Wednesday, 31 December 2008

Pine mystery update

After examining dozens of needles very closely, I stumbled across the following specimen which shows a brown needle with an intact green area at the tip.

Even closer examination shows that the brown areas of the needle are in fact hollow, and the needles have been eaten from the inside, thereby killing them. This is indicative of micromoth leaf-miners, and research shows that there are perhaps 8 to 10 candidate species of micromoth which eat Pine needles in this manner. What I need to do next year is to take needle samples with occupant larvae and breed them through to the adult stage for identification.

And yes, the adult micromoths are, indeed, tiny.

So that's it for 2008, the year with the worst weather I can remember. Still, I don't feel too bad: I managed 89 posts, which is roughly one every 4 days. In addition, I was talking to a local gentleman of 87 years, who said it's the worst year for weather in his memory, too.


Gill said...

Happy New Year!

That makes a huge amount of sense. I think I can see a sort of cross-septum in that needle - could that be a pupa [is that the right singular?] or does it just mark the spot the larva rested? Can you spot the (admittedly tiny) hole througn which the adult presumably escaped? Are these native Scotties or some other pine which might have imported the moth (but not its predator(s))?

Why don't the birds pick up the colour change and think "dinner"?

How does the tip remain green and therefore presumably alive if its water feed has been cut off?

Agreed, 2008 was dreadful weather-wise (though I don't think the summer was quite as dire as 1968).

Susanna said...

Because the mine seems to start at the base of the needle, the number of candidates reduces to two: Cedestis gysseleniella and Barachedra pinicolella. Ypu probably will find a larve still in the mine. If it has only short 'hairs', it is Cedestis; Batrachedra has unusually long hairs.
Both species are unkown to Ireland (says Fauna Europaea), so breeding is mandatory for a definite identification!

Willem Ellis