Thursday, 23 October 2014

Hibernit



My title for this post is a little harsh, but of all the places to hibernate, this unfortunate Small Tortoiseshell picked one of the worst. I'm not sure if its wings were actually stuck in the weird economy light-bulb but it wouldn't have enjoyed snuggling in their when the lights were on. They have been recently because we've had guests.



Talking of which, no doubt you know the joke about why Mrs Beebaw woke up to find her house full of aeroplanes? Why? Because she'd left the landing lights on, buddum-tish!


But back to insects. By coincidence, the trap's mighty bulb was topped this morning by the daring caddis fly above. I don't think it can have been there a little earlier, when the light was on. It would probably have melted.

Talking of which, a friend who operates a mercury vapour trap in a built-up area, where neighbours might understandably object to its lighthouse-like rays, has switched to a fine-sounding thing called a Black Bulb. This suppresses the light which humans can see but not the rays to which moths are tuned. He says that he doesn't get as many as before, but catches are decent all the same.

Talking of which - there, I've used the phrase three times which must bring good luck - there were plenty of good things in the eggboxes after a nicely mild night. Here are some of them. I hope to turn the lamp on again this evening.

My first Dark Chestnut of the year
A Beaded Chestnut, I think
Red-line Quaker
Remarkable that this lovely creature and the differently lovely one below are both Green-brindled Crescents

This one is the form cappucina, similarly named to the coffee I had in Kidlington this morning

And now three delicate November or Autumnal moths. I cannot tell them apart





Ah ha! Which moth is this? The Y looks golden but I think it's a Silver. Y, that is





And finally, what is this?

Wednesday, 22 October 2014

Peace and quiet



I once stayed in a Quaker B&B in the Lake District and much enjoyed it, although the well-meaning practice of befriending a solitary guest at breakfast wasn't specially welcome in my own case as, like Greta Garbo, I wanted to be alone.

This wasn't due to any dramatic emotional events in my life but simply because I needed a bit of time to check out my day's planned fell-walking on my maps and guide. Luckily the lost opportunity to do this didn't result in my getting lost.

Anyway, the eggboxes this morning triggered these reminiscences as they were exceptionally peaceful and scarcely populated, the only residents being a Red-line Quaker - top picture - and the November, or possibly Autumnal - Moth, shown at the bottom.


We were back late from London where we combined our usual grand-daughter doting with seeing the amazing poppies at the Tower of London (see little pics - amazing how the flowers pour from the castle wall), so I didn't put out the trap 'til almost midnight. By then it was pretty cold and I suspect that most sensible moths were abed.

Monday, 20 October 2014

Yoga wasp



Penny does yoga on Monday mornings so I have posted the picture above in her honour. Not that there is any resemblance, but the creature - an ichneuman wasp, is it? - has the slender suppleness which the gentle programme of exercises is said to bring.


I am beyond improvement in such matters but hope I retain some of the spirit of my second photo - my chirpy little moth-enemy the robin, which continues to take an unhealthy interest in my examination of the eggboxes in the morning.  We had a friend staying overnight and I was pleased to show him a Merveille du Jour and a Pink-barred Sallow. But for the rest, we have a brown study today and one which will tax my ID powers later on. Unless, that is, some kindly expert chances to pass by...

Update: And they have! TWO of them, to whom very many thanks, as ever. See Comments for the answer to the riddle these brownish brethren pose.








Friday, 17 October 2014

New, new, new and new



It's easy to think at this time of year that the moth season is over and that the worsening weather and darker mornings mean that the lamp should be packed away. Last night was an antidote to that. Lovely mild weather brought four newcomers for the year to nestle in the eggboxes and give me a surprise in the morning.


One of them was the Sprawler shown in the top picture, a moth whose name conjures up a fop from Downton Abbey sliding back in a large armchair with a glass of port in his hand. The authorities say that the name comes from the caterpillar of the species which has a habit of jerking back its head and front segments when alarmed. This isn't what I call sprawling, but there we are.


The second newcomer was the large Feathered Thorn above, a fine Autumn moth with excellent antennae; I'm sorry that the continuing absence of my little camera stand Miranda means that my focus isn't as hot as it should be.



