Travel Notes

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.

31st October 2016

While at the edge of a wood near Bromsgrove in Worcestershire, Roger found a male specimen of Typhaeus typhoeus also known as the Minotaur Beetle. This is a widely distributed but never very common beetle found in  the southern counties of England and Wales as far north as the Midlands.

About twenty minutes later I found another large beetle, lacking the three horns of the male Minotaur Beetle. This was the less spectacular female of the species. 

Typhaeus typhoeus  Minotaur Beetle - male  Copyright Martin Evans

Minotaur Beetle Typhaeus typhoeus - male

The Minotaur Beetle is a dung beetle found in short, well drained grassland and heathland, where it feeds mainly at night on rabbit droppings and other dung. The adults emerge in autumn, then feed intensely until mature enough to reproduce. This may be in early winter or early in the following spring. They breed in  tunnels, where they deposit dung to feed the future larvae, then lay their eggs. The adults live until mid-summer.

The male of our specimens had a total length of 18mm, the female 16mm.

Typhaeus typhoeus  Minotaur Beetle - female  Copyright Martin Evans

Minotaur Beetle Typhaeus typhoeus - female

28th September 2016

Roger and I decided to have a trip over to Suffolk to photograph Pale-lemon Sallow, which is a scarce species found in East Anglia and some northern parts of Surrey. The larvae feed on Black Poplar catkins (and cultivars). 

We set up amongst some poplars at a site just north of Bury St Edmunds in an area where there were previous records. Despite the high temperature (19C), after about three and a half hours light trapping and sugaring, and getting very little apart from a couple of Deep-brown Darts, a Latticed Heath, a Red Admiral and four Acleris emargana, we decided to pack up and go and investigate the abundant ivy flower in a nearby lane.

This strategy was much more successful and explained why we had been getting nothing but beetles and millipedes on the sugar. Although we still did not get the Pale-lemon Sallow, we did at least find plenty of moths. An Adaina microdactyla, two Emmelina monodactyla, one Ypsolopha parenthesella,  two Common Marbled Carpet,  fifteen Chestnut, one Dark Chestnut, three Dotted Chestnut, four Angle Shades, two Red-line Quaker, seven Brick, two Autumnal Rustic, a Pale Pinion and a Broad-bordered Yellow Underwing.

Brick Agrochola circellaris  Copyright Martin Evans

Brick Agrochola circellaris

The Brick were quite variable, some had a dark distal edge to the wings almost obscuring the jagged red line, others were dull so that the markings were indistinct, and then there was the one in the picture with particularly clear markings. The jagged red terminal line distinguishes it from other similar species.

This is a common moth throughout most of Britain at this time of year, although it is more local in Scotland and Ireland. It flies from September and is occasionally recorded as late as December. The larvae feed on Wych Elm, poplars, Aspen, Ash, sallows and probably other shrubs. The moth in the picture had a forewing length of 16mm.

Dotted Chestnut Conistra rubiginea  Copyright Martin Evans

Dotted Chestnut Conistra rubiginea

The Dotted Chestnut is a Nationally Notable species (scarce) that does come to light, but is just as easily found at ivy blossom. It usually flies in October and November, overwinters then flies again in March and April. It is known from the southern counties of England and Wales, but appears to be moving north towards the Midlands.

The larvae feed on growing and fallen leaves of Apple, Plum and Blackthorn and in captivity Dandelion. It may be that the larvae falls to the ground, then also feed on low-growing plants.

The specimen in the picture had a forewing length of 15mm.

Autumnal Rustic Eugnorisma glareosa  Copyright Martin Evans

Autumnal Rustic Eugnorisma glareosa

We had already had an Autumnal Rustic at the light traps, but it is always a pleasure to see more of these moths. These specimens had brown and black markings, but in some parts of Britain these markings may be pink and black. It is common throughout Britain and Ireland, especially in the north, and flies from August to October.

The overwintering  larvae feed on low-growing plants such as Heather and bedstraws as well as sallows and birch. It lives in a variety of habitats from moorland and rough downland to sallow carr. The specimen in the picture had a forewing length of 15mm.

5th August 2016

On the 30th July Carolyn and I arrived at Inshriach Alpine Nursery near Aviemore in the Highlands of Scotland, where we were staying in the Garden Cottage for a week. The idea was that I could photograph the local moths and Carolyn would be able to spend her time painting the beautiful scenery in that area.

As is usual with our recent holidays in Scotland and Wales the weather was not at its best for either trapping for moths or painting, as showers were frequent that week and a few of the overnight showers were heavy.

Luckily there is a porch on the side of the cottage that faces out over the marshes and this is where I trapped most of the time.  I used a 125 watt mercury vapour light to attract the moths and over the week I recorded about 70 species despite the poor weather.

