Tuesday, 20 August 2013

Rare rewards!

Hello dear readers and a special hello and welcome to my two newest followers Ryan and Dave, glad to have you onboard. I came across some notes I had made on my computer at the start of the year for things I must achieve during 2013. One of those things to achieve was to find and photograph a Raft spider (Dolomedes fimbriatus). I first came across one of these a couple of years back on an Open University course held at Preston Montford, Field Studies Council centre. A lovely place set in idyllic surroundings, but this particular day we were away from the centre visiting a bog, who's name escapes me. The spider was in amongst the rushes on the near bank guarding a rather large black ball of baby spiders. It was quite an impressive spider and when I heard last year that they were re-introduciong it to Redgrave and Lopham fen, I stuck it on the list. The fen is a reserve run by Suffolk Wildlife Trust, just west of Diss on the Suffolk/Norfolk border. There's ample car parking space, a picnic area with picnic tables and an education centre, which was closed when I went there as they had some event on. There's a site map notice board showing various walks and next to that there are some A4 weatherproof holders with laminated copies of the routes inside, a really good idea. I however, decided not to use these and trust my own sense of direction, which is usually pretty good. But it turned out I didn't need it as the routes are quite well signposted and the paths are well managed and easy to follow. I chose to follow the 'Spider Route' for obvious reasons and before I knew it I came across various webs glistening in the morning sun as the webs were still heavy with dew.
Now, for the arachniphobes amongst you, you might have guessed where this particular blog is going considering I'm looking for a particular spider. The next picture you're about to see is that of a spider, but fear not, it's only a picture, it won't harm you, YOU ARE SAFE! It's the only picture of a spider I will show you this time, so take a deep breath get past this picture and everything else will be plain sailing from here on in.

So to the photo and unfortunately, it's not a picture of the Raft spider I was looking for, instead it's a Nursery Web Spider (Pisaura miribilis) which was quite happy to pose for me.
Pisaura miribilis
The spider route is apparently 2km long and the raft spider likes to sit on nice still ponds with its front legs resting on the surface so it can pick up vibrations off the water, a bit like a pond skater does. I knew the ponds were a nearer to the end of the route so I continued further on. The sun was shining and it was looking to be a wonderful sunny day. Already the rushes around me were a buzz with lots of butterflies, especially Peacocks (Aglais io). 
Peacock Butterfly feeding on thistle.
There were a few dragonflies zooming about too, but unfortunately, they were to quick for me to identify, all I could say is that they were hawkers.
There were some nice Common Blue Damselflies about as well and I just love the richness of the blue on these guys. 
Common Blue Damselfly (Enallagma cyathigerum)
These can always be confused with Azure damselflies and to tell them apart without catching them, you need a good pair of close focusing binoculars. Using these, you can get a better look at the marking, where in this case, you would have spotted that the Common Blue has a little black mushroom marking at the top of segment 2 of its abdomen. The Azure doesn't have that marking and you might be able to just make out the marking on the picture above if you look at the 2nd segment below the base of the wings.
There were also Silver Y Moths (Autographa gamma) a plenty flying around in the bright sunshine. Only two weeks ago I got plenty of photos of these feeding on my buddleia by night. Do they ever rest???
One dragonfly I did get to have a good look at was this little beauty, a Ruddy Darter (Sympetrum sanguineum).
Ruddy Darter. Always remind me of Homer Simpson for some reason.
I also managed to see a couple of White Egrets flying about and as many of you know, I'm not really in to birds that much, so I couldn't tell you if it was a small or large egret, but it was definitely an Egret.

