Wednesday, 10 August 2016

Buzzy, whiny things

High summer, and it has been some weeks since I last visited Kentle Wood. With the temperature at a pleasant 17-18 degrees I set off, with high hopes and a sweep net which, I noticed, was getting rather grubby.

I was waylaid  by a small girl who wondered what the net was for. I explained that, contrary to the usual assumption that I was seeking to catch butterflies, my main quarry was 'ordinary' flies. Her mother cut in: ' Ooh, I can't be doing with them buzzy, whiny things.' I was rather annoyed, not because she butted in with an opinion which was not sought, but because she was likely to colour her daughter's attitude for years to come, if not for ever. A quick glance it my bookshelves later confirmed that I have over eighty books on these creatures, plus a hundred or so journals dealing  broadly with this topic. Yet this is but a tiny fraction of what an expert like Peter Chandler or Alan Stubbs must hold - and every year dozens, if not hundreds, of new species are described. Insects and other invertebrates are responsible for pollination, diseases, decomposition, stings and bites and a huge range of other activities. They are food for bats and other small mammals, birds, fish, lizards and amphibians and, to an increasing extent, us. They are even used medicinally with, for example, Lyssa vesicatoria - known as 'Spanish Fly' - used for certain skin complaints. (Incidentally it is not a fly but a beetle, and has no known aphrodisiac properties.) And as for cockroach 'milk' - who knows? Quite simply, the world as we know it would not exists without these 'buzzy, whiny things'.  At least the woman had taken her daughter walking in the countryside. I should be grateful for that.

Anyway, undeterred by her acerbic comment, I pressed on. Rowan trees were heavy with nearly-ripe fruit and will attract many creatures over the next few weeks.

Rowans, Sorbus aucuparia, are now a fine site in
Kentle Wood, Daventry. 10 August, 2016
Brambles were promising a very good crop of blackberries although those photographed will require a few weeks to ripen.
Blackberries are developing well and will be important to a range of animals
 as they seek to put on fat for the winter. Kentle Wood, 10 August, 2016
Rowan fruits and blackberries differ so much from each other in appearance that their close relationship is not obvious, yet both are members of the Rose Family, Rosaceae. (But so, of course, is Bridewort, Spiraea salicifolia, looking so different again and photographed a few days ago in Byfield Pocket Park.
Bridewort, Spiraea salicifolia, in Byfield Pocket Park, 8 August, 2016

It was while sweeping beneath the rowans that I took a specimen of Palloptera muliebris. This small and quite unmistakable insect is moderately common but I do not often take a specimen. This was certainly the first for Kentle Wood. Its widely-stretched wings also form a characteristic pose. 
The highly distinctive fly, Palloptera muliebris. Kentle Wood, Daventry.
10 August, 2016
I cannot, off the top of my head, think of another fly having a similar border to the wings. (Oddly enough, a second specimen was in my house a few hours later. And no, it wasn't the same one as that was safely pinned.)
There were some butterflies about, although perhaps fewer than I might have expected. I don't like to catch butterflies (illogical, given that I am quite happy to net two-winged flies) although Skippers really need a close examination. However I am reasonably confident that this specimen is a Common Skipper, Thymelicus sylvestris.
Common Skipper on Creeping Thistle. Kentle Wood,
Daventry. 10 August, 2016
The Creeping Thistle upon which it sits is a very popular plant with insects, its flowers providing lots of nectar so hoverflies and various bluebottles were there too.

There are plenty of vetches and clovers in Kentle Wood so to find this Shaded Broad-bar, Scotopteryx chenopodiata, was not a surprise. It is a widespread and fairly common moth. The specific name, chenopodiata, is rather odd, for it means 'goose foot' (Greek chen goose and podos foot). Perhaps it was once mistakenly believed that the larvae fed on goosefoot plants, Chenopodium species.
Shaded Broad-bar. Kentle Wood, Daventry. 10 August, 2016

All-in-all I was pleased with my visit and a closer examination of my specimens is likely to show that between five and ten species have been added to the list for Kentle Wood. I set off home with a vague feeling of guilt: I really must make more of an effort to gather spider specimens.

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