Sunday, 12 June 2022

Minor matters


I put the trap out last night for the first time in a while and the lamp shone from 9pm to 7am but with interestingly sparse results. There were only about 25 moths in the eggboxes compared with tallies in mid and late May of over a hundred. The great majority were Marbled Minors, the small, pretty and variable moth shown above - with a related Middle-barred Minor in the middle of the top row. The similarly pinkish moth in the second row is, I think, a Rosy Minor, another close relative. The moth is often described as Marbled Minor sp, for species, as the Tawny and Rufous Minor are so similar. There isn't, sadly a Morris Minor, though both Penny and I used to own one and if you have time on your hands, you can take my history of the car out of the library.  Update: Thanks very much as always to Stewart in Comments for gently putting me right.  What we actually have here from top left is a Marbled White Spot, which is not a Minor, plus three Middle-barred Minors and three Marbled Minor agg (a description because the different ones are too hard to tell apart without knowledge more specialist than my own.  Many thanks!)

A newcomer for the year in the eggboxes was the Straw Dot, whose name reminded me of this rather faded White-spotted Pug below which visited earlier in May but got lost among my photos of grandchildren, flowers and the rest of it cluttering up my picture library. Actually, I shouldn't say 'cluttering' as they include some interesting scenes such as the vixen and cubs and curious cut stems of a dead Clematis montana, below.

Also from the forgotten album, here are a couple of sleepy Maybugs in an egg cone, a bright little Brimstone moth on the bulbholder of the light trap, a contrast in black and white colouring between a Peppered moth and a White Ermine and a nice little red and black beetle.

In case you were wondering, it is perched on a cannon from the children's Playmobil pirate ship which sank in the miniature storm and was the subject of a major salvage operation. I think it's a Red-and-black Froghopper, Cercopis vulnerata.

Saturday, 11 June 2022

Multiple moths - and other beasties

For the last seven months, we have had a silent guest in the shape of the Elephant Hawk moth chrysalis on the left, above. Its caterpillar was crawling recklessly across the lane outside the pub when we found it last September, the traditional time for such larvae to leave their rosebay willowherb feeding grounds in search of somewhere to pupate. The following day, it duly did and then lay undisturbed in our shed until two weeks ago.

Now it has flown, after drying out its wings and spending its first adult day sleepily on a honeysuckle. Since then, about 15 Elephant Hawks have visited the light trap and perhaps it was one of them.  Although few will see it, the species and its close relative the Small Elephant (both named after their grey, trunk-like adult catties) are common round here.

So is the Privet Hawk, the UK's third largest moth after the Death's Head and Convolvulus Hawks, but I always find it exciting to see such a large overnighter in the trap. We didn't get them in Leeds in spite of the abundance of privet hedges against which my grandfather, a renowned horticulturalist, was a life long campaigner. He would have been pleased by the quality and range of front gardens today, although I can only imagine what he would say about Leyland cypress hedges.

We have had the usual happy coincidence of the grandchildren visiting at the start of the hawk moth season and the two get on very well together. Here are their hands, considerably more delicate than mine, bedecked with Eyed and Poplar Hawks which appear again below with a plump female Pale Tussock and a Common (but lovely) Swift.

Now is the high season for moths and they have been flooding in as you can see from the following composite pictures. I will caption them as best I can, by row, left to right. Corrections welcome as always.

Shears, Light Brocade, Willow Beauty, Heart and Dart, Coxcomb Prominent, Treble Lines, Flame and two more Light Brocades.

Green Carpets, Ingrailed Clay, unknown micro, Um, Cnephasia micro sp., Treble Brown Spot, Bloodvein,  Bright-line Brown-eye and Whitepoint.

Flame, Silver-ground Carpet, Cinnabar, Garden Pebble micro, Common Wainscot, Buff Tip (the amazing twig-resembling moth), Hebrew Character, Flame Shoulder and a couple of Clouded-bordered Brindles with a Maybug or Cockchafer.

Light Brocade (again - they are everywhere), Hebrew Character (also very common now), faded Orange Footman, Angle Shades, Common Rustic, Silver Y, Willow Beauty, Bramble-shoot moth (I think) and Orange Footman.

Here's a pug of some kind, Figure of Eighty, Middle-barred Minor and Orange Footman. 

