Thursday, 3 May 2012

More synchronisation

Grasses can be incredibly difficult to identify, but fortunately - once the initial identification has taken place - many can be readily identified in the field. This is Meadow Foxtail - Alopecurus pratensis:

Meadow Foxtail grass

And this is Sweet Vernal Grass - Anthoxanthum odoratum, which gets its name from its sweet smell when dry, and also from the fact that it is one of the earliest grasses to flower:

Sweet Vernal grass

Of course, as soon as those fresh new leaves are available, the parasites move in. This is the rust Puccinia graminis on Meadow Foxtail:
Puccinia graminis on Meadow Foxtail grass

Now that the sun is out again, micromoths are making an appearance. This is Ancylis badiana, about 10mm long:

The micromoth Ancylis badiana

The larvae of Ancylis badiana feed on various members of the pea family, including clovers and vetches. The larvae of the following species of micromoth, however, are unknown.

Micropterix calthella is always to be found in or near Meadow Buttercup. Adults are 4mm long.

The micromoth Micropterix calthella on Meadow Buttercup
I watched this specimen as it wandered over the flower and then posed in profile. Note the wonderful yellow tuft of hair, like a wig:
Micropterix calthella close-up
Given the adult moth's predilection for Meadow Buttercup, I'd guess the larvae live on the roots of it.

As I was walking along, I felt a tickle on my arm, and I immediately thought "It's too early for midges". I rattled off a couple of shots of the microscopic beast and was delighted to find this minute (2mm) Chalcid wasp struggling through the hairs on my arm. Chalcids are tiny members of the Ichneumonid family, parasitising micromoths and other small insects. 

Chalcid wasp
Note the very sparse wing venation, which is a feature of Chalcids, and also the dark triangular pterostigma, which is a feature of ichneumonids in general.

Staying with parasitisation, I found this 'mummified' aphid on Cow Parsley. Aphids which are inflated and glossy like this have usually been parasitised by a member of the Aphidius family of Braconid wasps, which are yet another branch of the ichneumonid family:

Aphid parasitised by Aphidius sp. wasp

Ferns are all unrolling, now. This is Scaly Male fern - Dryopteris affinis:
Scaly Male fern unfurling
Ferns are a major component of the hedgerow, providing food, shelter, display and basking opportunities for many insect species.


Gill said...

Wonderful shot of the 'bewigged' micromoth - and fascinating info, as ever. That chalcid clearly has delusions of grandeur :-)

Toffeeapple said...

Another educational post, thank you.

Caroline Gill said...

Fascinating as ever ... thank you.