Category Archives: Moths

A Blue Day

Fizz took one look at the morning sky and confidently predicted a lovely day. She was right.

Blue DawnSo she had a lot of fun and we spent a long time in the fields practising our recall. She hasn’t quite got it yet. She tends to chase after the ball and then when she has got it she will sit down and wait for me to catch up.

What is the point in running back to him when he is coming this way anyway?

FizzAbsolutely beautiful weather, warm and still.

But that was at lunch time, by three o’clock the sun had gone down and it was cold and icy. It is still December.

DecemberSo I sat down to write about Bluebells, before we get onto flowers here is a little something for the animal lovers, this is a Bluebell Conch.

Bluebell ConchIt is a little Tortrix moth called Hysterophora maculosana.

I know that it doesn’t look much but it is rare. When I took these pictures in 2011 there had only been five previous county sightings in this century.

What was even rarer was to photograph it on the food plant, there was only one other photograph of a Bluebell Conch on a Bluebell in circulation at that time.

Bluebell ConchWell you know that I believe in sharing my pictures. I uploaded these to Wikimedia under a CC0 license, which basically means that they are free for anyone to download and use as they see fit.

Well, it is important, they are rare and people should see these things.

It is not like I created the moth! I just pointed my stick at it ūüôā

Bluebell Conch

Bluebell ConchI do realise that sometimes I must annoy proper photographers but this was for the benefit of Humanity and to help people to love little  animals and flowers and my images adorn Wikipedia pages around the world, helping people to see the beauty in a little animal.

Mga sumpay ha gawas

Whatever that means ūüôā

Here is my story of the blues… (It goes on a bit)

Hyacinthoides non-scripta, The Bluebell

Bluebell woods (Hyacinthoides non-scripta)

Bluebell flowers (Hyacinthoides non-scripta) Bluebell flowers (Hyacinthoides non-scripta)   Bluebell flowers (Hyacinthoides non-scripta)   Bluebell flowers (Hyacinthoides non-scripta)

As spring flowers go the Bluebell is a bit of a late starter. They begin to appear around mid April and by that time everything is in flower.

Primroses, Lesser Celandine and the Wood Anemones have all but gone. The Snowdrop and Crocus are a distant memory and many of the summer flowers are in full bloom.

My first Bluebell of 2014, this picture was taken on the 13th. of April.

Bluebell flowers (Hyacinthoides non-scripta)Still Bluebells herald in the new year for me.

They are one of the first plants that I see as their tiny shoots break through the leaf litter.

Bluebells in January.

Bluebell shoots (Hyacinthoides non-scripta)We are still a long way from the warm scented woodlands of April and May but it has begun and it always makes me feel good to see the shoots.

What happens next takes a little bit of time but there are lots of other flowers to look at, the Bluebells signal the start of it.

Bluebell shoots (Hyacinthoides non-scripta) Bluebell shoots (Hyacinthoides non-scripta)   Bluebell shoots (Hyacinthoides non-scripta)   Bluebell shoots (Hyacinthoides non-scripta) There is an absolute magic in a Bluebell woodland in springtime.

Magic Squirrel

Bluebell woods (Hyacinthoides non-scripta)The colour is subtle, it isn’t gaudy, it fits and the scent hangs heavy on a dewy morning.

Hyacinthoides non-scripta is deeply scented,  it is lovely to walk in a Bluebell wood but our woodlands are under threat.

Bluebell woods (Hyacinthoides non-scripta)The threat to our Native Bluebell:

About half of all of the worlds Hyacithoides non-scripta are here in the UK. It is essentially a British flower and so we have a responsibility to preserve it.

The problem is the Spanish Bluebell, Hyacinthoides hispanica. The two species have been isolated for about 8000 years but in the last 200 years gardeners have been introducing the Spanish variant and seriously, we are in danger of losing our flowers.

Usually when we talk about the threat of an invasive species we are talking about them encroaching on habitat and crowding our own species out. The threat posed by the Spanish Bluebell is different, It can pollinate native Bluebells to produce a very different hybrid species which can go on to pollinate more flowers. Once hybrids get into the woods the process is irreversible.

The Native Bluebell will hybridise with the Spanish Bluebell and the result is a hybrid called Hyacinthoides massartiana. The Hybrid is fertile and more hardy than the Native Bluebell and it is less fussy about it’s habitat. The hybrid is now much more common than genuine Spanish Bluebells but it shares many of the characteristics and it is very hard to impossible to positively separate the species and sometimes requires DNA analysis.

