Thursday, 25 August 2016

Large Red Damselfly

 The Large Red Damselfly is one of the commonest found in Britain and one of the first to be seen. They can be found on any type of water habitat, lakes, ponds, rivers, fields and gardens ponds, canals, etc. They fly from May to August.


Two adults copulating, with the female below the male ovipositing [laying eggs] in my garden pond.



This immature Large Red Damselfly is still clinging to the Nymph casing that it has recently emerged from and, is still drying itself.



















Wednesday, 24 August 2016

Poplar Leaf Beetle

Poplar Leaf Beetle [chrysomela populi] having just emerged from the black and white pupa its clinging to,  and will stay there until it completely dries before it flies off.


Monday, 22 August 2016

Gatekeeper and the Crab Spider

A Male Gatekeeper feeding on a Thistle flower unaware of the Crab Spider looking for its next meal. But the butterfly flies safely away, leaving the Spider to go hungry for now.


Brown Hairstreak, life cycle

A typical habitat for the Brown Hairstreak, large Ash trees surrounded by Oak and below, lots of the larval food plant, Blackthorn.

Large Ash tree in the middle of photo, with lots of Blackthorn along the bottom of the trees. There are 13 large Ash trees
around this meadow and the Blackthorn is growing along most of it.

Brown Hairstreaks live in the canopy of large Ash trees and feed on honeydew provided by Aphids. The females descend to lay their eggs on Blackthorn plants, when they can be observed low down nectering on local flora and also basking in the sun. Males sometimes fly down to feed on flowers when honeydew is in short supply.

A male Brown Hairstreak that has come down from the tree tops
to feed on the local Thistles.
The female Brown Hairstreaks start laying their ovum [eggs] about the middle of August. They are laid on the stems of Blackthorn on both mature plants and young shoots, anywhere from 150mm [6inches] to 1650mm [5.5feet] high, and in sunny sheltered positions, [so i have been lead to believe]. This behaviour was witnessed when i joined Francis Kelly and a team of enthusiasts  from the Surrey branch of B.C. doing an egg search/count earlier this year, [2016, and  each egg found was authenticated, 57 where found.

I conducted my own search for Brown Hairstreak eggs later that year [in the Autumn] in the same area, [Cranliegh Fields] when i found 210 eggs, [between September-November 2016]. The two fields that i conducted my search were divided into eight areas, Area A, B, C, D, E, F, G,H. The most productive area was Area A, where 78 eggs were found in a very well sheltered area with no sun [during the winter] with a north westerly outlook another 41 eggs in Area G, were found in a similar position with a North-westerly outlook, in a rather well sheltered situation with no sun. Area B, 12 eggs, Area C, 10 eggs,  Area D, 5 eggs and  Area E, 7eggs, [Both with very little Blackthorn] Area F, 33 eggs [lots of good Blackthorn] were in sun/shade. Area H which is in full sun, [with an excellent expanse and the most Blackthorn in one area] which i thought i would find good numbers, only produced 24 eggs. I followed this up with a further search in an adjoining field, finding a further 109 eggs. 23 eggs were found in a very well sheltered area facing south, south-west. A high majority of the other eggs were found facing north, north-west. Total egg count 319. Total search hours, 13. They overwinter at this stage.

Brown Hairstreak ovum 150mm [6 inches] off the ground.
The egg is about 2 thirds up the middle of the photo/front stem.

Two Brown Hairstreak ovum was found on this isolated Blackthorn plant, out in the open in this meadow.The
following winter 4 ovum were found on this particular plant.

A  sunny but, sheltered area of Blackthorn where eggs were laid.
The ovum [eggs] are laid singly, normally one by itself, but sometimes they can be found in small clusters of two or more, the most i have found together were a group of four, [probably laid by the same female].

Four  Brown Hairstreak ovum laid in a small cluster, which is
quite uncommon.

Two Brown Hairstreak ovum as they would commonly be found.


A freshly laid Brown Hairstreak ovum

A Brown Hairstreak ovum after a long winter and close to hatching.
Photographed, 19th April.

The tiny larva start to emerge anywhere from late April to the middle of May, and sometimes later, depending on the weather. During the day the larva rest on the underside of the Blackthorn leaves, normally feeding only at night, [but this is not 100% as i have witnessed them feeding by day]. There are three moults, [four instars]. The larval stage lasts about eight weeks.

1st instar Brown Hairstreak larva, about 1.5mm in length. Less than
24 hours after emerging from the egg, [feeding early evening]. Date 26th April.

Brown Hairstreak 1st instar larva, 8 days old and still only 2.5-3mmm in length.
This could be down to the cold weather conditions at the time, which would slow both the
larva's eating and growth rate down.

A late 2nd instar Brown Hairstreak larva, 8mm in length, 24 days old, 19th May. The green larva
is beautifully camouflaged and, will stay this colour until its close to pupating. On the 2nd of June
2 weeks later i found another 2nd instar larva, again 8mm in length. Indicating the time difference
between hatching larva.
3rd instar Brown Hairstreak larva resting on the back of a Blackthorn leaf,
10mm in length, 29 days old. The weather is a lot warmer now and, the larva
is growing at a much faster pace.

After only 10 days as a 3rd instar, the Brown Hairstreak larva has made
its final moult, length 12mm,  34 days old.

When the larva are ready to pupate, they descend the host plant to find a suitable crevice in the soil, or a leaf amongst the litter at the base of the Blackthorn to make it's final changes.

