Thursday, 19 July 2018


I am not good with butterflies - or moths for that matter. I have always been intrigued by neglected groups of arthropods such as  spiders, woodlice, millipedes or centipedes. In consequence I need to take great care when putting a name to a lepidopteron. This lack of experience has been highlighted recently when I failed to recognise a female Purple Emperor butterfly. True, 95% of all illustrations show the splendid male, but that is the feeblest of excuses.

I set off for Foxhill Farm determined to be a little more cautious. Some of the meadows have only recently been mown and in this baking hot weather I was expecting to find everything sere. By and large it was but it is surprising how, even in these demanding conditions grass will flourish. Not all species of course but this plant of Cocksfoot Grass was finding moisture from somewhere.
Against the odds grass is putting on growth. Foxhill Farm, 19 July, 2018

Today my knowledge was put to the test when, at Foxhill Farm, hundreds of butterflies were on the wing. Some, such as Gatekeepers, Small Whites and Meadow Browns, are familiar and I feel confident with them but with others, such as skippers or blues, I need to exercise a little caution. This is particularly the case when an awkward cuss refuses to spread its wings.

The Common Blue, Polyommatus icarus, is not a problem as with the Holly Blue, Chalkhill Blue, and Silver-studded Blue even the underside of the wings seems to be quite distinctive.

Common Blue feeding on Creeping Thistle. Foxhill Farm, 19 July, 2018

Despite looking superficially quite different the Small Copper, Lycaena phlaeas, is closely related to the blues as all are members of the Lycaenidae. It apparently even shares the same tastes as the Common Blue!
Small Copper also on Creeping Thistle. Foxhill Farm. 19 July, 2018

Anyway, as I say, lepidoptera are not my main interest and today I was mainly on the lookout for bugs - true bugs, that is. True bugs include aphids, and when I turned over an oddly distorted Hawthorn leaf and found aphids on the under surface I assumed that they were responsible for this pale green gall.
Taphrina crataegi galls can take various forms.
Foxhill Farm, 19 July, 2018
I was wrong: closer examination showed that the culprit was the fungus, Taphrina crataegi. This organism can distort the leaf in various ways so a little caution is called for. But there were bugs a-plenty. Bugs are insects with the mouth parts modified to form a structure akin to a drinking straw, with the Common Bed Bug, Cimex lectarius, being a notorious example. A Forest Bug, Pentatoma rufipes, quickly found itself in my sweep net but was quickly released.
Also called the Red-legged Shieldbug, a Forest Bug awaits release.
Foxxhill Farm, 19 July, 2018
Most of the other bugs taken were below five millimetres long and in some cases less than half that. These will be a microscope job of course. Most will prove to be mirid bugs, i.e. belonging to the Miridae family and take the sap from plants. The study of bugs has become far more popular in recent years as access to reliable identification material has become available via the internet, plus an on-line journal, Hetnews.

Tony White. E-mail:

No comments:

Post a Comment