Sunday, 19 May 2013

Not just a king, but an emperor!

Hi all, hope you're enjoying our changeable spring at the moment. Weather still hasn't sorted itself and apparently this is due to the jet stream still being too far south. Lets hope that it'll sort itself out soon. Last weekend (11th May) didn't see me putting the moth trap out as the overnight weather was mainly raining and I didn't want to wake up to a trap full of drowned moths. However, in the week, whilst at work I got a picture message from the wifey saying that the next door neighbour had just popped over with this moth she found on her patio door.

Emperor Moth on wifey's hand
I was astonished to say the very least, it was an Emperor moth Saturnia pavonia. I spent all day wishing it would fly (the day, not the moth) so I could get home and look at this beautiful moth with a rather bizarre lifestyle. It only flies between April-May and the adult moths only live for about 4 weeks, however (and this is where it gets strange), the females only fly at night and the males only fly by day! How do they ever meet to breed you may ask? Well, during the day, the females are quite sluggish so hide up somewhere. But whilst they are hiding, the release pheromones to attract the day flying males who not only have to follow the scent given off, but have to avoid predation of birds in the process. 

When I eventually did get home, I got another surprise, it had laid eggs! About 100 of them, which is even better because I can now rear these on and witness their whole life cycle. Tony Pritchard whose raised these before has warned me they eat a lot, thankfully, one of their food plants is Bramble which is never in short supply, so hopefully this won't be a problem.

Saturnia pavonia in all it's splendour.
I did get the moth trap out this weekend and even the weather wasn't warm, it wasn't to chilly either and it was dry, so I should get something in the trap. I did get something, but the results were dire to say the least with only 6 moths present. Not good. So far this year the trap has caught 122 moths, this time last year I had caught nearly 10x as much. This begs the question did last year's terrible weather have a dramatic effect on the insect population? I'm beginning to think it has, especially after it occurred to me that something else I haven't seen much of this year and that is Ladybirds. I haven't seen a single ladybird this year so far, which is something I find a bit worrying. Lets hope they make an appearance soon. In the meantime, here's some of the moths I caught this weekend:

Dagger agg species. 
The first one up is a Dagger aggregate species. At first I thought it was a Grey Dagger Acronicta psi, then thought it could be a Dark Dagger A tridens. The only sure way to tell what species it is is to examine its genitalia and to do that I'd have to kill it. I'm sorry, but I'm not killing a beautiful moth, or anything for that matter, just so I can give it a label. It's not that important, it really isn't. To me that kind of sucks of Victorian values where it is quite acceptable to kill things to sate our curiosity. It reminds me of the Yeti, to prove the Yeti actually exists, it has to be killed so they have a specimen, and then that specimen they have killed may be the last remaining female of the species and just so we can stick a label to it, we've made it extinct! Madness!
Anyway, back to the trap and this little fellow who's instantly recognisable not by his wing pattern, but by looking at it straight on. It's called Spectacle Abrostola tripartita.  

A tripartita showing why it's called Spectacle moth

There was also a Garden Carpet Xanthorhoe fluctuata, Early Grey Xylocampa areola, Hebrew Character Orthosia gothica and a Brimstone moth Opisthograptis luteolata in the trap. However, the Garden Carpet and Brimstone were rather agitated even after a period of chilling, so I released them. After all, they're having a hard enough time of it this year. 

A realisation

Yes, I've had a realisation. It's only took me two years to work out, but it's dawned on me that I really am no good at keeping lists. It's not through laziness or such, more just plain forgetfulness if anything. I keep forgetting I'm making (or supposed to be) a list of all the species I see in Suffolk. Every now and then I see something and think, must add that to the list when I get home. Then I get home and I've forgotten all about it until I see something else and then I remember. But then I also remember I've seen a whole load of stuff that I didn't even think about remembering in the first place (if that makes sense).
But all hope is not lost, for there is a little Android/iPhone app that may just save the day. It's called Record Wildlife and allows you to record wildlife as and when you see it and where you see it using your phones location and what's more, IT'S FREE!!! It doesn't get better than that!

Joseph and his multi-coloured dream bug!

Well there is no Joseph, but there is a bug, a beetle to be precise. It's name is a Rosemary beetle Chrysolina americana but what's in a name? Quite a lot actually, from its common name you can tell where this little beetle may be found, yes, Rosemary plants. But from its scientific name you might think it is a native species to America, wrong. It is in fact a native species to eastern Europe, but an introduced species to the UK, first be found in 1994. It is considered a pest by the Royal Horticultural Society, but it's not the beetles fault it's here, it's ours and despite our efforts to eradicate it, I'm pretty sure that due to our lack biosecurity at our borders, it will soon be re-introduced to the country just like Ash die-back disease and many, many other species of insect or plant or bacteria. 

A colourful little fellow C americana

And now for a spider!

OK, that's the warning out of the way. But yesterday I came across a spider I often find in my garden and is easily recognisable from it's colouring it's bright orangey red. It doesn't actually have a common name, but it comes from a family of spiders that prey mainly on woodlice Dysderidae. Now if you imagine a woodlouse, you will know that they are kind of armour plated, so this spider has to be well equipped if it's to hunt woodlice. It has a large fearsome pair of fangs that can pierce the armour and this is what makes it a specialised hunter. These fangs are so strong, it is one of a couple of spiders that can actually pierce human skin. But fear not, I often pick these up and I haven't been bitten yet.

Dysdera erythrina. You can just see the top of one of the powerful fangs.

I think that's enough to be getting on with for now. Enjoy what's left of the weekend.

Till next time.

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