Eventually, I got to the small peat ponds near the end of the route and whipped out the bins to start looking for the very thing I came for, a Raft Spider. No luck at the first two ponds, nor the couple after that. Even the four more I came across after the first four lacked any visible signs of a spider. Now, I'm not saying there were no spiders there, it could be that I wasn't getting my eye in and they could've been well hidden from view. But, sadly, I did not get what I came for, but I did go away with something else instead. On the last pond I came to, I saw a damselfly. At first I thought it was a common blue, but it didn't look right. Looking through the binoculars I could see that it was blue, but it was also emerald in colour along the abdomen and on the dorsal thorax. An Emerald Damselfly (Lestes sponsa) me thinks, but was it?
Getting back to the car I decided to have a proper look at the photos I took of it and compare them to the Dragonflies and damselflies field guide I have on my phone. The Emerald Damselfly has quite an extensive range covering most of the UK, but it also has a similar species, the Scarce Emerald Damselfly (Lestes dryas) who's range is confined to the Thames estuary, west Norfolk and west Ireland. Usually, in these circumstances, I would say that it must be an Emerald, however, when looking closely at the pictures, there are a couple of subtle differences I observed. The first one was that the thorax at the base of the wings is darker on an Emerald than a Scarce Emerald. The second difference is that pterostigma (the black segments on the wing tips) are narrower on an Emerald than a Scarce Emerald. The third thing I noticed in my couple of differences is that Lopham Fen is the most southern point of it's Norfolk range. So I strongly believe that what I saw that it was in fact a Scarce Emerald Damselfly.
Scarce Emerald Damselfly
So I may have not got what I went for, but I came away with another reward instead and to top it all, it was a lovely mornings stroll to. Lopham Fen is a place I would recommend for all the family, I have just one little gripe about the place and that is it's missing a café. It's a lovely place and people like to sit down and have a cuppa whilst talking over the things they've seen after there walk. A café also encourages people to meet up there prior to walks and birding etc. So come on Suffolk Wildlife Trust, what about installing a café?

Another rarity

A couple of days ago, whilst making a cup of tea for the dear wifey, she pointed out a fly on the window trying to get out. I said it looks like a wasp, but no, she reckoned it was a fly. On closer inspection (and I hate to say this) she was right, it was a fly. At first I thought it was a hoverfly, but I had trouble trying to ID it and thought it might be a Chrysotoxum cautum hoverfly. Not truly believing my ID, I turned to Twitter and posted a picture to Martin Harvey, a hoverfly specialist and someone who's contributed to this blog, with the question is this C cautum? It wasn't long before another fly specialist I know and someone who has a regular slot on BBC Radio Suffolk's Lesley Dolphin show, John Biglin tweeted me back with a surprising answer. "Looks like Stratiomys potamida to me" he tweeted. Looking this up I found him to be right and I also found out that it wasn't a hoverfly, buit it was in fact a soldierfly. Martin soon got in touch and asked me to send him the record details i.e. date/ grid ref. Two days later Martin contacted me to say that this soldierfly was last recorded in my 10km square back in 1894, over 100 years ago (119 to be precise). 
Stratiomys potamida. The tissue is there to keep it still for the picture. It doesn't harm it.

From face on
So it just goes to show, we never really know what's out there unless we look, find and record.

I saw a lady called Vanessa, she was painted beautifully.

Yes, this week, whilst sitting in the garden having a cuppa, I looked up and noticed something different on the buddleia bush. I thought at first is was a rather large looking Small Tortoiseshell butterfly, but no. It then suddenly dawned on me what it was and as quick as my ageing limbs would carry me, I nipped inside for my camera to grab a picture of my first Painted Lady (Vanessa cardui) butterfly.
The beautiful Vanessa. Vanessa cardui or better known as a Painted Lady.
These butterflies have an amazing lifecycle that originates in North Africa. Come spring they migrate northwards from North Africa and start arriving on our shores around late March. They don't arrive as singles, no, they arrive in clouds. Many people were spotting orange coloured clouds just off the coast of Norfolk just above the sea a few years back. They then spend their summer here mating before flying upwards to the dizzying heights of around 5000ft where they catch northerly winds which help blow them back towards North Africa where they overwinter. Such an amzing feat for such a dainty looking butterfly. 

Muncher update

Well, four of the five are now pupating and I managed to find the fourth muncher at the top of the flexarium, which meant he was ready to start digging. So I placed him in the soil tank and set my camera up to do a time lapse of him burying himself. Alas, he was in no mood to wait for an amateur like me, so I only just caught hime disappearing under the soil for winter.

That's all for now, hope you've enjoyed it. Catch you next time.