The following are the more interesting of the moths recorded, with the highest number that were recorded on any night during the week.

Oblique Carpet 2, Grey Mountain Carpet 1, Chestnut-coloured Carpet 4, Beech-green Carpet 2, Juniper Pug 10, Tawny-speckled Pug 1, Dotted Carpet 8, Scotch Annulet 1, Gold Spangle 1, Scarce Silver Y 3, Lempke’s Gold Spot 8, Haworth’s Minor 3, Double Dart 1, Dotted Clay 10 and Plain Clay 2. 

The Tawny-speckled Pug Eupithecia icterata was of interest to me as it was one of the northern forms with a reduced area of orange in the forewing. Some forms apparently have no orange at all.  The forms with reduced orange have also been recorded in parts of Wales, northern England and locally in south-west England.

There is a picture below of the mainly orange form from Berrow in Somerset.

Tawny-speckled Pug Eupithecia icterata Highland form Copyright Martin Evans

Tawny-speckled Pug Eupithecia icterata Highland form

Tawny-speckled Pug Eupithecia icterata Somerset form Copyright Martin Evans

Tawny-speckled Pug Eupithecia icterata  Somerset form

The Tawny-speckled Pug is on the wing in July and August in a wide variety of habitats including woodland, downland and gardens. It is especially common near the coast.

The larvae feed on the flowers of Yarrow and Sneezewort. It is a large pug with a  forewing length of 11 to 12mm.

One of the species that I was glad to record was Plain Clay Eugnorisma depuncta, as I had previously recorded them in Lynachlaggan Wood, which is only about six miles to the south, but it was in late August and they were not in good enough condition for a photograph, while these were newly emerged and near perfect.

Plain Clay Eugnorisma depuncta  Copyright Martin Evans

Plain Clay  Eugnorisma depuncta

The Plain Clay is an uncommon, mainly open woodland species, with a national status of Notable B. It is a northern species from central and western Scotland, northern England and north Wales, although there are a few recent records from southern England. It flies from July until early September.

The larvae feed on a variety of plants including Cowslip, Primrose, Common Sorrel and Stinging Nettle. They overwinter while small and resume feeding in early spring.  The specimen in the picture had a forewing length of 16mm, although they can be up to 20mm.

10th July 2016

While in the garden collecting some Grey Willow Salix cinerea leaves to feed some moth larvae that I was rearing, I noticed a brown area in the centre of the surface of one of the wlllow leaves. When I turned the leaf over I saw a small cluster of bright yellow eggs in the middle of the brown area.

I took the leaf indoors and after looking at the eggs through a magnifying glass I realised that the eggs were starting to hatch. I was not sure what they were at this stage, but after photographing them I realised the emerging larvae were probably those of a ladybird.

My partner Carolyn suggested that I reared them to find out what they were.  At first this appeared difficult, as a quick search around the garden did not produce any aphids which I was guessing the larvae would probably need to eat.

Eventually I found that there were a few aphids on the back of some of the Hazel Corylus avellana  leaves and these became their staple diet.

Emerging larvae on the  underside of a leaf. Egg cluster 3mm diameter

At 4mm total length I released all except three of the larvae to make it easier to find enough aphids to feed to them.

The larvae were difficult to photograph, as once disturbed they would continually move, but even when running across a leaf they would sometimes stop abruptly. On closer inspection I found this would be when they had run into an aphid which they immediately stopped and consumed. It was at this stage that three larvae became two larvae and a dried up husk. So I then kept these cannibalistic larvae in separate containers.

At 9mm the larvae became fatter and more lethargic and did not appear to eat. Eventually they just sat under a leaf and did not move.

At 23 to 24 days old they reached the final pupal stage. By this time they had shrunk in length to only about 5mm.

At 28 days from the eggs hatching the two insects emerged as Harlequin Ladybirds Harmonia axyridis. Although I knew they were extremely variable, it was surprising to me that they were not only different in size, but had totally different markings despite the larvae looking exactly the same as each other.

The Harlequin Ladybird first arrived in the south-east of England in 2004 and has rapidly spread across Britain. It is an Asian species found in many eastern countries including Siberia, Russia and China. It was introduced as a greenhouse biological control agent in Europe and North America where it escaped and spread. The insect not only eats aphids, but also butterfly and moth larvae and the larvae of many other insects including ladybirds, as I found out with my three larvae later becoming two. 

Although I have had these ladybirds in my Bristol garden for about 8 or 9 years I do still appear to have the same number of other ladybirds species as I had when they first appeared, although each of the other species do seem to be less in number and the Harlequins are now definitely dominant.




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