Now for some favourite individuals - the Green Oak Tortrix micro above and the dear little Spectacle below. Did ever a moth earn its name?

Here's the smart Small Magpie micro - the actual Magpie moth has called here only once and below that the hairy-breeched Pale Tussock, the larger one a female and the darker one a male.

And finally for the moths, a contrast above between a Common Carpet (left) and a Silver-ground one and, below, a couple of decently green Light Emeralds, a species whose colour fades rapidly to an almost translucent white.

Among other beasties, here is a sinister-looking Sawfly, the final product of the caterpillar kindly ID-ed yesterday by Conehead, my all-knowledgeable adviser in Comments, followed by a bright little beetley bug of some kind which I initially mistook for a micro-moth.

I was also most intrigued by this midget visitor below when P and I were having tea and a hot cross bun in the garden. By Googling 'red and blue UK fly', I have come up with Ruby-tailed Wasp, very pretty but a nasty parasite if you are a bee. It is part of a group known as 'cuckoo wasps' because of their habit of injecting eggs into an unknowing, living host.

Equally beautiful and much more benign, here is a Common Blue butterfly encountered on a walk - common indeed but extremely lovely and agreeably willing to spread its azure wings, unlike the Holly Blue shown in the picture following. These are very common in our and many other gardens but they almost always rest with their wings tight shut.  The underwing is a lovely powder blue, but the hidden topwings rival the Common Blue's and are all the more alluring for being so seldom seen.

Before I go, here is our rare Lizard Orchid which flowers every year on a local roadside, kindly protected from parking cars by two council bollards. Also some rabbits from a huge colony in the ruins of Wallingford castle and a baby grass snake drowned by the recent rain.

Friday, 10 June 2022

A merry month of moths


  Hello after too long a time - indeed exactly a month. May has been a pleasantly mothy time but I seem to have been kept busy elsewhere. I'm also conscious that most of my moths are now coming round for the tenth season since we moved from Leeds, so I'm likely to post here less often while diligently sending details of catches to iRecord.

I will include curiosities, though, and my first picture is one such. Is it a sea-lion or a walrus? No. It's a head-on view of that perky moth the Chocolate-tip. The second picture is another odd perspective; a Scorched Wing - one of my favourites for its dazzle camouflage - hoicking up its tail and sexual organs in a clear attempt to ensure the survival of the species. The following picture shows the moth in its usual, more respectable pose, snoozing on the trap's bulbholder alongside a Poplar Grey.

A trio of ermine moths next: the Quakerish grey Muslin, the familiar and lovely White Ermine in its House of Lords attire and the Buff Ermine whose patterns of black dots and dashes often differ while the delicious creamy background colour remains standard.

Elsewhere in the insect - and arachnid - world, my family have been zealous at drawing my attention to other beasts. Here is one of the grandchildren with a caterpillar which we have yet to identify - suggestions warmly appreciated - an American ladybird doing a runner from Penny on our computer keyboard by crawling on to the Escape key, a spearmint-coloured spider which crept out of my younger sister's sweater and smart red Cardinal Beetle on our raspberries. Following them, a creature which I announced on Instagram as my 'Birthday Bee' but which a well-informed reader told me is actually a Narcissus-bulb Fly.  Well I never! What an excellently precise name. 

And yes, it was my birthday on 18 May which one of my daughters-in-law brilliantly marked with this highly appropriate cake, below. I have long considered the Fondant Fancy to be one of the UK's greatest gifts to world cuisine but I've never been given one this big.  In the meanwhile, we've also celebrated the Queen's Platinum Jubilee with a patriotic tricolour photo from a Nature ramble and my Very Big Walk went swimmingly and is close to raising £3000 - there's still time to chip in (for Maggie's Centres) if you're passing and feeling generous.   The pic shows P and myself Yorkshire Dancing over the 26-mile finishing line.

The walk criss-crossed the Downs above the river Thames between Moulsford, Blewbury and Streatley and there was much to see when not puffing along, including this mole - the ground was like iron so I hope that it found a diggable spot - and clumps of the lovely Chalk Milkwort which is pretty uncommon generally but abundant on much chalky upland. 

I'll leave you for now with another of my favourite moths, the brightly-coloured Elephant Hawk which might have stepped from a rosé-drinker's happy dreams.  I'll get up early tomorrow and finish the May story with a whole lot more moths.