This is either Spanish or possibly a hybrid.

Hybrid Bluebell (Hyacinthoides massartiana)The Hybrid shares characteristics with both parents but the characteristics from the Spanish side include a strong stem, so that the flowers are held upright and do not droop to one side, an open bell shaped flower and blue to green pollen, (once the pollen is spent the anthers will appear white). The leaves are broader than the native Bluebell and the Spanish Bluebell is unscented and Hybrids have a very weak scent.

Hybrid Bluebell (Hyacinthoides massartiana) Hybrid Bluebell (Hyacinthoides massartiana)   Hybrid Bluebell (Hyacinthoides massartiana)   Hybrid Bluebell (Hyacinthoides massartiana) Hybrids can also look a lot like native Bluebells.

Please Note: The majority of Hyacinthoides non-sripta bulbs that are offered for sale are actually hybrids. You need a license to trade in Bluebell bulbs and there are very few licensed growers.

The Guardian, Digging the Blues.

If you want to buy native Bluebell bulbs then be sure to buy them from a name that you can trust. The licensed grower mentioned in the Guardian article above doesn’t sell to the public.

Vera Bluebell

I would trust The Royal Horticultural Society rather than my local market trader although he is a very nice man and I would certainly buy my Petunias from him and pretty much everything else.

There is no reason to ever plant shop bought bulbs in the wild.

How to identify Hyacinthoides non-scripta:

The easiest way to identify a native Bluebell is to look at the anthers of newly opened flowers. The pollen will be creamy white. It is important to look at new flowers, those at the top of the flower spike, as once the pollen is spent they all have white anthers.

Bluebell flowers (Hyacinthoides non-scripta)

Bluebell flowers (Hyacinthoides non-scripta) Bluebell flowers (Hyacinthoides non-scripta)   Bluebell flowers (Hyacinthoides non-scripta)   Bluebell flowers (Hyacinthoides non-scripta) If the pollen is white then it is native, if the pollen is any other colour then it definitely is not native.

Other features to look for, the flower is long and tubular rather than bell shaped like the Spanish variety. The petals are strongly curled back at the tips and the stem is quite weak causing the flower head to droop to one side (but notice that the flowers do not all emerge on the same side)

Bluebell flowers (Hyacinthoides non-scripta)As the flowers age the stem becomes more upright and it is common to see native Bluebells without the droop and less one directional.

Bluebell flowers (Hyacinthoides non-scripta)By the time the seed pods have developed the flower stem is completely upright.

27Another good way to tell the species apart is colour. Whilst the Spanish flowers introduced into our gardens come in a variety of colours from pink to deep blue the Native Bluebell is always blue.

Except when it is white.

White Bluebell flowers (Hyacinthoides non-scripta)I have read a bit about how rare and unusual it is to find white Bluebells and I can only say that has not been my experience. I have regularly found them in woods all around Southern England and I can usually expect to find more than one in a given wood.

They are not that uncommon and they stand out, they are also quite beautiful.

White Bluebell flowers (Hyacinthoides non-scripta)Hyacinthoides non-scripta is considered to be an indicator species of ancient woodland although locally they seem to grow in every hedgerow and field.

Bluebell flowers (Hyacinthoides non-scripta)They can increase by bulb division, they produce small offset bulbs from the main one but they spread very slowly and it may take decades for them to advance a few yards.

They also grow from seed but again that is a slow process, it takes about five years for the seed to produce a flower.

30The seed heads appear in late May when the flowers are spent and will remain in the woods for months. At first green they dry out to a papery brown shell before discarding their seeds.

31

32 33   34   35 36

Taxonomy:

Kingdom: Plantae

Order: Asparagales

Family: Asparagaceae

Genus: Hyacinthoides

Species: Hyacinthoides non-scripta

Bluebell woods (Hyacinthoides non-scripta)

Bluebell woods (Hyacinthoides non-scripta)

Bluebell woods (Hyacinthoides non-scripta)Wildflowers in winter.

(Please notice that I included a Bluebell Tortrix Dog in my last picture)

Now I have got to take her for a walk and it is a stinky, cold, windy day today.

And now it is raining!!!

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Shepherd’s Warning

It wasn’t a good day to be a shepherd. It wasn’t a good day to be anything really.

It started off very nicely.

SunriseThen the sky turned black and the rain started. It was a very short day anyway and now it is night and gales are buffeting the farm and the rain is pounding against my windows.

