Sunday, 30 August 2015

Alpha and Omega

Alpha and Omega - the first and the last - in terms of moths.

Sunday and Monday are due to be wet. I always believe the BBC weather forecasts and have paid for it over the years!
A female Orange Swift on our wall.  Stefen Hill,
Daventry, Northants. 29 Augusst, 2015

So today, Saturday, with an afternoon free, I decided to grab the chance and combine a good, healthy walk with some insect recording work. I gathered up my equipment and there, sitting alongside my sweep net was a moth. To be precise it was an Orange Swift, Hepalius sylvina; common enough but a good start - 'alpha' - to the afternoon. 

So, I sallied forth. I was sans car so I made for a convenient nearby site - Kentle Wood! It is about a mile walk through an uninspiring housing estate. To be fair there are often interesting things to be seen - but not today; I made it to Kentle Wood without being sidetracked. 
Final instar of the Hawthorn Shieldbug. Kentle Wood,
Daventry. 29 August, 2015

Almost immediately I spotted a shieldbug. In fact it was a last instar nymph. [There is no larval (caterpillar) stage with bugs; instead the bug passes through a series of stages - instars - with each stage taking it a little nearer to the full adult form.] The species was the Hawthorn Shieldbug, Acanthosoma haemorrhoidale, common and frequently mentioned in my blogs.
...and the adult, also at Kentle Wood. 29 August, 2015

A little further on and I found an adult, surely one of out most handsome bugs. It shown what big changes take place following the final instar.
Birch fruits, showing the pits of Semudobia betulae.
Kentle Wood, Daventry.  29 August, 2015

There are relatively few birch trees in Kentle Wood but I tracked one down and gathered some catkins. Sure enough, on getting home, a microscope revealed some window pits in the fruit. They were the work of a cecidomyiid fly, Semudobia betulae.

I moved on and was surprised to find a holly bush tucked in beneath some sprawling ash branches. Very common of course but a 'first' for Kentle Wood.

Another extremely common species was Tipula paludosa and I was genuinely surprised that this cranefly was also a 'first'. It emphasises just how much remains to be found at this site.

Tipula paludosa with a dented abdomen. Kentle Wood,
Daventry. 29 August, 2015

This female - note the ovipositor looking like a sting at the end of the abdomen - was only one of dozens seen. The species is regarded as a pest. The larvae live in the soil from September until the following August, when they emerge, often in huge numbers, causing alarm among many who are genuinely frightened by them. 

The larvae are known as leatherjackets and cause great damage in lawns and crops, feeding as they do on roots. In 1935, according to the book 'Bugs Britannica', the pitch at Lord's cricket ground developed large  bare patches as a consequence of leatherjacket activity. Thousands of them were gathered up and burned. 

I continued to take a range of specimens but there was little photogenic material. Frog hoppers, galls, leaf mines;  all were present but either poor examples  or inaccessible.  I knew I had gathered some interesting insects so I decided to call it a day.

The Common Grass-veneer is indeed very
common. Browns Road, Daventry.
29 August, 2015

The 'omega' bit came shortly after leaving Kentle Wood. A small moth was disturbed as I strolled past and, despite fluttering into a shrub I managed to get a photograph. It was a Common Grass-veneer, Agriphila tristella. This is one of our commonest moths but I have not before had a chance to photograph it. So, in some ways a disappointing afternoon, but not a total disaster.


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