Friday, 14 July 2017

Daventry Country Park (1)

Daventry Country Park is within comfortable walking distance of where I live  - perhaps no more than a mile and a half away - and so it is surprising how infrequently I pay it a visit. Today I went there intending to have a stroll around the large lake - a former reservoir - which forms the main feature, looking at the margins and seeking invertebrates that enjoy wet conditions.
As it happens I never made it as far as the lake.
I entered the Country Park, not via the main car park, but from the south west corner and was immediately confronted by a lovely little patch of rough ground with a fine display of wild flowers. There were insects to be seen everywhere. A Six-spot Burnet Moth, Zygaena filipendulae, was busy at a thistle head and was still there three quarters of an hour later. Each thistle head consists of a hundred or so florets so I suppose when the moth had got to the last one it could start again at number one!
A Six-spot Burnet feeds at Creeping Thistle. Daventry Country Park.
14 July, 2017
The burnet moths resemble butterflies in being diurnal fliers and were, it seems, a puzzle to early entomologists, who seemed to regard them as half-way between moths and butterflies.
In my blog a couple of days ago I was scratching my head over a footman moth and today I found myself with the same problem. However I am confident that today's specimen was a Common Footman, Eilema lurideola.
A Common Footman dropped into my upturned umbrella.
Daventry Country Park. 14 July, 2017
Coloration, wing-shape and the form of the yellow wing margin lead me to this conclusion - plus the fact that this species is ubiquitous.
An experienced lepidopterist would probably have little hesitation in naming this skipper but when it comes to these insects I admit to being a tyro. However, there is no sign of a black tip to the antennae so I am reasonably certain that it is a female Small Skipper, Thymelicus flavus, here on a head of yarrow.

A Small Skipper on Yarrow at Daventry Country Park.
14 July, 2017
Plenty of Bumblebees were around and so too was one of their major enemies, the conopid fly Physocephala rufipes.
Physocephala rufipes, taken at Daventry Country Park. 14 July, 2017

This odd-looking insect is parasitic on a range of bumblebee species, seizing a victim and laying its eggs directly on to the abdomen of the unfortunate host. In his booklet on the species Kenneth Smith writes: '...females wait on nearby vegetation and attack foraging bees with a very quick strike when both bee and fly may roll on the ground together in a violent struggle'. Some conopid bee species in the U.S.A. attack hive bees and may cause significant losses. The usual conopid fly I see is the very wasp-like Conops quadrifasciatus so this was an interesting record. (There is a very good photograph of this fly on page 315 of Peter Marren and Richard Mabey's 2010 book Bugs Britannica but I believe the caption may be wrong.)
I didn't spend all my time looking at insects and, strolling around the area, I found that some leaves on Alder, Alnus glutinosa, had been seriously disfigured by galls.
Leaves of alder were disfigured with the galls of a mite,
Eriophyes laevis. Daventry Country Park. 14 July, 2017
The culprit was a mite, Eriophyes laevis. This is widespread in the south and midlands of England. Does it attack the widely-planted Grey Alder? I'm not sure: I'll keep my eyes open. 

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