I am all cosy indoors but all of my little animals are living out there and it is just another winter’s night.

I wrote about Bird’s-foot Trefoil today and I will show you that in a bit, first I thought we could look at some moths. I would have liked to put more into my flower post but that was supposed to be about flowers.

Day flying moths, some of them are just as pretty as the butterflies.

This is a Speckled Yellow moth (Pseudopanthera macularia). It’s caterpillars feed on Wood Sage and it is common in open woodland.

Speckled YellowThis next beauty is a Green Silver-lines (Pseudoips prasinana). Another woodland moth, this one favours Oak and Birch trees.

Green Silver-lines

Green Silver-linesThis next one isn’t a moth at all, yet but it will be. It looks a bit like an old Birch catkin.

Scalloped Hook-tipThis is the caterpillar of a Scalloped Hook-tip Moth ( Falcaria lacertinaria) and it feeds on Birch, naturally.

Scalloped Hook-tipThis next one is called a Silver Y moth (Autographa gamma) , try and guess Y.

This is a summer visitor arriving in the UK from May onwards it comes from Southern Europe. It  is not a fussy eater, Bedstraws, Nettles, Clovers, it also likes Peas and Cabbage.

Silver Y

Silver YIf we have another day like today then I will post more moths tomorrow. Here are my flowers.

Lotus corniculatus, The Bird’s-foot Trefoil.

Bird's-foot Trefoil flowers (lotus corniculatus) Bird's-foot Trefoil flowers (lotus corniculatus)   Bird's-foot Trefoil flowers (lotus corniculatus)   Bird's-foot Trefoil flowers (lotus corniculatus)This is a flower of grassland. It grows in meadows and on heaths in forest rides and if you are very lucky, in your garden.

Bird’s-foot Trefoil is very variable¬†in size. Amongst short grass the small flowers may be just inches off the ground.

Bird's-foot Trefoil flowers (lotus corniculatus)In long grass it can grow to about twenty inches. It seems to be able to flower at whatever height the surrounding plants are rising to.

Bird's-foot Trefoil flowers (lotus corniculatus)In many parts of the world Bird’s-foot Trefoil is grown as an animal fodder and I read that it can yield up to four tons of hay per acre. That is difficult to comprehend when you see the tiny flowers growing in short cropped grass.

The name Bird’s-foot comes from the seed pods which are claw like and resemble a Bird’s foot. Another popular name for this plant is Granny’s Toenails.

Bird's-foot Trefoil seed pods (lotus corniculatus) Bird's-foot Trefoil seed pods (lotus corniculatus)   Bird's-foot Trefoil seed pods (lotus corniculatus)   Bird's-foot Trefoil seed pods (lotus corniculatus)The Trefoil part of the name is a reference to the leaves. Each leaf is actually made up of five leaflets but two of these are at the base of the mid rib and the remaining three form the trefoil at the end of the leaf.

Bird's-foot Trefoil leaves (lotus corniculatus)New buds continually form and grow from the centre of existing leaves, which makes it difficult to study the form and shape of the plant.

Bird's-foot Trefoil leaves (lotus corniculatus)It has a squarish stem.

Bird's-foot Trefoil leaves and stem (lotus corniculatus)It also has a very deep tap root (up to three feet deep) that allows it to thrive on poorer soils.

Bird’s-foot Trefoil is a very important wildlife plant and as such a wonderful addition to any garden. It is especially valuable as a larval food plant for many of our most beautiful Moths and Butterflies including the Dingy Skipper, Green Hairstreak, Silver Studded Blue and these Common Blues.

Common Blue on Bird's-foot Trefoil Common Blue on Bird's-foot Trefoil   Common Blue on Bird's-foot Trefoil   Common Blue on Bird's-foot TrefoilAmongst the Moths it is a larval food plant for the Six-spot Burnet and for this next one the Burnet Companion.

Burnet Companion on Bird's-foot Trefoil

Burnet Companion on Bird's-foot TrefoilThe Bird’s-foot Trefoil is a member of the Pea family, known as the¬†Fabaceae and sometimes by the older name of the¬†Leguminosae.

It is native to the UK, Eurasia and North Africa.

Bird's-foot Trefoil flowers (lotus corniculatus) Bird's-foot Trefoil flowers (lotus corniculatus)   Bird's-foot Trefoil flowers (lotus corniculatus)   Bird's-foot Trefoil flowers (lotus corniculatus)

Bird's-foot Trefoil flowers (lotus corniculatus)

Bird's-foot Trefoil flowers (lotus corniculatus)

Taxonomy:

Kingdom: Plantae

Order: Fabales

Family: Fabaceae

Genus: Lotus

Species: Lotus corniculatus

Bird's-foot Trefoil flowers (lotus corniculatus)Wildflowers in winter.

