Bumblebee on Lavender

Bumblebees were enjoying the lavender larder yesterday between the blustery showers – but butterflies were lying low in my usual haunts around the village.

Meadow Brown

Meadow Brown butterflies Maniola jurtina (?) feeding on Knapweed and Bramble flowers on a piece of rough pasture at the beginning of the path from the village that leads to Charminster via Wood Hill. The slightly pleated wings of the one individual might indicate perhaps a more recent emergence. Or have I got two species here?

Cinnabar Moth

There are not so many splashes of bright yellow-flowered ragwort around as in some previous years. I have found one small group of plants beside a wheat field. The other day there were several small black and red moths fluttering nearby. Mostly they were elusively moving and resting deep in the shady undergrowth and only fleetingly appearing in clear view of sunlit spots. It was very difficult to get a good shot. But here are a few pictures of the Cinnabar Moth (Tyria jacobaeae). It lays its eggs on Ragwort, and later I am sure to find some of its distinctive caterpillars eating the nearby flowers.

Silver Y Moth

A Silver Y Moth (Plusia gamma) resting on a dock leaf beside the path through rough pasture near the village. It gets its name from the distinctive light coloured mark on its wings.

Beside the Path 5

The bright yellow flower heads of Winter Cress (Barbarea vulgaris) make a bright splash of colour now the Dandelions are ending their first blooming. The day I went for the walk they had attracted dozens of flying insects that were competing for mates among the petals – all small Ichneumon wasps (Amblyteles armatorius) which are solitary parasites that inject their eggs in other species to develop. Online close-up image below.

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.