After 57 days the 4th instar Brown Hairstreak larva descended to the base of the Blackthorn
to start the final colour change of the larva before finding a suitable place to pupate.

A few hours later the Brown Hairstreak larva has changed  colour


Another hour later and the larva has changed it's appearance again, [rather like that
of a Chameleon] blending in with it's surroundings.

24 hours later, having changed colour again, it seems that the final instar Brown Hairstreak larva
 has chosen this leaf to pupate on.


But no, the larva decided to move. Not being happy with it's first choice of leaf
went on a walk-about to find something more suitable. Same larva as above 48
hours later, different leaf, and it's final chosen place to pupate.

The following day, early morning. The Brown Hairstreak larva has made it's final
colour change before pupating. Date, 25th June.

8 hours later the same day the larva has pupated. Date, 25th June.

A week before the Brown Hairstreak finally emerges.

24 hours before the butterfly emerges the pupa turns a beautiful black in colour. Just
short of one year from when the egg was first laid.






















Saturday, 20 August 2016

Peacock

The Peacock hibernates during the winter months, normally being found hanging from walls and roofs in old buildings, out-houses, barns and log sheds etc.

This Peacock was found hibernating on the back of a piece of discarded ply.
They emerge in the spring, normally in March [both male and female are alike] but, can be seen earlier. I once found one flying on a warm day in January in a sheltered area of a field. In early spring you can quite often find them nectaring on the flowers of Sallow along with other species of butterflies that have also emerged from a long winters sleep, i.e Brimstones, Small Tortoiseshells etc.

Peacock on Sallow flowers in late March.
Once copulation has taken place the females lay their eggs in large clusters on the underside of Common Nettle leaves in a sunny position.

Peacock sunning itself on Common Nettle where they lay their eggs
on the underside of the leaves.
The butterflies from these eggs start to emerge about the middle of July. They will continuously feed themselves on the local flowers building up their fat reserves to last them through their long winter hibernation.

Peacock showing the undersides of it's wings, feeding on Bramble
flowers on the 18th July

Peacock nectaring on Fleabane, building-up it's fat reserves for the long
 hibernation over the winter months.

















Friday, 19 August 2016

European Hornet

The European Hornet [Vespa Crabro] is the largest Wasp in Europe. The female worker depicted in the photo below has captured/killed and, wrapped/bundled it's victim into a small ball/package, which will be shared out amongst the Hornet's siblings back at the nest. The adults mainly feed on nectar and sap.


Sunday, 7 August 2016

Thursday, 4 August 2016

Silver-spotted Skipper

Silver-spotted Skipper's are normally found on south facing chalk hills. Over the last few years their numbers have fallen quite drastically in Surrey and, are now a priority species in the conservation of butterflies of Surrey.

They prefer a habitat of short grass where Sheep's Fescue grows, [where the eggs are laid] and flowers. They visit flowers such as Dwarf Thistle, Scabious, [two of their favourites] Marjoram, and Hard Heads etc. for nectar. On warm summer days, they can be found flying fast and low over the hillside, like out of control helicopters. They fly between the middle of July and early September and, have one brood a year.

The males differ from that of the females apart from the undersides of their wings which are similar. The male have a obvious black sex brand on the top of each forewing, which are absent in the females.


Male Silver-spotted Skipper clearly showing the black sex brands on the forewings.


Female Silver-spotted Skipper showing the upper sides of her forewings, [no sex brands].



Male Silver-spotted Skipper showing the undersides of his wings, [on Marjoram].


Female Silver-spotted Skipper's wing undersides, [on unopened Scabious flower].


The males eyes are also larger than the females.  A pair of Silver-spotted Skippers copulating, [mating] clearly showing the difference in eye size, [female top/male bottom, old and discoloured].


Finally, the tip of the males antenna are orange on top and black on the underside, while the females are black in colour, and this is a very easy way of distinguishing between the sexes when their wings are closed.

Male Silver-spotted Skipper showing his orange tipped [top] and black [bottom] Antenna.



Female Silver-spotted Skipper showing her black tipped antenna.


The ovum [eggs] are laid on  blades  of Sheep's Fescue, [a small species of grass] which are adhered to the grass stems with a gluey substance.


Females have been known to adhere two thin grass stems together in order to lay her egg on safely, [if she feels that one grass stem is not wide enough to  securely hold her ovum].

Two grass stems of Sheep's Fescue that have clearly been adhered together
by a egg laying female Silver-spotted Skipper
They overwinter at this stage, with the tiny larva emerging in the spring.

Tuesday, 2 August 2016

Gatekeeper

Affectionately known as the Hedge Brown, the Gatekeeper is one of England's and Wales' most numerous butterflies, but only found on the south coast, and with a few other scattered sites in Southern Ireland. They fly from early July until late August, they are single brooded. Their favourite flowers are Brambles and Ragwort and Thistles etc. for nectar and love basking in the sun with their wings fully opened.

The males are smaller than the females and have large sex brands on the upper side of each forewing [absent in the female].

Male Gatekeeper showing the two large sex brand on the top of each forewing

Female gatekeeper, larger than the males with no sex brands


The undersides are similar between the sexes but, not quite the same and it is possible to tell the difference between the males and females by the wing undersides if you look closely.


Male Gatekeeper showing the wing undersides


Female Gatekeeper showing her wing undersides, which are sightly different to that of the males


Gatekeepers roost just about anywhere, in trees, shrubs/flowers and down in the grass.

Female Gatekeeper Roosting on Ragwort one of its favourite flowers for feeding on