As we travel widely during the summer
looking for insects to photograph, Roger Edmondson and I have decided to put a record of
our more interesting finds on this website. New
entries are not always entered in date order so please check for changes
by clicking on 'What's new' on the home page.
19th June 2011
This trip was to the Suffolk breckland
to look for Marbled Clover which on this occasion we did not find. Despite this
failure it was an enjoyable trip, as many parts of the Brecks were looking
beautiful with the Common Poppy Papaver rhoeas and Viper's Bugloss
Echium vulgare in flower.
Suffolk breckland flowers
Viper's Bugloss Echium vulgare
We also saw
Stone Curlew at two sites, as well as a Hummingbird Hawk-moth
feeding at Viper's Bugloss in two different places.
It was while trying to photograph a
Hummingbird Hawk-moth feeding that we suddenly realised that there were two at
the same plant. It would have made an amazing photograph if I had been fast enough
to capture it,
especially when we realised that one of them was not in fact a Hummingbird Hawk-moth,
but a Broad-bordered Bee
Hawk-moth Hemaris fuciformis.
Unfortunately after many attempts at
chasing it from plant to plant the picture below was the best of the bunch.
It was good to be able to compare the
two moths, as the Hummingbird Hawk-moth was much faster. We could usually
follow the Broad-bordered quite easily, but the Hummingbird Hawk would sometimes
move so fast that it seemed to disappear. We could not even tell in which
direction it had flown. With that speed of flight, it is not surprising that
they are frequent migrants.
Broad-bordered Bee Hawk-moth - Suffolk Brecks
The Broad-bordered Bee Hawk-moth is a
widely distributed, but local resident species, found mainly in the south and
midlands of England, and Wales. The larvae feed on Honeysuckle and bedstraws.
The Hummingbird Hawk-moth is a regular
immigrant species, often arriving in such numbers as to be considered common. The
larvae feed on bedstraws and may survive to produce a second flight of adults
in the autumn.
to 12th June 2011
Burren, County Clare, west coast of
Ireland. This trip started from Bristol at 11.30pm in the evening of the 9th
June as we had to catch the ferry from Pembroke at 2.45am. The weather
forecast for the Burren was not very good (showers and a strong breeze), but
once the ferry was booked we had liitle choice but to go, and we already knew
that trips to the Burren have a reputation for being wet.
The ferry took four hours to get to
Rosslare and by the time we had travelled across Ireland and stopped for some
breakfast it was the middle of the day.
When you first arrive in the Burren
area you are amazed by the amount of limestone pavement and rocky fields. The
area stretches from east of the Burren National Park across to the coast in the
west, a distance of over twenty miles. The habitat from a distance looks devoid
of life, but when you walk on it you soon realise that plant life is
Looking east from near Tulla in the east of the Burren
We started exploring on the east side
at Lough Bunny where we almost immediately found Transparent Burnet
moths. I had photographed them on the Isle of Mull, but these were the Irish
subspecies (although they look the same). In Scotland they are local and rare,
but on the Burren they turned out to be the most common moth during our trip.
They were present on nearly every area of natural grassland and limestone
pavement. We probably saw thousands.
Before the trip I had not realised how
many hills there were in this area and that these also consisted of large areas
of limestone pavement. On the top of some of these there were areas of grassy
moorland with heaths and heather. We found that the greatest diversity of moths
was on the lower slopes of the hills, although there were species such as
Grass Rivulet higher up.
Looking north towards Galway from Faunarooska (Ed
The most abundant species of plant in
flower at the time of our trip was Bloody Cranesbill. Like the
Transparent Burnets it was almost everywhere in the limestone areas.
Bloody Cranesbill Geranium sanguineum -
on pavement near Dereen East.
A normally rare species that we found
was Spring Gentian Gentiana verna. This is the most
attractive of the gentians found in Britain and Ireland. The Burren and Teesdale
in north-east England are its strongholds. We found them growing singly or in
small clusters on the coastal sand dunes and on the lower slopes of some of the
Spring Gentian Gentiana verna
Looking across the bay to Galway from near Dereen East.
Due to the nightly rain we never used
the moth trap that we took with us, so our searches for moths took place in the
day. Our target species were Least Minor and Pyrausta sanguinalis.
We found a single specimen of each and photographed them on the first day of our
trip. They were on a hillside on the east side of the Burren where we also saw
Wood White butterfly, dozens of Pyrausta purpuralis, about
twenty Anania funebris, and a Bordered Pearl Paratalanta
pandalis (micro-moths). This took the pressure off of our searching,
although we did hope to find another specimen of Pyrausta sanguinalis as
the one we had photographed was worn.
We searched along the coast, where we
disturbed Aethes piercei from the grass on about ten occasions.
They were often worn and in this state were hardly recognisable. As you can see
from the picture below we also found good specimens.
