Lightning and Brimstone

Tags

, ,

Showcasing this Brimstone moth (Opisthograptis luteolata) I found on Thursday seems entirely appropriate today as I was caught out during this morning’s walk by a sudden thunderstorm. One of the lightning strikes was very close by, almost overhead, and there was a very strong smell of brimstone, the archaic name for sulphur.

220625 brimstone moth (2)

The moth was resting, perched upside down under a blade of grass. Amazingly, it stayed completely still as I got very close and twisted the grass to get better photos. Very obliging and very beautiful!

220625 brimstone moth (1)

Red, no danger

Tags

, , , , ,

Bright red in the landscape always draws my eye (witness Wednesday’s beetles), so this burst of vibrant colour on a low-growing rose bush immediately attracted me. And the fact that the rose was ‘persuaded’ to create this object by the larvae of a tiny wasp is really quite mind-blowing. That wasp is a Bedeguar gall wasp (Diplolepis rosae), and you may remember my somewhat haphazard but ultimately successful attempts to see one of these wasps when I kept a gall in a jar to see what emerged (Bedeguar gall wasp, May 2020). This time I’m restricting myself to admiring the wasp’s astonishing creation.

220624 bedeguar gall

A longhorn

Tags

, , , ,

As if it knew I was purposefully looking for insects to celebrate National Insect Week, this beetle, my first longhorn of the year, was sunning itself in a hedgerow as I passed by this morning. This is Rutpela maculata (no common name), one of the Cerambycidae and the only longhorn beetle I see regularly in my local area. The black-and-yellow colouration of these beetles varies quite a bit but they always look handsome.

220623 longhorn beetle

Red for danger?

Tags

, , ,

I was minding my own business, head in a tree as often happens, when one of these crazy little dudes flew into me today. Maybe it thought I was a trunk. It rolled a couple of times in mid air, tumbled, then recovered in time to land on a nettle, scrabbled about, righted itself, then turned and gave me the most indignant look, as if its crazy flying was all my fault. These are Red-headed cardinal beetles (Pyrochroa serraticornis), frequenters of shady woodlands, predators on other insects, occasional menaces of the airways.

220622 red-headed cardinal

Cyllecoris histrionius

Tags

, , , ,

It’s National Insect Week here in Britain so I thought I’d share a new bug I found while checking out life on the leaves of Oak trees. And if you think today’s bug looks a bit like last week’s bug, Leptopterna dolabrata, you’d be absolutely right. Meet Cyllecoris histrionius, another member of the Miridae family. This bug species overwinters as an egg, the larvae hatch in the Spring, then the adults are active from May to July. Oak leaves are their usual habitat; there they can be found munching away on aphids and other tiny insects.

220621 Cyllecoris histrionius

Small heath

Tags

, , , ,

As well as the Heath spotted-orchids pictured in yesterday’s blog and the Small pearl-bordered fritillaries featured last Thursday, another of the stars of the Aberbargoed Grasslands NNR is the Small heath (Coenonympha pamphilus). Fortunately, this lovely little butterfly has adapted to life in a wide variety of habitats, not just damp grasslands, so, although it is still classed as vulnerable in the most recent conservation status report released last month by Butterfly Conservation, it is in a much better position to cope with environmental changes that those butterflies that require more specialised habitats.

220620 small heath

Counting spots

Tags

, , , , , , ,

I love the bright pops of colour ladybirds (or ladybugs, as they’re known in some countries) provide on the leaves of trees, shrubs and grasses as I’m meandering through the landscape. And they’re usually easy to identify, simply by counting their spots, which is always a bonus with insects. These are a few I’ve recently encountered: 14-spot (Propylea quattuordecimpunctata) and 22-spot (Psyllobora vigintiduopunctata); a new species for me, the 24-spot ladybird (Subcoccinella vigintiquattuorpunctata) (recognisable by its red head, even if you can’t count the spots); and two that are named for their colours so no spot counting required, the Cream-spot (Calvia quattuordecimguttata) (okay, this could be confusing as it has 14 spots and isn’t really cream, more of a red-brown) and the Orange ladybird (Halyzia sedecimguttata).

220618 ladybirds

Moths are amazing

Tags

,

At the risk of stating the obvious, moths are amazing! And I’ve been lucky to find some gorgeous examples in recent weeks. As I’m running out of image storage space on this blog, the easiest way to share my photos is via a slideshow video. Here, then, is a short tribute to moths, a celebration of their incredible diversity of shapes and sizes, patterns and colours.

Pearls in the grass

Tags

, , , , ,

I can’t think of a nicer way to spend a day than to enjoy a lovely catch up with my friend Shar while wandering around a grasslands reserve looking for butterflies. Having a second pair of sharp eyes was also a bonus as the weather was quite dull, the butterflies few and mostly inactive. Still, we managed some good close sightings of Small pearl-bordered fritillaries (Boloria selene), a butterfly that thrives in the damp grassland habitat of Aberbargoed Grasslands NNR and, though one of the reserve’s largest fields was burnt recently, there are promising signs that both the violets required for this butterfly’s larvae and the thistles, bramble and bugle that provide food for the adults have survived the fire. Let’s hope both the plants and the butterflies bounce back from what could so easily have been a truly tragic event.

220616 small pearl-bordered fritillary