Thursday, 31 July 2008

More from the filming

I recently showed the nymph of Cicadella viridis. Here's the glorious adult:

This is the much more frequently-seen Frog-hopper, Philaneus spumarius:

And I've yet to get a completely satisfying shot of the Leafhopper Evacanthus interruptus:

The leaf-mining micromoth Mompha raschkiella appears to have been to school and learned how to keep the writing on the line:

These mines can overlap and are difficult to decipher, but I think we have 3 mines here, one of which is still occupied (you can see the 3mm yellow larva in the centre of the shot). These only mine Rosebay Willowherb.

TV filming

I just spent the last two days filming for a new TV program. Filming involves a lot of walking, talking, real photography and pretend photography. I took 650 shots, and have about 45 keepers, with around 15 to show. I'll break them down over the next couple of days, hoverflies first.

In no particular order we have:

Epistrophe grossulariae:

Leucozona glaucia:

Syrphus sp. (female)

Monday, 28 July 2008

Single moths continue

My new front-door lights still appear to be working their magic. This was taken well after dark and when I took the shots I thought it was the migrant Silver Y. But when I looked at the flash shots, I saw that it was the resident Plain Golden Y - Autographa jota. New one for me.

Another new one is this Grass Emerald - Pseudoterpna pruinata. Emeralds tend to lose their green colour very quickly, so this must be a fairly new specimen.

I must check my moth will be close to 150.

Monday, 21 July 2008

Migrant hoverfly?

The hoverfly Scaeva pyrastri is thought to be migrant in Ireland, so this female has come a long way. (The justification for it being a migrant is based on the late appearance of this species in Ireland.)

She was exploring the various flowers in my garden and I noticed her taking special interest in (and subsequently ovipositing on) those with aphids:

A quick check of the references revealed that Scaeva pyrastri is, indeed, predatory on aphids, so I'll try to get some shots of the larva in the next week or so.

Friday, 18 July 2008

Waiting for Angelica

Wild Angelica is my summer hunting ground for insects, but it's about 2 weeks late this year. So we'll have to make do...

Yellow Rattle is present in a few of the higher areas Take a close look at the complex leaves:

Fairy Flax has the alternative name of Purging Flax. Don't be tempted to eat any part of this plant:

There are many 'subspecies' of Eyebright; some with white flowers, others with lilac. I was under the impression that I have two cohabiting varieties, but I now believe that my local ones start off with white flowers and then convert to lilac later in the year. I have marked a few white specimens and plan to monitor them over the next couple of months.

Hogweed is standing in as my nectaring umbellifer of choice at the moment. I got this shot of the hoverfly Leucozona laternaria, which looks like a strangely monochrome version of its close relative Leucozona glaucia, which I will show soon.

Wednesday, 16 July 2008

Spotted Orchids

Much fuss is made in books about the various species of Dactylorhiza orchids, especially in relation to their hybrids. I recognise two local 'species': Northern Marsh Orchid - Dactylorhiza purpurella and Spotted Orchid - Dactylorhiza fuchsii/Dactylorhiza maculata. The reason I bracket the last pair is because I simply believe we have a continuum of variations, with one extreme looking like Dactylorhiza fuchsii and the other extreme looking like Dactylorhiza maculata. These are - in my opinion - all hybrids, since they are known to cross and back-cross, so what we have is a hybrid swarm, with all variations in petal shape and colour being present in more or less the same locality. The following Spotted Orchids were all found within a few metres of each other.

The first two are classic 'Common Spotted Orchids', but are very pale:

The next specimen is more towards the 'Heath Spotted Orchid', but still with a single tooth on a wide, rounded base:

Another variant has extremely elegant flowers which are slim in all the parts.

A few years ago, I carried out an extensive survey of my local orchids. The result is here:

To further fuel the debate, I also think that Spotted Orchids vary according to micro-climate (humidity, soil type, etc.) and that the precise variation depends on locality (your mileage may vary).

Sunday, 13 July 2008

A (little) bit of sun

This bumblebee has taken up quite a bit of my time. It has 3 yellow bands, a white tail, long antennae, black hair above the eyes and no pollen baskets. The body hair is also long. I reckon it's the male of the cuckoo bumblebee - Bombus bohemicus. I showed the female back in April.

No identification problems with the Ringlet butterfly. These have been appearing as singles for the last week or so.

This Ichneumonid looks like Ablyteles armatorius, but so do 100 others.

This is the larva of the 14-spot ladybird. It's about 5 mm long.

Wednesday, 9 July 2008

More moths

Micromoths can be tricky to photograph: they tend to flutter around a lot, rarely resting. And, of course, they're rather small. I tend to see them in flight and then track them, trying to get a shot as soon as they land. This micro looks to be Elachista luticomella, but I need to get the id confirmed. These are leaf-miners on grasses such as Cocks-foot grass.

I always like to show images that give some indication of size. Here is the moth next to the very well known Froghopper - Philaenus spumarius. The froghopper, incidentally, is the inhabitant (as a nymph) of 'cuckoo spit', which can be seen on verges everywhere.

Another moth to light: It's the pale form of Riband Wave - Ideaea aversata ab. remutata.

It's interesting that I appear to be getting a procession of single specimens of species that I haven't seen before coming to the lights at my front door. I did change the lamp housings, but the bulbs are the same.

Monday, 7 July 2008

Colourful Bugs

True bugs - Hemiptera - are largely overlooked, perhaps because many are small, some are dull and they change their appearance dramatically as they mutate through several nymph stages, making them far too tricky to identify. Some of them are, however, absolutely stunning.

This is a nymph stage of Cicadella viridis, one of the leaf-hoppers, about 8mm long. The stunning purple-blue colour is absolutely accurate. The adult is a wonderful powdered turquoise, and I'll show it soon.

My first reaction on seeing the following shot was 'bird-dropping, full of seeds', but it quickly resolved into a cluster of nymphs of the Forest Shieldbug - Pentatoma rufipes. These are common enough, but I hadn't seen the 'huddling' habit before.

My next thought was that they were on some common prey, such as a caterpillar, but no: as I touched the leaf they dispersed, leaving nothing behind. Lurking close-by I found a later nymph stage of the same Shieldbug:

This is Calocoris stysi, one of the Mirid bugs:

Friday, 4 July 2008

Another new moth to light

This one has clearly been through the mill a bit, but I'm pretty sure it's Mottled Beauty - Alcis repandata. Another new one for the list:

Thursday, 3 July 2008

Exotics in the bog

I'm always amazed by the complexity and beauty of Bog Asphodel. It just seems too exotic to be in a local bog.

The Common Spotted Orchids are very large and numerous this year. I found three on the lawn of our local Health Centre.

One of the most common mosses at the fringe of the bog: Polytrichum commune.

And at the very edge of the bog, my favourite flower: Slender St. John's Wort.