It is a large torticoid moth (forewing
up to 11mm) which is found locally throughout the British Isles and Ireland, and
is common on the Burren coast. It is thought by many authorities to be a large
ecotype of Aethes hartmanniana
which is found mainly in southern England. The
larvae of Aethes piercei feed in the root of Devil's-bit Scabious.
The larvae of the smaller Aethes
hartmanniana (forewing up to 8mm) are thought to feed on Small Scabious and
Field Scabious. The adults of both fly in June and July.
Aethes piercei - Burren coast
Another species that we found on the
coast was Merrifieldia tridactyla. This plume is a rarity found
mainly in Cornwall and the Burren. It is often confused with Merrifieldia
leucodactyla which is a commoner species that can be separated by
comparison of the antennae. Both moths feed on Wild Thyme.
Eventually we found another Pyrausta
sanguinalis, but we were quickly disappointed as it flew up and disappeared
across the limestone pavement, never to be seen again despite another hour of
On our last day of the visit we went
back to where we had found the original Pyrausta sanguinalis. We left the
car by the road and had walked up the slope of the hill about two hundred
metres across the pavement, when I heard voices back on the road. I could only
partially see the car, but saw two men walk quickly up to it then jump into a
black Audi hatchback, slam the doors and speed off.
I spoke to Roger on the walkie talkies
and we rushed back to the car (rushing is not that fast on limestone pavement).
We were relieved to find that the car windows were not smashed and the doors and
boot were still closed.
At first we thought everything was OK,
then Roger noticed the trim from the bottom of one of the front doors was
missing. When we looked at the door on the other side, the trim on that was gone
as well. They had apparently stolen it from Rogers Audi to replace theirs.
Replacing it back in Bristol cost £75, but the garage mechanic said that it was
unlikely that they had got the old trim off without breaking it, so they had
damaged the car for no reason.
It was understandable that Roger did
not want to leave his car again, so he sat in it while I went back up the slope
to the area where we had found the first Pyrausta sanguinalis. Our
luck had returned. I found a moth almost instantly sitting on a leaf. It was a
good specimen, so we had our photograph!
The moth is widely distributed across
the Burren, but apart from that is rare. It is found on the coast in Northern
Ireland and a site on the Isle of Man, but it is thought to be extinct in all of
its old sand dune habitats along the coast in the north of Wales, north-west
England and Ayreshire in Scotland. This small day-flying moth has a forewing
length of 6.5 to 8mm. It flies in June and at some sites has a partial second
brood in August. The larvae feed within a silken gallery amongst the flowers of
Pyrausta sanguinalis - Burren.
When I got back to the car Roger said
that a black Audi had driven past with what he thought was a young woman driving
and two men in the back. It appears that they had returned for more, so he had
done the right thing staying with the car.
As the forecast was for even more rain,
we decided to rebook our ferry back for the next morning instead of staying for
another day. That night we stayed in a camp site near Rosslare and visited a pub
for a couple of pints of Guinness, which as the rumour says, does seem to taste
better in Ireland.
Back in April of this year Roger and I
visited the Avon Gorge to look for Antispila metallella, which is a small
(3.5 to 4mm forewing) moth
found on Dogwood. This moth normally flies in May, but as the season was early
we thought it worth checking to see if it was already on the wing.
We were surprised to find
that not only was Antispila metallella flying, but so was
Antispila treitschkiella which is a smaller, darker species (2.5 to 3mm
forewing), that is supposed to fly in
June and July. As I had photographed
in 2010, we concentrated on getting pictures of Antispila metallella.
Luckily as with the other species last year, I managed to get pictures of a
female laying her eggs under the edge of a Dogwood leaf.
I decided to put the sprig of Dogwood
where the female had oviposited in a small pot of water to see if the mine
developed. In late May a small blister mine appeared at the edge near the tip of
the leaf. This quickly enlarged, but as I was away for several days the next
thing I knew was that the mine had expanded to cover the whole of the outer half
of the leaf.
After some prompting from Roger (well I
was busy!), I took a backlit photograph which showed the fully grown larva
inside of the mine. This was on the 5th June.
The next morning there was a hole in
the leaf, the cut out section was on the table below and the larva had
disappeared. After a while I noticed the cut out section move and realised that
the larva had sealed the edges of the leaf cut-out to form a case.
The next interesting stage of this
story is in the discovery of how the larva moved. It would stretch forward, bite
the substrate with its jaws and arch itself to pull the case forward. This was
repeated while it wandered about looking for somewhere to hide and pupate.
I put the larva in a pot with some
fresh moss and today there are a few droppings and a moulted skin by the
entrance to the case. A series of pictures following these events can be seen
Antispila metallella female ovipositing on
underside of Dogwood leaf
Antispila metallella - mine backlit to show
fully fed larva
Antispila metallella - recently exited mine
Antispila metallella larva - stretches forward
Antispila metallella larva - bites the substrate
Antispila metallella larva - bends to pull