Travel Notes

As we travel widely during the summer looking for insects to photograph, Roger and I have decided to put a record of our more interesting finds on this website. 

18th and 20th May 2010

The next trips were only along the road to the Avon Gorge in Bristol, where we were looking for Antispila species. These are very small moths whose larvae mine the leaves of Dogwood Cornus sanguineum. 

There are two species of Antispila native to Britain. Antispila metallella which is adult in May and Antispila treitschkiella which flies during June and July. As we were in the second half of May we expected to find  Antispila metallella, but as is the way with natural things, they do not always go by the book. The species we found was too small (less than 3mm forewing length), darker and less bronze in colour than Antispila metallella. The heat in the gorge had brought the emergence forward of Antispila treitschkiella.

We were expecting them to be easy to find, but this was not the case. The first afternoon of searching only produced sightings of a few specimens. In the hot sun the moths either briefly flew about 30cm above the plant and then dived back in amongst the leaves, or they just ran across the leaves and dived into the inner branches before we could see them properly. The ones we did see were sitting on the edge of the leaves before they disappeared.

We later realised that the moths at the edge of the leaves were females preparing to deposit their eggs. They flipped themselves over the edge of the leaf and placed their eggs there. This was eventually recorded in the picture below.

Antispila treitschkiella  Copyright Martin Evans

Antispila treitschkiella - female

Although we made these visits to find Antispila spp., there were many other insects seen during our time on site including butterflies and moths such as Common Blue, Brown Argus, Holly Blue, Orange-tip and Brimstone, Clouded Silver, Treble-bar, Yellow ShellPyrausta aurata, Caloptilia syringella, Mompha miscella and an abundance of Micropterix tunbergella. We also found Green Shieldbug, Hawthorn Shieldbug, the Blue Bug, the red and black froghopper Cercopis vulnerata and the Horned Treehopper Centrotus cornutus.

Perhaps the most beautiful beetles seen were the shining green Rose Chafer and a variation of Chryptocephalus bipunctatus known as var. sanguinolentus. The variation has a black bar on the elytra rather than a black central spot and a smaller black spot on the 'shoulder'. This beetle was not present on the first visit but was plentiful two days later, even though the weather was more overcast. 

This 5mm long beetle feeds on deciduous trees and shrubs including Hazel and Willows. There are 18 beetles in this genus that are native to Britain, and 14 of these are scarce or rare, including this one which is Notable b. The adults prefer very hot habitats, where they can be found basking on leaves. The larvae feed in leaf litter on the ground, enclosed in a case made of the adult females faeces in which she had previously deposited her egg.

Chryptocephalus bipunctatus var.sanguinolentus   Copyright Martin Evans

Chryptocephalus bipunctatus var.sanguinolentus

12th May 2010

It is still very cool and overcast so we are only visiting sites within a short distance of Bristol. This trip was again to the Somerset Levels. This time to Ham Wall, an area of reed beds that were formerly peat diggings and are now managed by the RSPB.

We saw the occasional Hobby and Buzzard, but the most spectacular bird sightings were two of the local Bittern that briefly flew out over the reeds. 

Despite the cool weather when the sun came out the insects were abundant. We saw several interesting hoverflies including at least one Parhelophilus species and Eristalinus sepulchralis, also hundreds of Azure and Blue-tailed Damselfly, plus Large Red, Variable and immature Red-eyed Damselfly in smaller numbers.

Red-eyed Damselfly Eryrhromma najas   Copyright Martin Evans

Red-eyed Damselfly - immature male. Ashcott, Somerset.

The Red-eyed Damselfly Erythromma najas normally rests on emergent vegetation, especially lily pads, but we found several immature specimens on the stinging nettles at the edge of the reed beds. Although this species is fairly local in the west country, the small numbers were probably due to it being early in their flight season, as they are adult from the middle of May until early September. 

Both sexes have yellow sides when immature. The males becoming blue with a blue tip to the abdomen, while the females are green and lack the blue tip. Both have red eyes, but the females are not as bright.

After visiting Ham Wall we went up the road to a nearby damp heath. Here we found several micro-moths, including Cydia ulicetana in abundance on the gorse. We also recorded Glyphipterix fuscoviridella, Syndemis musculana, a Clouded Border (a macro-moth), and a male Hairy Dragonfly. We also disturbed a small herd of Roe Deer.

10th May 2010

This visit was to Catcott Heath, another site on the Somerset Levels. We were rewarded this time with three Hobby flying together on the edge of a lake. We also saw most of the dragonflies and butterflies we had seen the week before, plus the micro-moth Elachista maculcerusella (the larva of which feed on Reed Canary-grass and Common Reed), Epinotia immundana (another micro-moth found on birch), a Grey Birch moth (larvae on birch) which we probably disturbed, and a large number of Slender Groundhopper on the barer areas of peat. 

