Saturday 26 June 2021

When Blotched is a compliment

A favourite moth has winged in, the Blotched Emerald whose rather off-putting name may be accurate but doesn't do justice to its beauty. I am a bit biased because all green moths are lovely to me, ranking only below blue, which is almost unheard-of in UK species, although wonderfully present in our butterflies.

Nearby on a similarly difficult background for my iPhone camera was a much more common visitor, the Brimstone moth, and there was a third nicely-coloured and patterned arrival on the opposite side of the black plastic bowl, a Blood-vein. You can see the reason for its name.

In the eggboxes were what I first thought were two confusing alike species, one of which I recognised at once from its enormous Pinocchio palps as the very well-named Snout. I thought that the others, with their more modest noses, but I cannot find anything which fits the bill. So are they unsnouted Snouts?  I will have to ask for help on the Upper Thames Moths blog. Update: Dave Wilton once again saves the day by saying: Yes, Snouts can lose their snouts in the sort of battering to which moths are exposed. Many thanks.

In rather similar colours, here is a Least Minor, a dear little moth, and an extremely narrow colleague, the Scarce Footman which is not really scarce in this part of the world.

I was mowing the lawn yesterday when I got seriously delayed by the delights of photographing a White Plume, a moth which also features on the composite picture of this blog, a signal honour. It is tiny but with very long and interesting legs and wonderfully delicate, feathery plumes.  I chased it around from grass stem to grass stem, hampered in my efforts to focus properly by the way my glasses slip off my nose.

I think that today's micro moth is Apotomis turbidana but I will have to check on Upper Thames again. Update: Dave Wilton suggests Hedya nubiferana which would be new for me.  And finally we have a very neat and slimline wasp - passing wasp experts, I'd be grateful for help. Update: Aril in Comments kindly suggests a Tiger Cranefly - excellent name - and that looks right to me. Thank you!


Thursday 24 June 2021

Getting together


The heady effect of pheromones from female moths on males has been discussed here from time to time, especially during my five years of breeding Emperor moths from one magnificent Empress which called in May 2014.  This week I had the enjoyable experience of seeing the effects of the invisible trail of scent on one of the many Scarlet Tigers which are making the days brighter hereabouts. 

The moth was flying very erratically over our vegetable patch and eventually nose-dived into a large clump of marguerites. I thought that it would settle but instead it clambered around in  a very determined fashion. Peering closer into the tangle of stems, I saw why: a female Scarlet Tiger was positioned seductively on a leaf of the bindweed which was making the maze of foliage even more tangly. 

They got together as per my first two photographs, so the chances of another good Scarlet Tiger season next year have been given a boost. This was at about 4.30pm  That evening, I went out at 9pm to light the trap and they were still there. I gently disentangled the bindweed to get my third photo.

New moths for the year continue to arrive in good numbers, including the Barred Straw, above, with its unusual resting position. I also photographed the Heart and Dart below as a very nice example of the type.

Another source of pleasure here at the moment is the flourishing orchid population - we have five species within a mile of our front door. One of them, the Early Marsh, has finished flowering but the wonderful Bee and weird and whacky Lizard are currently going strong, along with lots of Pyramidals and almost as many Common Spotteds.

Looking closely at one of my pictures of the Bees, I noticed a tiny insect on the upper pink petal. Maybe it's a tiny bee.

And here's the Lizard, below. Quite a rarety and a great plant to have so close to hand.

Finally, my niece took this excellent picture of a Large White butterfly down in Cornwall, about to alight on one of the many flowers on the beautiful sea-cliff paths.

Sunday 20 June 2021

Scarlet woman

A tremendous and reliable pleasure at this time of the year is the Scarlet Tiger, a day-flying moth whose colours match the most dazzling of butterflies. The red underwings are terrific, of course, but the forewing has a greeny-blue, slightly oily-looking sheen which makes for a memorable combination.

I found the one above in our local churchyard when I saw something brighter than a leaf float erratically down from a big tree. Having landed, it showed no inclination to love, even when I came so close that my iPhone touched it. I think it either got damp or just been discombobulated by our current lingering rain. Here it is again below, in the context of the wider world.

