with their crab-like front legs. Their ability to scuttle sideways also accounts for their species name.  You can read more about them here - and many thanks again to Vikki.

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