Monday, 12 August 2013

No clear solution

Well, thank you to all those who took part in last weeks discussion regarding the issue over Harlequin Ladybirds (Harmonia axyridis). There were some valid points made and an example given of someone who actually tried (in vain it seems) to stop the harlequins reaching his small village, thanks Martin.
Graham brought up the issue around the legality of releasing non-native species, which not many people know of, but it's true for example that if you caught a Grey Squirrel, you would not be allowed by law to release it again because it's non-native. So, I wonder if the same goes for rabbits, fallow deer and even some snails? Where do we draw the line?
As Sven and Tracey pointed out, the whole issue becomes a minefield of more and more questions and issues. I, like Tracey, am in favour of re-wilding and would love to see wolves roaming the Scottish highlands again. But I would imagine the farmers and locals would have something to say about that. The re-introduction of the beaver has had to happen in secret, undisturbed locations as there are many landowners who are against such animals and it is this in part, which has lead us to the very rocky state of our environment that we find ourselves now in. We as a species, do not really consider ourselves as being a part of that all encompassing, biological network we call nature. We see ourselves as a spectator, owner, controller of it all. We seek to order it, confine it and structure it in to something of our choosing. If we don't like what we see, we remove it, kill it, eradicate it, destroy it and bring in something more appeasing, more colourful, more enchanting and it doesn't matter whether it belongs in this part of the world or not. We move things around our fragile world without giving a seconds thought for what the implications may be, how it might be needed where it came from and what problems it may bring to where it's going. No, no questions are ever asked and no solutions are ever sourced. It's a do it now, ask questions later approach and it's an approach that has left not only our environment in the UK paying the consequences, it's environments around the world that are suffering. One example is the introduction of the Buff-tailed bumblebee (Bombus terrestris) to Chile to help with pollination has had a severe impact on an Argentinian species of bumblebee. The Buff-tail spread into Argentina from Chile at a rate of 275km a year and wherever the Buff-tailed showed up, Argentina's only native bumblebee (Bombus dahlbommi) disappeared within weeks.
Even the very way we move goods around the world, is enough to upset the delicate balance even further. Take this recently issued Asian Hornet warning, thought to have entered France via a shipment of pottery.

A new invader
I've collected containers from our ports that have come from China, India and other far flung places, that are covered in mud around the base of the container. This is where they have sat on the ground being loaded. The mud dries, is collected and then shipped and yet, in that dried lump of mud there could be insect eggs, bacteria, fungus' and all manner of organisms that could be detrimental to a native organism in this country, which could be released as soon as it rains, while the truck is travelling down the M1.
Sorry, I digress, but I feel it's an issue that is all too often swept under the carpet, another elephant in the room that no-one wants to address. No government wants to impose strict biosecurity laws for the fear of how the costs will affect their sponsors. He who pays the fiddler calls the tune.
At the end of the day, I think Martin Harvey's comment about his friend who tried to prevent the harlequin from reaching his village and failed summed it all up for me. No matter whether I kill it or release it, the difference I make to the whole grand scheme of things will be nowt. So, from now on, I will only record what I see and not kill it in the vain hope I'm making a difference. 
Thank you to everyone who took part, I value your input immensely and I hope you will continue to contribute whenever you feel the need to do so.

Creatures of the night

Over these next couple of weeks, clear skies permitting, the International Space Station will be passing over the UK and will be clearly visible to the naked eye. I often set my alarm to remind me when it's passing and love watching it go over. It really is awe-inspiring to see such a magnificent achievement whizzing above our heads and I thought I'd pop out into the garden and have a go at getting some photos. Alas, the skies weren't that great with some skittish cloud about and as I sat in the deck chair waiting for it's arrival I noticed that there were quite a few moths flapping around the buddleia. Yes, most people only think that moths flap around lights and forget what moths actually do. But, as I've stated in previous posts, moths are exactly the same as butterflies and they spend all their time feeding on those flowers which don't close for the night such as buddleia. here's a few I managed to snap:
A Small Magpie (Anania hortulata)

The same Small Magpie from the side. You can clearly see its long tongue it uses
to get the nectar from the flowers.

A small micro moth ponders the night.
Another micro moth pondering the cosmos on a cosmos. (Sorry, couldn't resist)
This time a macro moth the Silver Y (Autographa gamma). I love the colour of the eyes
on this shot. 
A Buff-tailed bumblebee that left it too late to get home.
An Earwig looking for a meal of some decaying vegetation. They're harmless to humans.
A Harvestman, NOT a spider, also seeks out a meal amongst the flowers.
And here's the picture I originally went out to take, the passing of the International Space Station. Unfortunately, the lighting wasn't that great and was reflected by the cloud, so the pass doesn't stick out that much. But I will try again dear follower, maybe in a place with darker skies.
Not as good as I would have liked, but that white streak across the bottom was
the ISS.
If you too would like to see the space station fly over your house, and I strongly recommend that you see it at least once, then you can find out its fly past time at the Heavens Above website. Simply click on the link, then, where it says "Configuration", click on the link that says "Select from map". This will take you to a map of the world, zoom in to your current location and double click the place where you are (the local town will be enough) and then submit. You will then be taken back to the home page where you can click on the satellite "ISS" and you will then be shown the visible times of its passing.
If you click on the time of the pass you want to see, it will actually show you a map of it's path across the sky. Tonight (12th August 2013) will have two really good passes at 21:24 hrs and 23:01 hrs and it will only take 6 minutes for it to cross the sky, so set your alarms and pray for clear skies. Their low 'mag' of -3.3 and -3.4 means they will be very bright, so much so, you may think it's a plane passing over.
There is also the peak of the persieds meteor shower tonight, so you may even see the odd shooting star or two.