Thirdly there were four November or possibly Autumnal moths, the modest and sober Jane Eyre-like ones just above, and finally a very richly coloured Red-green Carpet - sorry once more for the lack of definition in the pic below. Update: actually on checking, I find that R-g Cs of an earlier brood came to see me in the late Spring. Sorry, but the others are definitely first for 2014.

Monday, 13 October 2014

Not for the squeamish


Rain has stopped play for the time being but when I went out this morning to bring in the trap, I saw the sad sight above. It's the culmination of the slug and fly saga which I reported on two posts ago. As I suspected, the slug had somehow ambushed the fly or found it stuck on slime or dazzled by light and had sucked its innards dry.


Yuch!  And my next picture isn't much cosier. These are the remains of a moth or moths which I found jammed in an eggbox cone. It's quite interesting, though, in spite of the grim subject. That cable-like thing is the moth's proboscis, winding round something attached to one of its legs. Well, we can't say Tennyson didn't warn us, with his all-too-accurate line: 'Nature, red in tooth and claw...'


On a happier note, I distributed some of my Emperor Moth cocoons to the various enthusiasts who gathered around the Kirtlington Death's Head Hawk moth ten days ago, and here are a couple of photographs of them, above and below. Don't you think the one below looks a bit like a piece of carving by Grinling Gibbons? Martin Townsend, co-author of the Moth Bible and nurturer of three hatched Death's Heads from Kirtlington now, tells me his cocoon is a female. How he knows this, I have yet to find out.


Some more moths to conclude with:  a Willow Beauty, a Barred Fruit-tree Tortrix (Pandemis cerasana) I think, Pyrausta despicata from below and above Update: and one which is all my own work, which is highly unusual compared with being corrected by a kindly expert, but I think this is actually Hypsopygia costalis aka the Gold Triangle micro, a Shuttle-shape Dart and a very fine capucina form of the Green-brindled LabelsCrescent.









And finally finally, a curious picture which appealed to me for some reason. As you can see, I stopped in the course of my vaccing to take it. I felt that the Pink-barred Sallow and the vacuum cleaner had something in common. As for the Daddy Long-legs, I fear that I have Hoovered up quite a few of those.


Sunday, 12 October 2014

Ford perfect


I have been re-reading the best books yet written on (a) butterflies and (b) moths, both by the same expert author, the late Professor Edmund Ford. I'd advise reading them in that order - Butterflies first then Moths - because Butterflies is easier going and also lays the groundwork for some complicated discussion of genetics in Moths which I still have to read several times to begin to understand.

Don't let that put you off, however. I once had lunch with the prof at the Travellers' Club in London and he was a wonderfully twinkly old bachelor about whom many stories are told. Some of these involved allegations of fairly extreme hostility to women outside their once traditional place in the nursery and kitchen (eg not at home in his much-loved Oxford University), but I suspect that quite a lot of teasing was involved. At all events, many of the people he thanks most warmly in his foreword to Moths are women.


He also has a very nice line in quips as you can see from the extracts above, on matricidal larvae, and below, on caterpillars which require sunshine to flourish (don't we all?)


I got Moths down from the shelves in one of my occasional attempts to find out what experts think about the way that light traps work - do they really 'attract', or is it a matter of the insects' delicate radar and antennae being dazzled and disrupted. Ford proposes a theory of two circles of light - if I understand him correctly - an outer one which does draw in the moths and then an inner one which disrupts them and sees them end up, effectively out of control, spiralling into the trap. This was published back in the 1960s mind, so I have plenty more researching to do (and trying to understand the research, with my feeble Grade 9 failure in physics-with-chemistry O Level, also in the 1960s).

On the subject of light, here's the scene in the garden yesterday afternoon. I can't pass a rainbow without trying to photograph it. The pot of gold was just behind our solitary but quite impressive pumpkin, though I haven't tried to dig it up yet - the pot, I mean. As for the pumpkin, roll on Hallowe'en.


Oh, and we'd better have a moth. I was intrigued by this battered Black Rustic and attempted a close-up of its wing stripped of scales - like a roof after a tornado, though in this case it was probably a bird that did the damage.