Drenched Bumblebee

We have all been looking forward to a good downpour and much needed water after a prolonged period of drought but this poor creature got caught in the thunderstorm last night and is clinging onto a stem of heather until it can dry out and fly away. I think it it either a Buff-tailed or White-tailed Bumblebee and full size – about 16mm.

Pollen Paradise

The hibiscus flowers in the communal grounds at Greenwood House are looking their best and are a great magnet for bees, butterflies and other insects. Sometimes there can be too much of a good thing. This bee found itself completely smothered with pollen after visiting the flowers and had to take a bit of time out to comb itself freer before flying away.

Painted Lady Butterfly

Painted Lady butterfly (Vanessa cardui) at the back of Greenwood House. This is an immigrant species that comes in the first place from North Africa and travels on warm winds via Europe to the UK. So far it has been unable to survive the British winters, which means that each year we are reliant on new arrivals for sightings of this beautiful insect. The numbers that reach our shores vary greatly from year to year.

A Green Carpet

A small visitor came through an open window and settled on my windowsill. A moth called a Green Carpet (Colostygia pectinataria) because of the delightful pattern and texture on its wings. Only about 2 cm across the closed wings. It’s favourite food plants are Bedstaws, and it had probably been attracted to all the Lady’s and Hedge Bedstraws still flowering on the Greenwood House mini-meadow which is just a few metres from my flat.

Jersey Tiger Moth

When I went out after the first real rain in months, there was barely a thing on the wing, but a solitary and rather spectacular daytime-flying moth was flitting from stem to stem in the local nature area. It even landed briefly on me. It was a Jersey Tiger moth (Euplagia quadripunctaria) with its strikingly patterned black and white forewings, almost concealing the vivid vermilion hind wings with black markings. It was a rather tired specimen with torn wings, and perhaps that is why it stayed in position long enough for me to photograph, first feeding on wild marjoram and then resting on a grass seed head.

Common Blue

I only caught a fleeting glimpse of two small butterflies with blue upper wings before one of them settled on a dry stalk and displayed the patterned underside of the wings at rest – probably more beautiful than the plain blue I was hoping to photograph. You can see the pale blue hairs on the body, and I love the black and white striped antennae. From what I did see I am guessing that this is a Common Blue (Polyommatus icarus) although I think there is more than one species of blue in the nature area.

14 Spot Ladybird

The semi-enclosed garden area behind Olympic Park in Charlton Down, where Buddleias growing along the side of the path and clumps of lavender and rosemary attract so many bees and butterflies, has a new attraction for wildlife. A group of small hazel bushes are providing not only a surprising number of nuts but also resting places and food for lots of insects. It is always worth a look to see what is on the leaves – like this geometrically patterned yellow and black 14 Spot ladybird (Propylea quattuordecimpunctata).

Robin’s Pin Cushion

A Robin’s Pin Cushion, otherwise known as a Bedeguar Gall, is caused when a minute gall wasp (Diplolepis rosae of the Family Cynipidae) lays its eggs in a wild rose, usually in the leaves. The plant reacts in this characteristic way to the insertion of the egg, and the response it is thought to provide more food and a better environment in which the larvae can develop when the eggs hatch out. The rose itself still flourishes, and its survival is not affected by the formation of these galls. The dog rose on which I found these brightly coloured specimens is beside one of the wooden benches that are placed around the cricket pitch in the village.

Skipper Butterflies

At least I think they are. And perhaps Small Skippers (Thymelicus sylvestris)? They hold their wings in an odd way at rest – unlike any other butterflies I can think of.

Mullein Moth Caterpillars

Not so many Great Mullein plants this year in the village. They are the ones with the basal rosettes of grey-green woolly leaves that develop into tall stalks about a metre high with yellow flowers.. They are the main food resource for Mullein Moth caterpillars which are one of the few insects able to eat them.

The larvae make a real mess of the leaves eating lots of holes and depositing black frass everywhere so that affected plants are easy to spot. The caterpillars are beautiful with a satin smooth appearance and distinctive white, black, and yellow markings. Once they have reached their full size, they migrate down the plant and pupate near the roots. Surprisingly, the adult moth that hatches out from the chrysalis is a rather boring brown looking thing with none of the bright colours and patterns of its earlier instar.