Muncher update

Well, the first one of my Poplar Hawkmoth caterpillars has gone into pupation stage. I was sitting at my desk the other day when I suddenly noticed that the constant noise of munching leaves, was suddenly being replaced by the sound of scrunching newspaper. Investigating, I saw that the biggest muncher of them all was on the floor of the flexarium pulling up the newspaper. I knew that this was his time to start pupating, so I collected some fresh (from the bag) compost, placed it in a tank about 2-3 inches deep and then placed him in it. He walked about for a bit before finding a little divot and then began digging down. Once he was full buried I placed a little dated post-it note where he was, so I could find him again. I'll leave him here for a couple of weeks whilst he changes into his pupation stage, and then I'll place him in the fridge to overwinter. Please note I said fridge and NOT freezer, I need to keep him cool, not frozen. Then come spring I'll bring him out and eventually he'll emerge into a beautiful Hawkmoth, I hope.

Till next time dear follower.

Tuesday, 6 August 2013

I have a question or two

Well there I was the other night sitting at my desk playing with some pictures I took the other day, when all of a sudden, a ladybird flew in through the open window and landed on my desk. Yay! My 5th ladybird of the year, excellent I thought. So, quickly reaching for a specimen tube, I then popped the little fellow in ready to be identified. Unfortunately, it keyed out to be a Harlequin Ladybird (Harmonia axyridis), the alien invader. The bug that has played a big part, if not the only part, in the decline of our native ladybirds. Then came the dilemma, I strongly believe that I have no right whatsoever to decide to what lives and dies. I do not have the right to take a life whether it be a bug, or a much larger animal. Unless of course, the animal is suffering, then yes, stop the poor things misery. I know that's what I would want should I be in that position. However, this poor little thing has done nothing wrong, it's not he's fault it's in foreign lands doing the best it can to survive, we brought it here.
So, I'm left with the dilemma whether to release the non-native to carry on its breeding and eating or, do I euthanise to help our poor natives? It was as I mused over the issue, that I suddenly saw that the ladybird in question wasn't a male, but a female. How did I realise this, simple, it started laying eggs.
The egg laying female. Sorry for the blurry pic, using iPhone in dim light.
More little Harlequins that will eat not only aphids, the reason they were brought here in the first place, but other ladybird larvae, including our own natives. They will then go on to reproduce and when you consider that one female can lay around 1000 eggs, then it's not hard to see why these have spread so quickly since their first recorded sighting back in 2004. They now populate the majority of England, parts of Wales and are now being recorded in some northern parts of Scotland. My decision had been made for me and raiding the wifey's make-up bag for nail varnish remover and a little bit of cotton wool, I set up my first ever killing jar. What a horrible name, and something I thought I would never do, but I wasn't going to release this egg laying female back into the wild. To do so would've been a crime against our own native populations. Placing the nail varnish laced cotton wool at the bottom of a specimen jar, a piece of dry kitchen roll above that and then the poor ladybird on top of that, I placed the lid back on and waited the 15 minutes required to put it too sleep. I then thought that this poor little fellow should not die in vain, and I should pin it to show others what a Harlequin looks like (even though it comes in 100 different varieties). 
So whilst waiting I decided to look for some tutorial videos on pinning a beetle. There were some interesting and informative videos as usual, but then I came across this young student chap who had apparently been given the task of collecting eight different types of beetle and pinning them as part of his coursework. He was videoing his finished work with all the beetles neatly pinned and lined up, when suddenly, one of the pinned beetles opened one of his elytra (wing covers) and stretched its wing (the other elytra being pinned, it couldn't do both wings), obviously not dead!
Watching this was trauma enough for me and the thought occurred, what if this happened to me??? Thankfully, the Ladybird book that I reviewed the other week gave advice on preparing samples and stated that placing the specimen in the freezer for 30 minutes would ensure it was dead. So once I was happy that the harlequin was knocked out, I placed it in the freezer for 1 hour, I wanted to make sure!
Needless to say, the specimen was pinned and labelled and placed in my little box of dead things. This box contains various pinned species, mainly bumblebees, that I have found recently deceased around my garden. By collecting these samples, I hope they may be of use to others like my niece or even if I get called back to a school again. It's always good to be able to look at something close up without worrying about getting stung.
The finished (in more ways than one) specimen.
So, ladybird pinned, dilemma over, so I thought. The next night saw me putting the moth trap out and within minutes of the light going on, not one, but three ladybirds landed on the sheet next to the trap. I collected all three to ID and guess what, yes, they too were Harlequins. So you can now imagine what I'm going through if I thought one was a problem, I now have the problem magnified by three.
I didn't get into being a naturalist because I wanted to kill stuff. I'm no tory politician who claims to be helping conserve something by shooting it. I love nature, I love everything it has to offer, the intricate food webs and interrelationships. I enjoy the spectacle of nature on a daily basis and yet I am landed with the extremely difficult decision of whether I should release or destroy. I'm dammed if I do, I'm dammed if I don't, I'm in a lose-lose situation and I hate it. Needless to say, I done the terrible deed and they now sit in my box all labelled and pinned showing their differences in variation. But I think this whole situation leads to a bigger moral maze.

