Tuesday, 1 May 2012

Sun continues

While much of the UK has been under water for the past month, I'd hazard a guess that April was one of the driest on record in Co. Donegal. Although we've had a lot of sun, the wind has been easterly and that keeps things cooler.

Butterflies are out and about, though, and I've had Small Tortoiseshell, Speckled Wood, Green-veined White and now Orange Tip.

The male Orange Tip is unmistakeable, with those bright orange wing-tips:
Orange Tip butterfly - male
The males emerge a few days before the females in order to establish their territory, which they will defend against any moving white object, including pieces of paper. The females will be out next week and then I'll be looking for eggs on their host plant - Cardamine pratensis.

Green-veined White is usually the first of the spring-emerging butterflies on the patch. The males have fewer black markings than the females:

Male Green-veined White butterfly nectaring on Herb Robert

Male Green-veined White butterfly
Here's a shot of the female for comparison:

Female Green-veined White butterfly
Interestingly enough, the Orange Tip and Green-veined White share a common foodplant, but whereas the Orange Tip larvae eat the seedpods, the Green-veined White larvae eat the leaves.

Tachinid flies are parasitic on the caterpillars of larger moths, and are readily identified by their extremely bristly appearance:

The Tachinid fly Gymnocheta viridis
Judging by the number of Tachinids I encounter, it is clear that they are serious population controllers.

The Clouded-bordered Brindle moth is normally found from late May onwards. This is fully a month early, so the heat has brought the overwintering larvae on a bit more quickly than usual.

Clouded-bordered Brindle moth
The moth above is rather unusually marked: the central white 'kidney mark' is missing. Compare with this one from a couple of years ago. http://donegal-wildlife.blogspot.com/2010/06/busy-time.html

Breaking news: the recent mystery eggs that I showed in Juncus rush appear to belong to a leafhopper, rather than a sawfly. Full details in the next post.


Gill said...

Interesting - I don't think I have ever seen a green-veined white with as many dark markings as your female. Maybe all the ones I see are males? None yet this year, though I have seen a couple of (male) orange tips and one or two indeterminate whites.

Stuart said...

Gill: you bring up a point which I had planned to mention in the post, but forgot at the last moment: there are three subspecies of Green-veined White, all distinguished by the amount of black markings. The Irish subspecies is (oddly) ssp. britannica. Just to make things even more complex, the summer generation is more highly marked than the spring generation (probably caused by a higher temperature when pupation takes place, in a similar way to hoverflies and other insects).

wildlife control toronto said...

It very interesting to know the detailed life of these creatures. Knowledge about these are educational.

Toffeeapple said...

Apart from being envious of your sunshine, I would like to thank you for the information in your posts which I appreciate enormously.

21stcenturynaturalists said...

Hi Stuart, really nice shots of the Orange Tip. They're out and about down here in Cork too and I managed to see some interesting courtship behaviour between two individuals yesterday: tiny.cc/g99pdw