Friday, 5 June 2015

5th June - My Lonely Days Are Over

As reported yesterday was fine and warm, and it was still as we went into the evening.  By about 10.00pm the clouds were rolling in from the west, and the forecast was for a much warmer night and possible thunderstorms in the early hours.

These were the conditions I had been hoping for, not the storms but the calm warm evening.  I decided that despite the threat of rain I need to put the trap out and at least see if the warmer conditions could produce a better catch of moths.

When I woke up in the morning it was raining and continued to do so through until the middle of the morning.  I had switched off the light and pulled the trap into cover, but I had not  given it a serious look, but a brief glance didn't fill me with hope.

I had time at lunch to have a look and while the box was not heaving with masses of lepidoptera, there was some of the species I felt I should be catching at this time of year.

First up was the Poplar Hawk Moth, the commonest hawk moth in the UK

This is a large odd-looking moth, but one of my favourites due to the bat and mouse look it has with the furry head.  It has the habit of resting with its hind-wings held further forward than the fore-wings but they are still half hidden by them.  It lacks the afrenulum a small hook that other moths have for joining the wings together. 

It is said to look like a cluster of dead leaves of the main host, poplar. When disturbed, the moth will suddenly reveal a bright orange-red basal patch on the hind-wing, possibly as a distraction or startle display.

They emerge late at night or early in the morning, the species flies starting from the second night and is strongly attracted to light. The proboscis is non-functional, so they do not feed as adults.  One or two broods are produced each year and adults can be seen from May to September and they overwinter as a pupa.

The next find was a Privet Hawk Moth, in fact there were two.

The Privet Hawk Moth is our largest resident hawk-moth found in the UK.  the fore-wing wingspan can reach up to 12 centimetres.  Despite their large size they are well camouflaged and can be easily missed.  The hind wings and abdomen feature attractive pink and black stripes. The fore-wings are pale brown with black lines running through them. The thorax is slate grey or black.

It is on the wing, unlike the Poplar Hawk Moth, for a short period only, in June and July. It is commonly found in parks and gardens, as well as woodland. 

The caterpillars, which grow to 85mm, are bright green with oblique purple and white stripes down their sides.  When the caterpillars are ready to pupate they move down the food plant and bury themselves in leaf litter.  They overwinter in this stage and emerge the following summer.

The last special moth was the White Ermine, seen before but always worth publishing and this one was playing dead.

The only differing factor last night was the temperature, unfortunately the forecast for next week although it will be dry and sunny is for more northerly winds and cold nights so I don't expect to see many more for awhile.

On a different note here are some interesting pictures of a coniferous cone I picked up in Majorca.  Back in the nineties when we had family holidays in Spain the girls would throw these cones down the road as we walked to the restaurant in the evening.  The game was to see who's would go the furthest.

When we were in Majorca in April I found some and brought them home for old times sake.  In the house the cones have opened up like a sci-fi film egg, and all the seeds have been dispersed (outside).  

Close up the cones look very unworldly.

Like some weird sculpture

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