A neighbour found a very interesting one last week, a female whose wings had only partially unfurled so that she was unable to fly but crept up to a perch first on a chair and later on the spout of a watering can. He showed me a couple of pictures and I was startled to see that in the second, below, a male Tiger had come a-courting. That urge is absolutely overwhelming among moths as we've seen in previous posts, notably about my Emperor-hatching spree some years ago when instantly males locked on to the pheromones broadcast by even very newly-hatched females.  

Monday 14 June 2021

Lobster potted


I am afraid that the star of today's show came to a sad end due to his over-hasty departure from the trap. Like a supercharged version of Gerard de Nerval's lobster, which the writer used to take for walks on the Champs Elysée, explaining to passers-by that he liked it 'because it doesn't bark and it knows the secrets of the sea', this Lobster moth shot off before I could stop him. I said him, because in moths, fancy antennae almost always denote a male.

He spiralled up into the sunlight and had almost reached the cover of our large oak when, zooooom! one of our robins whizzed down and that, alas, was that. I take what precautions I can over this sort of thing happening, but the Lobster moth is a common species and I am sure that a great many keep the bird and bat population up to the mark in the same way.

The moth's name comes from its remarkably crustacean-looking caterpillar - pic, left, from the Moth Bible. But the adult also has the grey of a lobster uncooked, albeit rather a hairy one.  Altogether, an excellent moth.

From the Large to the Little: here is a pristine Lime-speck Pug, one of the most attractive of that rather grey family of very small macro moths. And then here is a smart micro-moth, below, Crambus lathoniellus, I am pretty sure.

Still on the delicate side, we are back to the macros with the Treble Brown-spot above and the Shoulder-striped Wainscot below, both lovely exercises in white, cream, grey and black.

So to the Middle-barred Minor, below, and a Poplar Hawk which I've included because it posed so obligingly on Penny's kneeler with its toning colouration parches showing, rather than hidden which they usually are.

The next picture perhaps gives an idea of the busy-ness of the light trap at the moment. The quartet shown are not new but the later pictures show all sorts of first arrivals for the year.

An Elephant Hawk, a battered Common Swift, a Cinnabar and a Heart and Club

A couple of Burnished Brasses, form tutti with the metallic areas joined by that slender link

Orange Footman, one-eyed Bright-eye, Brown-line, Willow Beauty and Silver-ground Carpet 

Another Silver-ground Carpet, a Light Brown Apple Moth micro (Epiphyas postvittana), one of the many varieties of Common Marbled Carpet and the pretty micro Parapoynx stratiotata, aka the Ringed China-mark.

I can never resist photographing the Brimstone Moth

And finally, for the moths, here are another Common Marbled Carpet, a Heart and Dart and two  Dark Marbled Carpets, I think. Please correct me if I'm adrift.

In conclusion, two butterflies enjoying this matchless weather: a Small White - look out, my Purple-sprouting broccoli! - and a Red Admiral.

Saturday 12 June 2021

Hop Dog

The Hop Dog, as the Pale Tussock used to be known in the great days of hopping, when most of East London decamped to Kent to help with the harvest and ensure the nation's beer supplies, is always welcome here. We don't have hops, which it especially favours, but its caterpillars are commendably catholic in their tastes (like our two grandsons but definitely not our granddaughter).

I was interested this year to get two males on the same night with contrasting shades of grey. Here they are closer-up:

I think that the first one is the less frequently seen melanistic form, an interesting example of the contrast which is much more famous in the Peppered Moth.  My pleasure was complete when the female, below, visited the trap two nights later. Larger and paler, they are less attracted than the males to light.

The delicious weather is bringing all sorts of good things to the trap at the moment.  Here's this morning's quartet of delicate examples, all of which were roosting on the outside of the transparent cowl, fortunately undetected by birds.

Clockwise from top left: Sandy Carpet, Clouded Silver, Dot Moth Update: sorry, sloppy me.  It's a Straw Dot.  Many thanks to Edward in Comments) and Small Magpie