Our Day Clouded Over

Yesterday Fizz and I set out with a good plan that would fetch us a lovely bowl of fruit, so what  went wrong? There was lots of fruit in the hedgerow.

Elderberries

SloesHazelnuts are the fruit that I really want, I shall be collecting these by the sack load. The trees around the farm are loaded with them ¬†and the animals don’t seem to be touching them.

They are not quite ready yet but they are getting close.

Hazelnuts

Hazelnuts

HazelnutsMost of my hazelnut bounty will probably end up as bait for my cameras. There are many more than I will want and animals love hazelnuts but they are very expensive to buy.

We had gone out looking for Blackberries and things started off quite well.

Blackberries

BlackberriesThen I saw the first Clouded Yellow Butterfly. I have been after these for a couple of weeks now and didn’t expect to see them up here.

Clouded YellowWith a shout to Fizz I was off and running through the field. The Clouded Yellow is quite a big butterfly and in flight it’s wings are golden yellow almost orange so they are easy to follow.

It was good exercise. There are four fields behind the farm each of them about fifteen acres and the butterflies were enjoying the open space. Fizz didn’t have a clue what was going on but she enjoyed this new pass time much more than standing in front of bushes ¬†and she chased after me, at my heels.

FizzThe blackberries that were in a punnet in my shoulder bag all jumped out of the punnet and juiced themselves in the bottom of my bag and we didn’t really get the pictures that I wanted either. Every time that I stopped and fell to my knees in front of my prize Fizz came bowling up and sent the butterfly flying. Not her fault she didn’t understand the rules of the game.

Clouded Yellow

Clouded YellowI did capture that beautiful little Small Tortoiseshell that I showed you yesterday.

P1820897Something else that I found flying in that field was this little day flying moth the Silver Y.

Silver Y

Silver YI know that it doesn’t look much in those shots so I will just show you a couple of older pictures. I would quite like to have another crack at it.

Silver Y

Silver YToday Fizz and I are sitting indoors hoping for a bit of clear sky so that we can get back up to that field and chase some more butterflies.

Fizz

Fizz Well I am going to chase butterflies.

Clouded Yellow

Faeries are Real

Hi , well despite all the goings on in my kitchen cabinets Dogs still need to be walked. She is not my Dog but I do believe that nice things happen to nice people, so lets go be nice and walk the mutt.

Pterophorus pentadactylaOh wow! You look fantastic. Where did you go? Did you have that blonde girl? I always have her. Oh you look really lovely.

Okay I’ll shut up. Bludy shearers mistook her for a sheep again.

Haircut and I have been out doing our nature observation stuff and approaching things in a scientific manner as we always do and it was in this frame of mind that I came across our next discovery.

This is a Faerie. (it is saying “Hi!” to you.)

White Plume MothI wasn’t over surprised to come across one, I have caught fleeting glimpses of them before and I knew that they existed. In fact if ever I eat in the wild I always leave something of my food for the spirit and my photographs on this blog are free of copyright because that is my way of giving back to the spirits who give me things. So I always knew there were Faeries but I have never had the chance to photograph one before.

A Faerie is like a little man with wings. They are mischievous and can be down right dangerous, you might find yourself falling asleep in a meadow and waking up with Asses ears or falling in love with the next beast that you see. This one was just playing with me.

White Plume Moth

White Plume Moth

White Plume Moth

Okay these are not the best photographs that I have taken but if you compare them to photographs of the Sasquatch or the Loch Ness Monster then, come on, at least you can see what my one is.

It is not every day that I meet a Faerie, it probably happened because I was being kind to a mistaken sheep for no other reason than that I am kind if you get my drift. Let me share my photos.

(In some of my shots you might think this was an Angel but Angels are much larger than Faeries)

White Plume Moth

White Plume Moth

White Plume Moth

White Plume Moth

White Plume MothI am pretty sure that I know what I know and that this is a Faerie and not an Angel but I take a lot of care in my identifications and I check everything. I have submitted my photographs to the best entomologists and lepidopterists in the country. If I am wrong and there is actually an insect that looks like this I am certain they will come back to me immediately and before I make an Ass of myself announcing to the world that I believe in Faeries.