All lined up to show differences.

Let us talk

The above has left me asking many questions about conservation. When I got into being a naturalist and was able to spend more time on it than just a passing interest, I intended to do it without killing anything. Long gone are the days where people went out into the countryside to see how many specimens they could collect, kill, pin and display. They would have trays full of butterflies of all the same species, lined up, row after row. No particular reason for it, as far as I can see, other than to see how many they could collect of that particular species. Looking back at it all, it's quite appalling. Nowadays, we're more educated, we have technology and all those specimens collected to look at, we don't need to collect as much. I don't really want to end up with a display box of hundreds of Harlequins, in neat little rows that I've felt morally bound to kill. So a couple of questions sprung to mind and the first question that comes up is:

Have Harlequins earned the right to be here through evolving?
Harlequins come from Asia, they were transported to America, then Europe for their ravenous appetite in eating aphids and thus controlling pests. Through this ravenous appetite, they have made themselves attractive to another species (us) who in return have aided their distribution throughout the world. A bit like a symbiotic mite would help keep a bee colony clean from fungus. So with this in mind, would it be fair to say that the harlequin is in fact not a non-native species, but in fact here by the process of evolution?

What sort of impact would killing every Harlequin have?
If naturalists were to kill every harlequin ladybird they came across, would it have any affect on the population or, would it be a pointless waste of time? Also would it help our natives by destroying harlequins when we come across them in the field?

Please free to add to the debate, I want to try and nail this morality thing on the head and I can only do that with your help.

Muncher update

Well, the last 3 of the last 4 munchers made it to the cocoon stage, unfortunately, the last one crawled into a corner and died. I know, very sad. But, on a positive note, of the 56 caterpillars I was left with (some going to friends) all but one made it through to cocoon stage, which I think is a success. They are all now hanging up on the side of wifey's log cabin studio awaiting the onset of winter.

The other munchers that are the Poplar hawk moths are also doing very well and devouring weeping willow on a daily basis. Yet, they are growing at different rates strangely.
Different sizes yet all the same age.

There's more!

Yes, there's more. I had potted some moths from the moth trap last weekend and one of those moths I had potted was a Pale Prominent (Pterostoma palpina). I knew what it was when I potted it, I just wanted to make sure. When it came to identification time, I pulled the pot out and to my surprise it had laid 32 eggs! Checking what food plant it requires, I found that it ate willow. So it looks like the local willow tree will be getting more visits from me in the future.
Just some of the very little eggs.

