Showing posts from July, 2015

The Hirsute Route

The case of the Mystery Eggs on the Conservatory Door has had to be re-opened. This had been put in the 'case closed' file - the eggs had been laid by a Cinnabar Moth.

New evidence has come to light - namely that they don't look anything like Cinnabar larvae. This has left red faces all round amongst the Bungling Caterpillar Clouseaus  (so that's you then - ed).

The Cinnabar moth larva sequesters toxins from the Ragwort leaves they feed on, makes itself poisonous and advertises the fact with black and yellow, warning colouration.

My chaps aren't bothering with any of that nonsense. In fact they've clearly gone down the hirsute-route of deterring predators.

In one of the  more bizzare experiments I've read about, Japanese researchers removed the hairs from larvae. These were more likely to be eaten by beetles, than those which had escaped the caterpillar-crewcut.  I expect that when these findings were presented, they were greeted with the Japanese equivale…

Meet our new alien overlords

This is Leiobunum rotundum - a harvestman - on a wall this morning.

That's all very well, but why don't you furnish us with an all-time top 6 of Leiobunum rotundum facts - I here you say. Well here it is:


can self-amputate their legs if in dangerproduce a smelly secretion that repels predators drink a lot of water - especially deweat small inverbrates, including caterpillars, mites, woodlice, and slugssometimes suck the juice out of overripe fruit will sometimes go to lights to eat insects that are attracted to them
I, for one, intend to get on the right side of these boys. If they bizarrely and unaccountably became a million times their current size and took over  - I wouldn't want them for enemies.

bio Diversity Training

I watched a small section of the patch  - a cranny if you will, and indeed a nook. A very ordinary bit of land only about one meter square. Of the kind, that there must be, going for, a quarter of a million on the patch, and billions in the whole country.

I stood there and marveled at the biodiversity on view.

Smooth Sow thistle, Ragwort, Tufted Vetch, Bitter Vetchling, Hairy Tare - just a few of the plants. Low down in the undergrowth the surprisingly showy flowers of Heath Rush.

What was most striking was the coming and goings of the insects. There were at least 20 species of nectaring insects.

Red-tailed and White Tailed Bumble Bees,  as well as the bumble bee mimic hoverfly - Volucella Bombylans.

Comma, Meadow Brown, Small Skipper and Gatekeeper butterflies flapped and flitted. Almost every Sow-thistle flower had a least one charmingly named False Blister Beetle.

One of the longhorn beetles - Rutpela maculata was of particular interest, there seem to be very few Lancashire record…

Dropping by for a Swift drink

I sat by the "heron priested shore", of the lake this morning, and watched the different drinking techniques used by the  Swifts, House Martins and Swallows. It  reminded me slightly of a childhood trip to Farnborough Airshow.

The Swifts performed a wide loop between each fly past.  Like the Vulcan Bombers - fast but not very manouverable.  Sometimes they hadn't quite got the angles right and would pull out at the last minute. When they were on top of their topgun game they'd deftly skim the water surface - dip their beak in - drink - then off.

A squadron of four Swifts briefly became the Red Arrows, speeding across the sky in tight formation. No 'Opposition Barrel Roll' or 'Champagne Split' to entertain the crowds (i.e me), but still some top skills from the Devil-screamers**.

The Swallows being a lot more agile could "turn on a sixpence" - like a Spitfire. Not quite as fast but still nippy - the House Martins were the Hurricanes of this avi…

Balls of confusion

These fruiting bodies - about 2mm in diameter - were growing on the trunk of a fallen Beech. I was quite puzzled as to what they were. There are some lichens that have fruiting bodies a bit like these. The fact that they were growing on dead wood pointed to a fungus of some kind.

It turns out they are in fact old fungal fruiting bodies of Hypoxylon fragiforme or other Hypoxylon species. Small pockets (perithecia) can be seen where the spores were produced.

Oct 2015 Update - I think this is more likely to be Diatrype disciformis

My Old Lady

The mothing has been good over the last few days. I've been getting around forty species a night in the trap. As I mentioned previously, this is fairly paltry compared to some, but not bad for my small Heath/Actinic trap stuck in a corner of the garden.

They've  including this whopper - The Old Lady. With a wingspan of 65 mm I was slightly surprised it managed to squeeze its way into the trap. When it took off it looked more bat than moth.

Other good moths have including Red-necked Footman a scarce migrant, and new for this 10km square. Anania perlucidalis - a micro - was also a new one for the square.

Another one - the Beautiful carpet lived up to its name by being beautiful and is another quite scarce species in Lancashire .

When I examine the trap first thing in the morning I'm usually only half-awake. I quite often pick up the micro book instead of the macro book and visa versa. However this morning I outdid myself. I couldn't understand why the one I was looki…

Eggs is eggs

I found this Cinnabar Moth in the conservatory one morning a couple of days ago. I later noticed a small, light green patch on the plastic door.  On closer inspection it turned out to be tiny eggs.

Using almost Holmsian powers of deduction.... I linked the moth to the eggs. Sometimes in captivity moths will lay their eggs in inappropriate places.

The eggs  were  a  fairly  good match for pictures I'd seen of  Cinnabar  but not  an exact one.

In a further move, of the kind you normal only see at Detective School, I thought the only way to be sure was to put them on the Cinnabar food plant - Ragwort - and see what happens.

After another couple of days we were blessed with a happy event in the form tiny bouncing caterpillars (are you sure they were bouncing??  - ed).

Case closed. Game over.  We can all go home. Nothing to see people, etc etc.

It  will be interesting to document the stages in their development thusly:
1st instar larva
2nd instar larva
3rd instar larva
4rd instar…