Sunday, 7 July 2019

Of bugs and butterflies

Chris was out walking with Jacqui during the afternoon so I took another look at Stefen Hill Pocket Park. I have recorded 181 species of invertebrate there so far and the magic 200 mark is now in sight. Not that numbers are important because all I am aiming to do is create a base-line of species so that, in 25 or 50 years time people will be able to see whether the environment in the park has become enriched or has deteriorated.

I almost immediately added species  no.182 to the list because on the Yellow Irises, Iris pseudacorus, beside the pond a leaf-miner, Cerodonthus iraeos, had been at work.

What an exciting picture! The mine of  Cerodonthus iraeos, on a leaf of
Yellow Flag. Stefen Hill Pocket Park. 7 July, 2019
Yes, not very exciting I agree, but as far as I know it is one of only two leaf miners in Britain to attack this iris (the other being rare) so I was pleased. Britain is one of the most nature-impoverished nations in the world, so they all count.

The Red-legged Shieldbug, Pentatoma rufipes, is far more photogenic but has been recorded from the pocket park before. So far this year most of the specimens I've seen have been the nymphs but the adults are now manifesting themselves.

The Red-legged Shieldbug is one of our largest bugs.
Stefen Hill Pocket Park, 7 July, 2019
It is sometimes called the Forest Bug, its habitat being broad-leaved trees , and at about 13-14 mm it is one of our largest bugs. 

I can rarely induce the Ringlet, Aphantopus hyperatus, to open its wings for me, and even when it does so it is hardly one of our more glamorous butterflies. It shows refined taste in dress compared with some of its rather glitzy relatives. Unobtrusive, you might say.

A Ringlet here enjoys nectar from bramble flowers.
Stefen Hill Pocket Park. 7 July, 2019
Perhaps this is a factor in making it one of our most successful butterflies - together with the fact that its caterpillars feed simply on grasses. On checking I was astonished to find that I had failed to add it to my list, despite seeing it regularly. Number 183!

Red Valerian, Centranthus ruber (Kentranthus in some older books, hinting at how it should be pronounced) has escaped into the pocket park from nearby gardens, its wind-blown fruits allowing easy seed dispersal. It is native to the Mediterranean region but was brought to Britain in the 16th Century and is now widely naturalised. It is generally not a nuisance but has colonised the Burren in County Clare, crowding out some of the specialities of the area.

Red Valerian is, in my view, very welcome in the pocket park.
Stefen Hill, 7 July, 2019
It generally comes in three colours: red, white and pink, but it is the latter which is by far the most common and which is now in the pocket park. Whatever the colour it is a very good butterfly plant and is apparently popular with the Brimstone, although I have not witnessed any visits from this handsome yellow-winged insect.

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