Saturday, 25 October 2008

Brave moth

I don't know what this moth was thinking of, but it wouldn't have found a mate on this filthy night: I got soaked taking the picture.

Red-green Carpet - Chloroclysta siterata. New to me.

Friday, 24 October 2008

Mobile miner

By far the most common leaf miner around here is the micromoth Stigmella aurella. Virtually every Bramble plant has a few leaves carrying one or more mines. This week I found a mine on Herb Bennet - Geum urbanum - and it immediately looked like a Stigmella mine: a long, sinuous mine with a central frass line:

A quick check revealed that Stigmella aurella mines Geum, too.

Compare the mine with the Bramble version Here.

Note that the mine on Geum is formed quite differently from that on Bramble. The thicker Bramble leaf-veins clearly have more impact on the route of the mine.

Monday, 20 October 2008

Colourful Mushrooms

Just for the record, we have had 4 days without rain since the start of May.

A trip to Mullaghagarry wood usually produces a decent crop of fungi. First up is Suillus grevillei - a Larch associate.

Mycenas are generally small and delicate. This is Mycena meliigena, which is always found growing in moss on tree trunks, and is usually away from the ground. Cap is rarely more than 10mm across.

Another tree-moss Mycena is Mycena epipterygia. This is unusual in that it has a very robust stipe which is difficult to break.

One of the Honey Fungus complex: Armillaria mellea.

Possibly one of the most recognisable of fungi - the Amethyst Deceiver - Laccaria amethystina. The moss is the beautiful Thiudium tamariscinum.

Tuesday, 7 October 2008


The Helvella family have the most bizarre shapes. This is the Black Helvella, Helvella lacunosa.

Coprinus are very distinctive with their quickly-disintegrating black gills: the smaller ones last no more than one or two days once they open. Coprinus lagopus reaches a height of around 6-8 cm, with a 2-3 cm. cap. There were a few in a very small area, so I managed to get a shot of all the visible stages:

Lycoperdon pyriforme is the only puffball that grows on wood:

Handkea excipuliformis is a very much larger puffball altogether. I hadn't found it in this area before. Height before collapse is around 15 cm.

Wednesday, 1 October 2008

Gap in the rain

During my searches for specimens to photograph, I begin to notice subtle things that would normally not be seen. A number of fly and moth larvae live inside the seedheads of flowers such as Knapweed, or Hardheads. This is a good place to hide, since there is a ready supply of food and the larvae are protected from the weather and from most predators or parasites. Notice the word 'most': I have found carnivorous beetle nymphs inside these seedheads and, of course, the relevant ichneumonids are equipped with long ovipositors that can reach inside the deepest seedheads. I like to find out which larvae are living inside the seedheads, and the best way to find out is to open them. But, of course, I have lots of failures: many seedheads are empty.

I have noticed, though, that there appears to be an external sign of the presence of some of the inhabitants. The first picture shows a 'normal' seedhead. Notice the shape and thickness of the stem as it approaches the seedhead:

This is another seedhead, where the stem is noticeably thicker (to my eyes). I know the difference is subtle, but I can detect it very clearly in the field:

Experiments have shown that the thicker ones are usually occupied, and the thinner ones are not, so I broke open the two shown above. The thin one was unoccupied, and the thicker one had a few larvae of Tephritid (Picture wing) Flies. Not conclusive, but it's just a trend, and it saves me from bursting open dozens of potentially empty seedheads. Of course, this makes me wonder why this should be, and I suppose I wouldn't be too surprised to find that the fly larvae have some effect on the formation of the seedhead which is beneficial to them. Perhaps something like making the seeds slightly further apart, to make movement easier?

It's seed time, and I wonder if anyone else sees skeletal hands in these empty seedheads of Cow Parsley.

My survey and study of the Nematus pavidus sawfly larvae continues. This almost-mature larva is moving between leaves, having polished off the lower one. The sun was directly behind the shot, hence the glare.

Incidentally, the picture shows one absolute and one subjective feature that separate sawfly larvae from lepidopterous (moth and butterfly) ones. The number of prolegs (the stumpy ones at the rear) is 6 (the anal claspers count, too). So this is certainly a sawfly larva, since 6 or more prolegs are indicative of the sawfly. Subjectively, I can see that the larva has a round-shouldered appearance: another feature of many sawfly larvae.

Does anyone else remember these?