I’ve had two days recently when I went looking for butterflies and was feeling a little disappointed not to see very many when, all of a sudden, a moth flew by and landed at my feet … like Nature saying ‘Here’s a consolation prize!’ or, maybe, ‘Don’t be a Wally! Look at this amazing creature!’ … and so I did. And then another moth appeared, and another, and …
I’d hoped the sunny skies and warmth would bring out more butterflies during yesterday’s exercise walk but they were few and far between at Grangemoor Park, and I think that’s weather related.
Earlier this year, we had almost constant, often heavy rain that saturated the ground and turned everywhere to mud, and now the ground is being baked dry and hard by a subsequent lack of rain. This cycle seems to be having a marked effect on plant growth and insect emergence – at least that’s what I’m seeing, or, rather, not seeing.
The good news at Grangemoor, though, was the abundance of Latticed heath moths, more than I’ve spotted in one day before. Though they do have a habit of flitting very quickly away just as I get ready to take their photo, they are lovely creatures, and seeing so many certainly made my day.
This is one of my favourite moths, a Latticed heath (Chiasmia clathrata, from the Greek chiasma, meaning formed like a cross, and clathrum, meaning lattice or grate, a reference to the lovely interlaced and criss-crossing patterns on its wings).
As well as flying in the night time, the Latticed heath also flies by day, which is how I’m able to see them, though they’re very good at hiding in amongst the long grass and wildflowers. I saw my first for 2019 on 23 May at Cosmeston, and I’ve since seen them at most of my regular haunts, Grangemoor and Hamadryad Parks in Cardiff, and Lavernock Nature Reserve.
It’s a smallish moth, with a wingspan between 20 and 25mm, and can be found around clovers and trefoils and lucerne, which are the plants its caterpillars feed on. The first adults can be seen in May and June, and then there’s a second generation that flies in August and September.
I’ve had a lucky week with my Lepidoptera sightings – that’s moths and butterflies, for those who didn’t know – and the week’s not over yet. As well as the Narrow-bordered Bee Hawk-moth on Monday and the Burnet Companions on Tuesday, yesterday I found my first (three) Large Skipper butterflies for the year at Cosmeston.
And, today, my wander around Grangemoor Park was something of a Lep-fest, with the first (five) Mother Shipton moths I’ve seen in 2019.
And I spotted a nice Latticed Heath moth trying to hide in the grass.
And, then, just as I was about to head for home, I noticed something small flitting about along a side path, went to investigate and found two Brown Argus butterflies, which I have seen already this year but not in Wales. You can see why I named this blog ‘leptastic’!
From today until the end of June, I’m taking part in 30 Days Wild, a month-long nature challenge run by the Wildlife Trusts. The idea is to do something wild every day for 30 days, whether ‘you take time out to simply smell a wildflower, listen to birdsong, explore a local wild place or leave a part of your garden to grow wild for a month’ and the aim is that by ‘making nature part of your life for 30 days’, you will feel ‘happier, healthier and more connected to nature’. This is pretty much what I do most days anyway but this month I’m going to ensure I go wild every single day! You can join in too, if you want – the info is here.
So, today, on day one, I went for a lovely long wander in Cathays Cemetery, Cardiff’s magnificent, huge, Victorian cemetery. Sadly, some parts of the cemetery are poorly managed – large areas without gravestones, which could be easily become wildflower meadows, are savagely mown, the clippings not removed. But there are a couple of areas where the grasses and wildflowers have been allowed to grow, and additional wildflowers – in particular, a lot of Yellow rattle – have been sewn. These two areas were alive with insects today: bees and hoverflies, bugs and beetles, and damselflies galore. My favourites, though, were all the lovely Lepidoptera: here are some I saw …