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
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.
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
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
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 - 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 Shell,
Pyrausta 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
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
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 - 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
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
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.
also lucky enough to find a female Hybomitra bimaculata, one of the
less common horseflies. Like most horseflies this species has beautifully
Hybomitra bimaculata - female.
Catcott Heath, Somerset.
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
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
Early Tooth-striped - common form
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
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
Rannoch Brindled Beauty female