Under the microscope 

Unfortunately, I found another dead bumblebee on my patio today. Obviously I was going to pin it as I now have a 'relaxing box' from those good people at Watkins and Doncaster. This box allows me to pin specimens regardless of age, as most insects go very stiff when they die and trying to move any limbs causes them to break off, the relaxing box stops that by making the insect supple and moveable. Anyway, I digress, before pinning it, I wanted to have a good look at it under the microscope to see if I could find the reason for its death. I am always amazed when I look through the microscope at the detail on insects and the bee was no exception.
Face on looking at the wonderful compound eyes, antennae and proboscis
What amazed me was that this particular bee died with its tongue poking out from the end of its proboscis.
The tip of the tongue poking out of the proboscis
I also came across this little bit of globuous matter coming out from under the stinger.
Strange globuous matter and one very pointy stinger!
As yet, I have not found out what this stuff is. The stinger is still in place, so I don't think it's venom, but it might just be a type of moisture that the bee exuded in its final death throws. But this is merely supposition, if I find out at a later date, I will of course let you know.

A better view of the hairy tongue sticking out of the proboscis.

From the garden

Lots been going on in the garden this week. Surprise visitors were 7 Long-tailed tits to the bird feeder which is usually occupied by Blue tits all day long. But this little flock were just lovely to see and were quite happy with my presence too.
New visitors to the garden.
Butterflies a plenty to the buddleia as usual including this Peacock who was just a little shy of showing me his excellent upperwing patterning. Instead I had to be content with the rather bland, but effective camouflage underwing pattern.
A shy Peacock butterfly.
And whilst the Peacock fed, it was watch by a very vigilant Comma from the pear tree next to the buddleia.
Always on guard to see off rival males or welcome beautiful females, the Comma.
Butterflies weren't the only visitors to the buddleia, there were lots of bumblebees too.
A beautiful Red-tail bumblebee.
And down in the flower beds the activity was busy.
A lovely Marmalade Hoverfly gets some breakfast. 
The reason for being called the Marmalade Hoverfly is due to the extra band on the abdomen.
And from the same flower, this unknown hoverfly also found its food.
An unknown hoverfly.
That's enough for you this week, I hope you liked and please give me your thoughts on the Harlequin issue and also, if you like this blog, please share it out amongst your friends and family.
Just before I go, Ipswich saw some weird and wonderful weather last week and I just want to share with you this last picture I took as I stepped out of the door. As one friend of mine put it, it looked a bit like war of the worlds.
The chances of anything coming from Mars...
Till next time folks, take care.

Thursday, 1 August 2013

So much to show

Lots to show this week, so without furthe a due, here we go.

From the moth trap.

Well the moth trap was set up as usual over the weekend and drew to it a total of 461 moths of 90 different species. 6 moths were unidentifiable due to being a bit worn (older moths begin to lose their scales and thus their patterns). The moth trap also drew to it 3 blue-tailed damselflies (not surprising being next to the pond), a Lacewing and a German wasp.
Again, I managed to catch some photos even though it was 4am and the caffeine hadn't quite kicked in yet.
Lacewing, probably Chrysopa perla species. love the gold metallic eyes, very scifi.

 German wasp (Vespula germanica). Note the lovely yellow butterfly mark between the eyes, how sweet!
There were also a couple of new visitors to the trap this week and one of them was a moth I had seen before on a course at Flatford Mill last year.

Herald (Scoliopteryx libatrix), a welcome visitor.
Yes, this is an unmistakeable moth and one more thing to note about this moth is that this one is a female. You can tell because the males antennae are feathered unlike this ones antennae.

Another new one for the year was this Ruby Tiger (Phragmatobia fuliginosa fuliginosa).
Ruby Tiger
I love the furry heads that some of these moths have including the master of disguise himself, the Buff Tip (Phalera bucephala).
Looking like a broken twig, Buff tip.
I'm often asked by any who find out I like moths, 'What's the difference between moths and butterflies?'
The answer is simple and it isn't, one flies by day, the other by night. After all, you get day flying moths like the Hummingbird Hawkmoth (Macroglossum stellatarum) and the spotted Burnet moths are but a few that can be seen during daylight hours. No, the answer is that there is no difference, they all belong to the order of insects known as Lepidoptera, which is Greek for 'scaled wing'. I think the only difference is that butterflies have better PR than moths. For example, Martin Huges-Games recently said on Springwatch's Guide to Butterflies, that most moths are just brown. This makes me wonder if Mr Hughes-Games as ever run a moth trap or seen the diversity of British moths out there. 
Looking like a butterfly, but it's actually a moth. The Early Thorn (Selenia dentaria).
There are around 2500 species of moth, yet there's only 59 species of butterfly in the UK. Yes, there are some beautiful butterflies, and there are some beautiful moths too.
The Bird Cherry Ermine moth (Yponomeuta evonymella) is only 1cm long.
Burnished Brass (Diachrysia chrysitis). That's isn't colour, that's refraction from the scales.
Truly amazing.
Another micro moth Lozotaeniodes formosana, again, only 1cm long.
And if you care to look through some of my previous posts, you will see the variety of colours and patterns that make up our collection of British moths. However, these are just some of the moths from the trap this week and it will be interesting how this weeks weather of sunshine, heavy downpours and high humidity will affect the moth trap. Watch this space.