I am sure of what I have seen and I don’t really see any need to wait for their response.

Ladies and Gentlemen I give you the Faerie,

 lepidopterists

Ho Hum…. The bosses have come back to me and there is an animal called the White Plume Moth, Pterophorus pentactyla that looks just like this and I knew that. I meant the Faerie that was riding it.

FizzFor a Dog, you do good expressions. No don’t get up.

Fizz

Swinging from the Chandeliers

I wasn’t wearing my Mac today, It wasn’t that sort of day.

Self PortraitI was out hunting Skippers but I also had my eye open for a Six Spot Burnet emerging from it’s cocoon. Something that I would like to photograph.

Six Spot Burnet CocoonThe easy way to find the cocoons is to look for mating pairs. I do not understand why but every cocoon that I have found has had a mating pair beside it. I am guessing that some sort of pheromone is released when the moth is emerging that triggers mating behaviour,

Well these two were really going for it with an element of enthusiasm. I had to photograph them. Who knows when I will have another chance.

Six-spot Burnet

Six-spot Burnet

Six-spot Burnet

Six-spot Burnet

Six-spot Burnet

Six-spot Burnet

Six-spot Burnet

Six-spot Burnet

Six-spot BurnetI love the way that they dress up for these occasions too, The capes and stuff like little red and black super hero costumes. It’s a bit kinky I know but there ought to be more of this ūüôā ūüôā

Natural Behaviour

There is nothing odd about what I do.

I am wearing a Mac in case it rains and in fact it is a good job that I was wearing one because it pelted down.

Of course my landlord doesn’t know what I get up to, he thinks that I am out photographing Bunny Rabbits. In fact you are the only person who knows about this and I think we should keep it that way.

I hope that you like my photographs.

Six-spot Burnet

Six-spot Burnet

Six-spot Burnet

Six-spot BurnetWell they seemed like a nice young couple ūüôā

Did you know that they die after they have mated? Well, the female gets to lay her eggs and then she dies, the male just keels over with a smile on his face.

Six-spot BurnetFortunately mating ¬†takes quite a long time, I watched these two for two and a half hours (I’m a naturalist, I was interested) They changed position a few times but they were still at it when I left.

Here is another couple, I call these Missionary Moths.

Six-spot BurnetStrangely they have chosen to mate right beside a cocoon with an emerging moth.

Six-spot Burnet

What was even stranger was that every cocoon that I found with an emerging moth (five) had a mating pair right beside it. I have been reading everything that I could find about Six-spot Burnets but I can not find any explanation for this. I did find that quite a few other people have posted the same situation and there must be a reason for it.

It was the cocoons that I was really interested in. I am not really an insect pervert. You’re not are you? ūüôā

Here is a full one.Six-spot BurnetA thunder storm put an end to my games today and I didn’t really get the picture that I was after. It took them ages to get out of the cocoons.

Unlike the butterflies that I know, these moths spin a cocoon of silk and then they get inside it to pupate. They have a little organ near to their mouth for producing the silk. Once inside I think that they go through the same process as a caterpillar, moulting with a chrysalis inside but I am not 100% sure on this, I will read up on it.

Six-spot Burnet

Six-spot Burnet

Six-spot Burnet

12

Six-spot BurnetThe actual picture that I wanted would have come just after these, when they crawl out and start to spread their wings. I didn’t get it today but I think that it is worth following on with, don’t you?

An empty one.

Six-spot Burnet

I suppose that you would like some more “Bug Porn”, good job that we are not weird. Here are some beautiful animals instead.

Six-spot Burnet

Six-spot Burnet

Six-spot Burnet

Six-spot Burnet

Okay, I’ll do it but listen, don’t ever tell anyone where you got these images from. Can you imagine if the police ever seized my computer?

They would have to make a special ward for me.

Six-spot Burnet

Six-spot Burnet

Six-spot Burnet

Six-spot Burnet

Six-spot BurnetLove is all you need.

The Burnet Companion

Yes well, I have spent most of today taking more pictures of the Six-spot Burnet and I will show you some in a bit.

In the company of all of those Burnet Moths I found this little beauty and it gets it’s name from the fact that it is usually found in the company of Burnet Moths.

They share the same larval food plant, Bird’s-foot Trefoil although this moth will lay eggs on Clover as well. They are both day flying moths and this one has beautiful green eyes.

Burnet Companion

Burnet Companion

Burnet Companion

Burnet Companion

Burnet Companion

Burnet Companion

Burnet Companion

Burnet Companion