Wednesday, 6 October 2010

Brief sun

We had an unexpected clear blue sky today (I say 'unexpected' because I pay little heed to weather forecasts due to their consistent inaccuracy) so I took an early trip to see what was around.

The heat had certainly brought out more insects than I had expected to see in October, starting with this Buff Ermine moth caterpillar, which is coincidentally basking on the vacated mine of the micromoth Stigmella aurella on Bramble:

The caterpillar will shortly pupate and then hibernate until summer.

The 'Noon Fly' Mesembrina meridiana is never too numerous, but I saw at least eight on this trip:

The larvae of Mesembrina meridiana live in cow-dung and are predatory on other dung-dwelling larvae, including those of the Scathophaga Dung-Fly below:

Scathophaga are dung feeders as larvae, but are voracious predators as adults, a complete reversal from the Mesembrina which only feeds on nectar as an adult.

It would be good to get a 'full-circle' photo of an adult Scathophaga with a Mesembrina as its prey, although the Mesembrina tends to be a little large for the normal prey-size of the Scathophaga.

Just as I was finishing my little survey, a Speckled Wood butterfly flew over my shoulder and landed behind me:

It's amazing what a little sun will bring out.

Continuing the excellent fungal year, I found these 'Lawyer's Wigs' - Coprinus comatus - on my lawn. These only last for a day or two at most.

The visible, reproductive, parts of fungi are the familiar, short-lived, mushrooms or toadstools, but the actual fungus (the mycelium) lies below the soil or inside some other substrate such as wood or animal debris. This mycelium will last as long as conditions are right, which is why fungi are often found in precisely the same place from year to year. This specimen of Phaeolepiota aurea was also on my lawn, and in exactly the same place as last year. This rare fungus is thought to be a nettle associate (and I have nettles within a few metres of this specimen), but there must also be some other requirement, since the vast majority of nettle patches don't have the fungus.


The Weaver of Grass said...

We have lawyers' wigs here Stuart - I always wondered what they were called - very appropriate name.

Caroline Gill said...

... and I always wondered, too. Some fungi have such fascinating names!

The Weaver of Grass said...

Stuart. In one of our meadows there is a patch of grass in the corner and some of the grass blades are covered in a kind of bright yellow 'froth'. I have been down today with my camera and the froth has hardened and is now only a pale cream. I wonder if you can tell me what it is just from that description. I shall post a photograph tomorrow but am intrigued to know what it is.

Stuart said...


from the description it sounds like the slime mould (Myxomycete) Fuligo septica, otherwise known as 'Dog Vomit slime mould'.

Myxomycetes have long been thought to be related to fungi, but recent research shows that some of them (this one included) can move in a manner similar to amoeba, and they can certainly react to light.

The Weaver of Grass said...

Thanks for the identification Stuart. I have just read it out to my husband who tells me there is a 'heap' of it behind the garage and he thought the dog had been sick - so an apt name for it.