Thursday, 10 June 2010

Moth time

Moths get a really bad name, but I think they easily rival our butterflies for beauty and certainly for diversity (and for difficulty of identification - although the next few are easy enough).

This is the Small Magpie - Eurrhypara hortulata, which feeds primarily on Nettle:

The Cinnabar moth - Tyria jacobaea - is one of the most readily identifiable moths and is dependant on Ragwort:
A word about Ragwort: Ragwort is often blamed for the deaths of horses and cattle. I have spoken to many local farmers and they are unanimous that all animals will avoid eating Ragwort if it is left to grow. If the plant is pulled from the ground and left to 'sweeten', then animals can't differentiate it from hay and will eat it. That's when deaths occur. Leave Ragwort alone and it won't cause problems to animals, and will continue to nurture insects such as moths, hoverflies and bees.

The Brimstone Moth - Opisthograptis luteolata - has a fascinating life-cycle which enables it to adapt to varying winter conditions. Sometimes it overwinters as a larva; at other times as a pupa, the emergence date being governed by the type of overwintering strategy. It can be found as an adult from April to October, with some evidence for three generations over 2 years. Foodplants are shrubs and bushes such as Hawthorn and Blackthorn.

The most frequent leaf-miner on my patch is the micromoth Stigmella aurella, which makes leaf-mines on Bramble (and occasionally, on Meadowsweet). This is the (3mm!) adult:

Tachinid flies are parasitic on moth and butterfly larvae. This one became lunch for a Dung Fly. It's tough out there.

For some reason, this cock Bullfinch took a fancy to my rear door. It repeatedly flew at the rear window and then returned to the hosepipe winch. Perhaps it thought it saw a competitor in its reflection.


The Weaver of Grass said...

I have a pathological fear of moths, Stuart, so found it hard to look at your photographs today - but I made myself do it because really their markings are superb.
We have a resident bull finch at present too - they must be nesting near.
If you have a moment please read my blog today and see if you have anything to add, or any knowledge of the plant.
Lovely day here today.

Coastcard said...

I came to you via Weaver, and loved your post and pix. Moths are fascinating - though as yet I know very little.

Greetings from sunny South Wales!

Stuart said...

Weaver: Moths often fly right at my face when I'm photographing them at night. Some of them have a face-radar, I think. It's almost time for the Large Yellow Underwing (LYU) which barges around knocking into everything, and it's very numerous.

Coastcard: Welcome. I like your use of the word 'yet': a day without learning something new is a wasted day.

I'm starting a new project on Monday with two schools to survey their local area and document plants and insects. We intend to look for invasive aliens, and I happen to know that we have Himalayan Balsam, Japanese Knotweed and Giant Hogweed on their patch.