From the Buddleia

As many of you will remember, buddleia was a controversial subject I covered some months back. An alien invader that has made its mark across the towns and countryside of our small island. At the time I stated that I had a rather large buddleia bush in my back garden that must be 15+ years old, and I also stated that I had no intention in removing it, because doing so would be like a drop in the ocean and would make no difference whatsoever to removing the plant from this country. But another reason that the bush stays here is because of the wildlife it attracts during the summer months with its lovely scented, dense inflorescence. I've been outside grabbing some shots this week of that wildlife.
The Garden buddleia looking splendid just after a rain shower.
Just one of the many bumblebees always buzzing around it.
A Comma takes a break with a nice refreshing drink of nectar.
My first Green-veined White of the year. Love the mottled eyes on this one.
Seen plenty of these around the garden this year. This one's a Small Skipper
A rather battered Small White.
Seen plenty of these this year, a Meadow Brown.
Even the Green bottles were getting in on the act

This is just a small selection of what I've seen just on the buddleia today. Elsewhere in the garden I came across this little bug sitting on the lavender.

Corizus hyoscyami enjoying the view.
First time I've seen this colourful little bug, which is apparently a plant feeder and only about 1cm long. It seemed quite aware of me taking its photo, yet was quite happy for me to carry on. I also managed to get a snap of another little bug and although it's NOT a spider, I will leave it till the very end with an appropriate warning so you don't come across it unexpectedly. It's a Harvestman, but like I said, at the very end so please continue to read.

 Out and about.

Had another lovely walk down to Newbourne Spring this week with wifey and came across this rather large flowery bush that was covered in bees, hoverflies and butterflies. It had lovely scented white fluffy type flowers and I couldn't work out what it was at first. Then it hit me. This lovely pollinator attracting piece of botany was in fact a privet hedge that hadn't been pruned in any way, shape or form. It was so lovely to see such an abundance of wildlife around it.
Episryphus baleatus hovering around the privet flowers 

Another Sryphus species indulging itself.
Just goes to show that pruning things to look all nice and neat isn't natures way and this looked so much better with the flowers and butterflies all over it that just looking like a block of green bush.

Hoverflies were out in abundance on our walk and I tried to grab shots of these wonderful little creatures every time I saw one.
Eristalis species sucking up the nectar

Eristalis horticola I believe.
I took so many photos that I'm not going to bore you with them all here. But if you want to go out and start getting pictures, now's the time to do it. Insects are everywhere enjoying our lovely weather and the opportunities are endless.

A note to say thank you

As you may remember, my niece Gabby, got me to do a bug show and tell display/talk type thing at her school. Well, I got a lovely surprise the other day when she presented me with a little yellow folder with a note from her teacher written on it saying 
"Thank you. You really engaged and inspired the class"
Inside the folder was loads of hand drawn pictures and messages from all the children saying thank you for coming to their school to show them the mini beasts.
So many wonderful pictures and drawings to say thank you. I'm very chuffed.
Every picture showed just how much each child took on and I was very chuffed to receive such a gift. If any of the children or teachers are reading this, I would just like to say, thank you very much for having me, it was a pleasure.

WARNING!                 SPIDER ALERT!                    WARNING 

OK, you cannot say you haven't been warned, but here's another little bug, which isn't a spider, but everyone mistakes them for spiders. It's a Harvestman and the differnce between these and spiders is that a spider has a head, thorax and abdomen, whereas a harvestman only has a body.
A harvestman, not a spider.
Harvestman are so called because of their legs. Back in the good ole olden days, harvestman (not the insects) used to stand on stilts so they could watch their sheep, and before you say it, these do not watch sheep. It's the long legs that gives them the name, a bit like stilts.

Last but not least, is a wonderful video of a crab spider stalking a fly. Not the sort of thing you see everyday, so well worth the watch. The link will take you to another excellent blog on insects. You can view it here

If you've made it this far, I hope you enjoyed it. Till next time, take care.