Thursday, 23 June 2011

Despite the rain

The weather continues to be very unsettled, but at least the rain does stop for a little while from time to time.

The parasitic ichneumon wasps are becoming very numerous at the moment, which makes sense, because now is the time when their caterpillar hosts are around in large numbers. Ichneumons are extremely difficult to identify to species since the literature is fragmented and it takes microscopic analysis to separate them. This is compounded by the fact that our 3000 or so species converge on a very small number of colour patterns across all families. Very few can be identified by sight, although I can do a couple. Achaius oratorius is one of the larger species at 3 cm. long:

The Ichneumon Achaius oratorius
Another one was kind enough to pose for some close-up shots:

Female Ichneumon wasp
That medium-length ovipositor suggests that this species parasitises larvae which live inside thick-stemmed plants, such as umbellifers.

This next one compounds the colour pattern problem. If you compare it with the sawfly from here, you will see that sawflies and ichneumons also converge on very similar patterns.

Ichneumon wasp

A couple of posts ago, I showed the Banded Snail. This is the very closely related Dark-lipped Banded Snail - Cepaea nemoralis:
Dark-lipped Banded Snail - Cepaea nemoralis
New to the site.

Every clump of Raspberry plants has a few Raspberry Beetles flying around:
Raspberry Beetle - Byturus tomentosus
The grubs of this beetle are the white 'worms' that are frequently found inside the fruit.

The very delicate Lesser Stitchwort is currently in flower, and can be seen climbing through grasses and other flowers, using them for support:

Lesser Stitchwort

Neoascia podagrica is the smallest hoverfly that I have found on the patch. It's never found far from lying water, and this specimen is on an opening flower of Tormentil:
The hoverfly Neoascia podagrica on Tormentil

Micromoths are also very numerous at the moment, with new species appearing daily. This is the very common Celypha lacunana, which feeds on a wide range of plants.

The micromoth Celypha lacunana
Most micromoths feed on a single plant species or sometimes on a family of plants, but Celypha lacunana has a very wide range of foodplants, including Male Fern:
Larva of Celypha lacunana on Male Fern
This flexibility of choice of foodplants is clearly one reason for its success.

I usually associate the micromoth Eupoecilia angustana with later months of the year, but this is an early year, despite the awful weather.

The micromoth Eupoecilia angustana

Lastly, a new micromoth for this site: Incurvarea praelatella. The larvae feed on various members of the Rosaceae family of plants; probably Meadowsweet in this area.
The micromoth Incurvarea praelatella
Other members of the family are leaf-miners.


Emma Springfield said...

Yet another enlightening post. I noticed that the larva crawling on the fern leaf was partially hidden by webbing. It looked like a cigar with smoke coming from it.

Jennifer Tetlow said...

I will look about with new eyes and hopefully identify some of these here. I did spot a strange thing on my apple tree. Dark colour, uniform, shiny, did not appear to have legs, or wings, approx 13mm long and it leapt from my hand with a clicking sound - do you know what it might have been.

Stuart said...

Emma: many micromoths make 'spinnings' which they use to make a shelter. The spinnings can be under a leaf, or can pull a leaf together into a closed shelter, or can be inside something like a stem or seedpod. This was a very loose spinning which I opened a little to find out who was living inside. (Repairs wouldn't take very long.)

Jennifer: Your beastie is almost certainly a Click Beetle. There are quite a few of these, all looking rather similar. The most common one on my patch is Athous haemorroidalis, which I showed recently on . Beetles often pull their legs into little recesses under their bodies to protect them when threatened, and the wings are always folded under the two elytra, or wing covers, when not in use.