Pale Tussock Moth

Thanks again to Marilyn for this picture of a pale Tussock Moth caterpillar (Calliteara or Dasychira pudibunda) on the path near Greenwood House. The adult moth is less colourful. I think I saw a very old and worn female moth on the grass in the CD Nature Reserve in August. The scales had almost entirely disappeared from the wings, leaving only faint markings, so my identification might be wrong.

Ladybird Life Stages

The leaves on the lime trees in the village are providing a natural platform on which red and black ladybird larvae can pupate and eventually hatch out. Here are some pictures from the other day (22 September 2021) showing the various life stages. I think the final-stage yellow and black winged adult may have recently emerged from one of the pupae (or are they late-stage instars?). There are still lots of these intriguing small creatures around if you want to look for yourself. Try the leaves on the lime trees that border the tarmacked road between Olympic Park playing field and the cricket pitch.

I think these bugs may be Harlequin ladybirds (Harmonia axyridis) which are an invasive species that entered the UK in 2004 and have rapidly become widespread. They are considered to be a great pest because they eat all sorts of other native insects and do not restrict themselves to feeding on aphids like our local ladybirds.

Brimstone Butterfly

There was a flurry of butterflies on my Buddleia bush yesterday. Lots of Tortoiseshells and Red Admirals as expected but also, for the first time, some beautiful Brimstone Butterflies (Gonepteryx rhamni). They looked very fresh – as if they had only just emerged. It made my day.

Plume Moth

A rather strange, delicate, white moth was hovering and settling in the undergrowth along the hedge between the Community Orchard and the maize field early the other evening. It was a Plume Moth (Pterophorus pentadactyla). It was almost completely white – head, antennae, wings, body, and legs – but with what looked like blue eyes. The wings were divided into spokes radiating like the ribs of a fan, five on each side. Each rib was covered in fine filaments so that it looked like a feather. This species of moth has larvae that eat the leaves and flowers of bindweed, and that plant grows all along the field boundary where I found the moth. I could not get a very clear shot because I couldn’t physically get close to the moth and had to use the zoom, but I thought it was interesting enough to share with you.

Cinnabar Caterpillar

If you look carefully at the bright yellow flowers of Ragwort at this time of year, you might be lucky enough to find the orange and black banded caterpillars of the Cinnabar Moth (Tyria jacobaeae). The adult moth has a different colour scheme but none the less striking with its black and red patterned wings.

Poppies 1

Just two poppy flowers actually. Standing out as bright red jewels beside two tall thistles in a field of ripening rape seeds. Rather battered poppies flapping this way and that in the wind. Somehow, minute beetles still managing to cling on tight, and hoverflies quickly darting within whenever they could. The petals looked like crumpled tissue paper, sometimes with angular folds reflecting light like the fragmented patterns of a kaleidoscope.

Bumblebee or Humblebee ?

I think this is a Buff-tailed Humblebee (Bombus terrestris) but I could be wrong. The slightly larger White-tailed Bumblebee (Bombus lucorum) looks very similar. Perhaps you know the difference and can put me right? Anyway, there were several of them busy getting nectar and covering themselves with pollen in the Charlton Down Nature Reserve last evening.

Red Admiral

A beautiful Red Admiral (Vanessa atalanta) butterfly, basking in a shaft of sunlight on the tall hogweed flowers to the south of Greenwood House yesterday evening.

Tiger Cranefly

I saw this odd insect on a hogweed flowerhead. It is something new to me. It is rather magnificently named the Tiger Cranefly (Nephrotoma flavescens) because of the colouring and pattern if not for any behavioural characteristics. It is harmless enough, and feeds on pollen and nectar.

Pellucid Hoverfly

It is undeniable that there are fewer insects around than there used to be even ten or twenty years ago. The change is dramatic when compared with my youth and childhood which is a very long time ago. On a warm summer afternoon like yesterday there was hardly a creature on the wing in the village nature reserve. There are currently swathes of flowering plants and grasses. Nothing really remarkable – most obvious are the tall stands of various umbellifera, like hog weed and cow parsley with their large flattened flowerheads, providing hundreds of thousands of tiny white flowers full of nectar and pollen. A potential feast for insects. The creamy white background of the blooms makes it easy to see any feeding insects. There were only or two noticeable.

The first one I saw was this unusual insect that looked at first like a bee but had markings on the one pair of true wings. The second pair were reduced and these are called halteres – that signalled it as a type of fly (Dipteran, not Hymenopteran). Looking up the identification back home, I found out it was a Pellucid or Great Pied Hoverfly (Volucella pellucens) which is more characteristic on bramble flowers although it is also seen on others like the umbellifers. Pellucid means translucently clear; and you can see that there is a band of segments on the abdomen nearest to the thorax that looks a cream colour – because you can actually see the intestines through the clear integument. Why does it mimic a bee? Well the adult female needs to be in disguise when laying her eggs inside the nests of wasps and bumble bees. The hoverfly larvae feed on waste matter and bee/wasp larvae when they hatch out.