Saturday, 20 June 2015

Of butterflies and bees

My latest visit to Kentle Wood took the form of a gentle stroll as I was still feeling fragile after a viral infection. Fortunately the weather was lovely and insects abounded, also taking advantage of the dry, sunny conditions.
A Buff-tailed Bumble Bee on a hogweed umbel.
Kentle Wood, Daventry. 15 June, 2015

This Buff-tailed Bumble Bee, Bombus terrestris, was busy on a umbel of Hogweed. These flower-heads were also a trysting-place for many pairs of the beetle Oedemera nobilis, the swollen-thighed males often tumbling to the ground grasping the relatively gracile females. Not much sign of any subtle foreplay!

The Harlequin Ladybird is one of our larger ladybirds.
Kentle Wood, Daventry. 15 June, 2015
Our most familiar beetles are probably ladybirds. I photographed this Harlequin Ladybird, Harmonia axyridis, as it was a rather eye-catching specimen. It seemed to be a variation on the succinea form but what was striking was its size. At eight millimetres it was near the top of the range for this species. Handsome perhaps, but evidence is accumulating of the serious effect it is having on our native species, since it is very partial to the larvae of other ladybirds

At the other end of the scale was Rhizobius litura. Small (about 3 mm maximum), brown, hairy and with no discernible pattern, it looks quite unlike the usual ladybirds, but that is indeed what it is. In fact it was not until I'd arrived home that I realised what I had netted. It is probably very common but is so easily overlooked that it may be under-recorded. My specimen was swept from a flower-rich sward.

There is a view that moths are dull and fly at night whereas butterflies are colourful and fly in the daytime. While this may be broadly true there are many moths which break this pattern.

Silver Y Moth on a clover leaf. Kentle Wood, Daventry,
Northants. 18 June, 2015
The Silver Y moth, Autographa gamma, gets its name - rather obviously - from the Y (gamma) -shaped mark on its forewings. It is one of the day-fliers and is very common in meadows and even gardens almost every summer. I say almost because because it is a migratory species, arriving in huge numbers from the continent when conditions are right. Once here it will breed and produce a late summer generation but it rarely seems to survive our winters.

Painted Lady and Brimstone butterflies also passed through but failed to pause for a photo-shoot.
A female Common Blue. Kentle Wood, Daventry.
18 June, 2015

More accommodating was this female Common Blue, Polyommatus icarus. There are several 'blues' native to Britain but with practice they are not usually difficult to separate. The females have more subdued colouring than the males.
The small but attractive flower of a Field Pansy.
Kentle Wood, Daventry. 18 June, 2016

A Field Pansy nodded to me as I approached the stile to depart. The individual flowers are pretty but small and furthermore the plant has a weedy, sprawling character. Although very common in arable fields I was pleased to see it. With this species six more flowering plants were added to the site list together with another sixteen invertebrates. Not bad at all.

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