We were also lucky enough to find a female Hybomitra bimaculata, one of the less common horseflies. Like most horseflies this species has beautifully coloured eyes. 

Hybomitra bimaculata - female  Copyright Martin Evans

Hybomitra bimaculata - female.  Catcott Heath, Somerset.

Hybomitra bimaculata - female face  Copyright Martin Evans

Hybomitra bimaculata - female

Some forms of this fly have large areas of orange on the sides of the abdomen. This dark form female could be confused with the females of Hybomitra micans, but that species has all black legs (rather than orange) and shorter hair on the tibia of the middle leg. There are also dark markings on the face of Hybomitra micans, which are absent in this species. The fly has a body length of around 15mm. It is found from May to August and frequents damp woodland, wooded fen and marshes, and dune slacks.

5th May 2010

As the weather has been rather cool we decided that it was not worth travelling very far for insects, so we visited Shapwick Heath on the Somerset Levels. Here we found many of the common early May species, such as dragonflies like Broad-bodied Chaser, Red Damselfly, Blue-tailed Damselfly, Azure Damselfly, butterflies such as Orange-tip, Green-veined White, Speckled Wood, Peacock and Brimstone, a Scarlet Tiger larva, Dingy Shell (macro-moth) and Adela reaumerella (a long-horn moth). We also found the larvae of Dark Bush-cricket and Speckled Bush-cricket and caught a brief view of a Hobby.

Some of the Blue-tailed Damselfly Ischnura elegans were of the immature pink form of the female known as f.rufescens. This species is variable in colour and these pink females gradually becomes green on the sides of the thorax and the blue tail becomes brown. They are adult from the middle of May until early September.

Blue-tailed Damselfly Ischnura elegans  Copyright Martin Evans

Blue-tailed Damselfly Ischnura elegans  immature f.rufescens

11th April 2010 evening

After we had found the Rannoch Brindled Beauty, we travelled south in Perthshire to Loch Earn. During the evening we set up a 125W mercury vapour trap in the woodland by the side of the road. At dusk it became a lot colder, so we thought that we might get a disappointing catch. Luckily the sky clouded over and the moths poured into the trap, including about 150 Common Quakers  Orthosia cerasi! We also had at least 30 Early Tooth-striped Trichopteryx carpinata. These varied from the most common pale grey form to heavily marked specimens of form.fasciata and in one case a barred moth (shown below).

Early Tooth-striped  Copyright Martin Evans

Early Tooth-striped - common form

Early Tooth-striped form  Copyright Martin Evans

Early Tooth-striped - barred form

The Early Tooth-striped is widely distributed in England (more local in the east), Wales, Ireland and lowland Scotland. The darker forms are locally frequent in Perthshire and parts of Wales. They fly in April and May. The larvae feed on Birch, Sallow, Alder and occasionally Honeysuckle.

Dark abberations of moths appear to be common in the north of Britain. We had another example that evening with the chocolate form (form.piceata) of Water Carpet Lampropteryx suffumata. This is another species that flies during April and May. The larvae feed on Bedstraws Galium spp..

Water Carpet Lampropteryx suffumata Copyright Martin Evans

Water Carpet - chocolate form

11th April 2010

At 5.00am Roger arrived at my house in Bristol ready for a trip to Perthshire in Scotland to search for the Nationally Scarce (Na) Rannoch Brindled Beauty Lycia lapponaria scotica. This moth flies from late March until early May, and can be found during daylight hours when the wingless female climbs the trunks of its food plant and adjacent posts and the males rest in the shade at similar sites. The larvae feed on Bog Myrtle and other low  shrubs including heaths, Heather and Eared Willow.

We arrived at our destination in the early afternoon and soon found a site where Bog Myrtle grew on each side of the road and there were plenty of fence posts to search. We were lucky, as Scotland was having a mini heat wave and the thermometer in the car was reading 22.5 C.

Within about ten minutes we had found our first male and in the next thirty-five minutes we found seven more males and three females, plus specimens of Early Tooth-striped Trichopteryx carpinata and Mottled Grey Colostygia olivata. The males of Rannoch Brindled Beauty that we found were all on the shaded side of posts and often low down, but two of the three females were at the top of a post on the sunny side.

Rannoch Brindled Beauty male  Copyright Martin Evans

Rannoch Brindled Beauty male

Rannoch Brindled Beauty female  Copyright Martin Evans

Rannoch Brindled Beauty female





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