Friday, 26 July 2019

Bumblebees and butterflies

With rain forecast I popped over to Stefen Hill Pocket Park, keen to record a few species whilst the going was good.

As is often the case I made a bee-line for the little pond, with its edging of Purple Loosestrife. The whorls of flowers in their spike-like inflorescence were attracting many insects. Here I made my first mistake.

I am loth to capture bumblebees and I decided that a decent photograph would suffice for the purposes of identification. In any case, I was fairly certain that the species I was interested in was a Vestal Cuckoo Bee, Bombus vestalis. Wrong! (But see footnote)
Vestal Cuckoo Bee on Purple Loosestrife. Stefen Hill, Daventry.
26 July, 2019
On arriving home I found that, according to my books, it could indeed be a Vestal Cuckoo Bee but that species usually has sulphur-yellow patches on the sides of the abdomen in front of the white areas. On the evidence of the photograph it could equally be as Gypsy Cuckoo Bee, Bombus bohemicus, although this has a more northerly distribution.

So I don't know what I had photographed. Moral: a cobbler should stick to his last - which in my case means spiders.

A solitary Buddleia, Buddleja davidii, is present in the pocket park and hitherto I've been dismayed at how few butterflies it has attracted. Today saw a far better display with Commas, Peacocks, Tortoiseshells, Large Whites and Red Admirals tucking in to the nectar. The latter was the largest and gaudiest species present but was clearly feeling grumpy and refused to settle in a convenient spot. I did my best.

Red Admirals were busy on buddleia. Stefen Hill Pocket Park.
26 July, 2019

Benjamin Wilkes, in his book The English Moths and Butterflies, published in 1749, called the species The Red Admirable but other authors went with 'Admiral'. Peter Marren, in his book Emperors, Admirals and Chimney Sweeps, provides compelling evidence that Wilkes was correct and that 'Admirable' should take precedent, being an already established name.

Elsewhere, but not on the buddleia, Gatekeepers were abundant. The common name may have derived from its habit of going back and forth along a particular stretch of hedgerow from gate to gate, as though doing a security check.

Gatekeepers are lively butterflies, but this one stayed put long enough for
a photograph. Stefen Hill Pocket Park, 26 July, 2019
Cherry trees are visited by Lyonetia clerkella in order to lay its eggs on the leaves. Not exciting I know, but I mention it because it is so ubiquitous, and the swirly or squiggly mines left by the larvae so obvious. Down the centre of the mine is a dark line of frass, or poo if you prefer the technical term.

The larvae of Lyonetia clerkella leave distinctive mines in cherry leaves.
Stefen Hill Pocket Park, 26 July, 2019

It will attack the relatives of cherries and is called (by almost no one, as serious lepidopterists use the Latin name) the Apple Leaf Miner.

Footnote   I put the photograph on Facebook for the experts to examine and they agreed that it was a Vestal Cuckoo Bee. I now feel quite smug!

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