Thursday, 10 August 2017

While the cat's away... with postscripts

...the mice go out catching bugs. Chris was spending a day in Oxford, visiting the Ashmolean Museum where a display of Raphael paintings was on show.
My day was very lowbrow - and initially frustrating. I visited our allotment to gather runner beans and courgettes and, as I was picking the former, a lovely specimen of the Hornet Hoverfly, Volucella zonaria, landed the foliage only a foot or two away. Too close really, because as I stealthily reached for my camera it flew off. 'Bother!' I said.
[Ed: Be honest! You said something far more earthy.] Well, yes.
As I say frustrating. But the day was yet young.
The Greek philosopher Heraclitus said, 'No man ever steps in the same river twice, for it's not the same river and it's not the same man.' Well, I visited Kentle Wood in the afternoon and these words passed through what I call my mind as I looked around. Subtle changes, yes, but a woodland is such a dynamic community that even twenty four hours can bring about noticeable changes. Astonishingly the hogweed a little beyond the main gate was hosting a Hornet Hoverfly! 'Bless me!' I said. [Ed: we've been here before; you said nothing of the kind.]
Volucella zonaria, a handsome and striking insect. Kentle Wood,
Daventry. 10 August, 2017
It is a large insect and its size plus its amber-coloured thorax make it instantly recognisable. It was once very rare and confined to the counties along the south coast of England. George Verrall, a leading entomologist of his day, writing in 1901, knew of only two British specimens. It is another of those insects spreading north - but it is still rather uncommon and pleasing to see. The differences between this and the similar but smaller Volucella inanis (also photographed in Kentle Wood a few days ago) are clear. Volucella is clearly a hornet mimic and the larvae have been found in wasps' nests.
Volucella inanis on Ragwort. Kentle Wood, Daventry. 5 August, 2017

There was much of interest to be seen elsewhere and I was intrigued by this larva sewn beautifully into an oak leaf. A surgeon would be proud of the neat stitches, but what is it?

??? Whatever it is, it takes First Prize for needlework.
Oak leaf, Kentle Wood, Daventry. 10 August, 2017

I disturbed several moths including this Riband Wave, Idaea aversata. It is a very common insect whose main larval foodplant is bedstraw.

Riband Wave in my inverted umbrella. Kentle Wood, Daventry.
10 August, 2017

Most of the others were small fry; micro-moths such as this Hawthorn Argent, Argyresthia bonnetella. A common little moth at this time of the year, its caterpillars feed on hawthorn so its presence was not surprising. And if the photograph isn't very good, bear with me; it was under five millimetres long.
Hawthorn Argent, Argyresthia bonnetella. Kentle Wood, Daventry.
10 August, 2017
Even less of a surprise was the strange caterpillar of the Vapourer moth. It is quite variable but despite this, it is always unmistakeable. And at this time of the year a few specimens always turning up in my sweep net.
The colourful but bizarre caterpillar of the Vapourer Moth.
Kentle Wood,Daventry. 10 August, 2017
Time to get home. I'd been over three hours in what at times was blazing sunshine  - and my feet ached.
Looking west from Kentle Wood into Warwickshire. The horizon must be
 eight or more miles away.
I strode off, heading for the exit - and even then couldn't resist a pause while I photographed an artichoke gall, the work of a wasp, Andricus foecundatrix. A lingering look across the Leam valley and that was it for the day.

An Artichoke Gall, aka Hop Gall, on Oak. Kentle Wood, Daventry.
10 August, 2017


Postscript 1  Once home I began the work of identifying some organisms not recognisable in the field. With the identification of a tiny (3 mm) yellow leaf beetle, Cryptocephalus pusillus, the total number of species I have now recorded from Kentle Wood stands at 499 species.

Postscript 2 The beautifully sewn-in larva is probably the Winter Oak Groundling, Carpatolechia decorella. Not really being my area of expertise I will not be adding it to the list for Kentle Wood. It is rather uncommon.

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