Tuesday, 30 June 2009

If at first you don't succeed...

The Lissonota sp. ichneumonids have started to lay their eggs in unsuspecting moth larvae hidden inside grass seedheads. I've been following these for a week, now, and yesterday I was rewarded with a couple of shots of the egg-laying taking place:

Notice the antennae being used to pinpoint (ouch!) the location of the larva.

This shot shows the ovipositor at the moment it was being retracted. It's finer than a human hair.

This shot appears to be of a male (of a completely different species):

Staying with parasitic insects, these two Tachinids were on adjacent Bramble leaves. It looks as if they were pointedly ignoring each other. I see a great many Tachinids, and this shows just how many larvae of moths and butterflies are parasitised each year.

Some leaf-miners are very easily identified as such. This is Agromyza filipendulae, on Meadowsweet.

But the mines of Phyllonorycter species can easily be overlooked. This is Phyllonorycter rajella, on Alder. The pupa is only 2mm long, so the adult moth will never be recognised as such in flight.

That's the year half over, and it was only just new year.

Sunday, 28 June 2009

Aphids in trouble again

I noticed that the Knapweed was covered in brown aphids, so I settled down to see if any female hoverflies came along. Sure enough, a female Episyrphus balteatus arrived and as soon as she spotted the aphids she started to lay. The aphids are in trouble, since her larvae will consume them by the hundred.

Sometimes she laid her eggs quite distant from the aphids (but always on the same plant). At other times she laid a lot closer:

Spiders are the major gap in my knowledge. I must start on them next year.

I was getting acquainted with emerging specimens of Angelica, in preparation for the July flowering, and I spotted this mine of Phytomyza angelicastri:

A couple of additional images of Dactylorhiza orchids with slightly unusual markings. This one has very vague nectar guides:

And this one has nectar guides which are much redder than usual:

Saturday, 27 June 2009

Moths and Beetles

A few more moths to light. First of all, Plain Golden Y - Autographa jota:

Riband Wave - Idaea aversata:

Flame Shoulder - Ochropleura plecta:

I had no idea that the female 14-spot ladybird was so much larger than the male:

And now we have it...Rhagonycha fulva, a Soldier Beetle. A clear sign that the nights are drawing in.

Friday, 26 June 2009

More on orchids

It has been suggested that really robust specimens like this one are showing 'hybrid vigour'. Since I consider them all to be hybrids, I rather think their environment might just have something to do with it instead.

The next sequence shows the gently graded colour variation from lilac to white:

That last one with no colouration whatsoever and yellow pollinia is known as Dactylorhiza fuchsii, ssp. o'kellyi, and is confined to western Ireland. No comment.

I raced to have a close look at these two when I saw them, and sure enough, the spike is short and the lower lobes are really frilly. A perfect Heath Spotted Orchid?

Not in my book...they just happened to be the only two with their feet submerged in the stream, and were less than a metre away from identically-coloured CSO with dry feet.

Still with orchids in mind, have a look at this shot of the hoverfly Helophilus pendulus:

Notice anything?

The hoverfly has some green objects stuck to its antennae. A much closer zoom in shows that they are, in fact, the pollinia of an orchid:

They must be quite irritating to the hoverfly, because it was quite clearly trying to remove them. Maybe hoverflies aren't perfectly built for this pollination task.

Thursday, 25 June 2009

Ichneumon time

This Ichneumonid was examining every grass seed looking for moth larvae. She didn't appear to find any, because no laying was noticed. Still...there's always tomorrow. For her, and for me.

Notice the antenna wrapped right round the seedhead in this shot:

Tuesday, 23 June 2009

Small stuff

I knew this micromoth was new to me, but I had to get back to the web before I could name it. Micropterix aruncella. 3mm long! What a handsome beast.

Another micro, but a much larger one, at 12mm long. Timothy Tortrix - Aphelia paleana. I found a new larva of this the other night, so it's clearly around in all of its stages.

One of the Snipe Flies - Chrysopilus cristatus.

The hoverfly Xylota segnis is highly atypical of hoverflies: it runs very quickly over leaves, brushing its head from side to side, gathering pollen. Those legs are made for jumping - bizarre!

Nice shadow.

Monday, 22 June 2009

Summer Solstice

Large update to the Species List. 24 new species added, so it's right up-to-date.

Not too much to show today, but I thought this image of the 14-spot ladybird having lunch at the expense of an Aphid was worth showing.

Saturday, 20 June 2009

Between showers

Yorkshire Fog - Holcus lanatus - is one of the most common (and prettier, I think) of our hedgerow grasses:

Lesser Stitchwort is an extremely delicate plant that supports itself by twining itself through its neighbours.

Cydia nigricana - the Pea Shoot Moth - is usually found near Vetches and other members of the pea family. It's rather handsome:

Another of the parasitic Tachinid flies. This one's on the about-to-open Meadowsweet:

Something made me turn over this Bramble leaf and I found a batch of Beetle eggs stuck to the underside.

Wednesday, 17 June 2009

Summer flowers

You can tell we're approaching the summer solstice, which is rather a depressing thought.

This is Pignut. One of these days I'm going to eat the nut.

Meadow Vetchling, or Meadow Pea, is rather tricky to photograph without the yellow burning out.

Marsh Thistle tends to attract a lot of good insects, especially hoverflies and picture-wing flies. These will be my main observation targets until the Angelica comes out.

Marsh Cinquefoil always amazes me. It grows in a very tightly-confined area on the edge of one ditch. Spot the tiny petals...the big pink bits are bracts.

A bit of a surprise. I haven't found Cut-leaved Cranesbill on the patch before: I usually find it about 10 miles away.

This specimen was found on a dump site in a lay-by. Maybe it was brought in.

Monday, 15 June 2009

Dactylorhiza orchids

The main flush of Dactylorhiza orchids has appeared. These are always at their best when the lowest rank of flowers has just newly opened.

For years, there has been a huge debate about the number of species and descriptions of the species and hybridisation. It is known that they hybridise and back-cross, so I suggest that most specimens are an intermediate 'hybrid' amongst 3 key 'species' in our location: Common Spotted Orchid (CSO), Heath Spotted Orchid (HSO) and Northern Marsh Orchid (NMO). Given that these 'species' hybridise so regularly, I can't see any uncorrupted ones being possible, so I rather think that we are taking a few distinguishing characteristics and lumping individuals into one bucket or another, depending on what we see.

This one shows the main features of 'CSO'...tall spike, three very clear lobes to the base of the flower, very little frilling:

This one shows more influence of 'HSO', with much frillier lips and a slightly shorter spike.

This would appear to have some NMO influence...much darker markings and a still shorter spike:

I'll leave the next few to your own imagination.

The lower left flower in this specimen shows the nectar hole being clearly indicated by the purple lines, which act as a guide for insects. The hole suggests that these species need a long-tongued insect like a butterfly or bee to pollinate them. Pollination is carried out via the pair of brown pollinia which attach pollen to the back of the pollinating insect.

This last one, however, shows a nice feature. The flowers form 'upside down', and only then do they rotate to their final position.

That last one would be pure 'CSO' if it wasn't for the (very) short spike.

Late edit:

Gill mentioned in her comments that the inverted flower looks more developed than usual. This is true. A close look reveals that the 'lower' lip has developed too quickly and has jammed against the flower above it. This combination of features will prevent the flower from passing on any pollen, so this is the end of the line for that combination.