I mentioned in an earlier post that I’ve taken over the role of Entomology Sub-group Leader for one of the conservation groups on Salisbury Plain. Each month I lead a BeeWalk in Area 15 which is one of the artillery impact areas in SPTA (C). Earlier in the year we plotted a 5km transect through a variety of habitat and each month a small group of us follow this route and count and identify the bumblebee species we find. The data is uploaded to the Bumblebee Conservation Trust (BBCT)BeeWalk website. More info about BeeWalk here.
In addition to the bees (which so far have not been numerous) we always find something interesting and this time it was the freshly-emerged Marsh Fritillary Euphydryas aurinia. The day was overcast, great for macro photography in my opinion, as the clouds act as a giant softbox, but there was a real nip in the wind so they were rather sensibly keeping well hunkered down in the grass. To get this shot I had to lie on my belly and wait for opportunities for the wind to drop. Low light can be a problem so inevitably it was necessary to push up the ISO to 800.
As many of you will be aware the Marsh Fritillary has declined in its distribution right across Europe, and is now a protected species and therefore the object of much conservation effort. Fortunately Salisbury Plain remains one of its major strongholds in Wiltshire, the UK and Europe.
Perhaps on my next visit, if it is a little warmer, I’ll get lucky and capture a few images with the wings open.
As a final post from my recent trip to Cyprus, here’s a photo of a Painted Lady Vanessa cardui that I managed to get a quick snap of when the sun momentarily dipped behind a cloud. I quite like the painterly quality of this image.
Although reasonably common it proved really difficult to get close enough to get a shot. The heat increased their flightiness and often as not they would close their wings as they sensed my approach. See below. Not that the underside isn’t equally photogenic.
Volucella bombylans – male
The hover-fly Volucella bombylans, male pictured above, uses Batesian Mimicry to imitate the Red-tailed Bumblebee Bombus Lapidarius. Batesian mimicry is where a palatable or harmless species has evolved to imitate the warning signals of a harmful or inedible species. In this instance a stinging bumblebee. It is named after the English naturalist and explorer Henry Walter Bates (1825-1892).
Volucella pellucens – female
Here’s a photo of one of our largest flies, the Pellucid or Large Pied-hoverfly Volucella pellucens that I took back on the 8 July 2012 in Marlborough while I was in the middle of a RiverFly survey on the River Og. Pellucid means transparent or translucent and in this instance refers to the ivory-white band across the abdomen, which if caught in the right light enables you to see through its middle. This and the dark spot on each wing makes this species quite easy to identify in the field.
I used to live in what is now called Royal Wootton Bassett. It was just plain old Wootton Bassett when I lived there. But then that was before we were flying back union jack covered coffins from Iraq and Afghanistan. Thankfully most of our troops are back home now.
On sunny days in July I’d often find this tiny moth in my equally tiny courtyard garden basking in the sun. When I had to move home, there it was again in my new garden near Marlborough. Now much as though it would have cheered me no end to imagine it had followed me, perhaps hidden amongst my many books, there had to be a common connection. After giving it some thought I came to the conclusion that it was either attracted to mint or marjoram, or both. Read more
Aphantopus hyperantus – female
Here’s another photograph from back in July, again from Morgans Hill. This time it’s the Ringlet Aphantopus hyperantus.
This example is in full sun and therefore appears to be a rather pale brown, but at least that allows you to see the detail. The plumper body suggests this may be a female. However, when freshly emerged the colour is a much darker, velvety chocolate, verging on almost black in some instances. You can get a flavour of this in the example below that I photographed in July 2012 which I’m guessing may be a male. And a very handsome butterfly it is too with the contrast of the delicate white lace-like fringes to the wing edges.
Note the variation in the spots which are much more prominent on the specimen above.
Last weekend I attended a workshop on Auchenorrhyncha hosted by Alan Stewart and Tristan Bantock, superbly organised by Mike Edwards of the British Entomological and Natural History Society (BENHS). More info about BENHS here and the Auchenorrhyncha Recording Scheme here.
Leafhoppers, planthoppers, froghoppers, treehoppers and cicadas are a sub-order of insects from the order Hemiptera that I know little about, despite the fact there are around 400 species in the UK. I’ve rarely seen or photographed any of them but I did get a photo of this red and black froghopper or ‘spittlebug’ Cercopis vulnerata earlier in the year at West Yatton Down. This should be an easy species for me to remember in future as it is our only red and black ‘spittlebug’ and our only ‘hopper in the family Cercopidae.
As a quick way of telling them apart, leafhoppers Cicadellidae have rows of spines on their rear legs (hind tibiae). Planthoppers Delphacidae have a large moveable thumb (spur) on their hind legs and froghoppers Cercopidae and Aphrophoridae have one or two stout spines on their rear legs.
We only have two treehoppers Membracidae and both have a backward extension of the pronotum (basically the back of the head is pointed like a spine). As for Cicadas, we only have one species, the New Forest Cicada Cicadetta montana which is very possibly extinct in Britain.
They are good indicators of site quality, particularly grassland, so I’ll be keeping a look out for them next year on Salisbury Plain.
Leptophyes punctatissima – female
This is probably our commonest bush-cricket, the Speckled Bush-cricket Leptophyes punctatissima is a small green cricket with a brown stripe down its back (admittedly it’s not very prominent on this particular specimen) and is covered in tiny black speckles. Crickets are easily distinguished from grasshoppers by their long antennae which can be easily twice as long as the body. In comparison grasshoppers have rather short antennae.
Polyommatus icarus – female
I’ve recently taken on the role of Entomology Sub-group leader for the Larkhill & Westdown Conservation Group. LWCG is one of three conservation groups that have access to some of the restricted areas of the Salisbury Plain Training Area (SPTA) which is where I took this photograph of a female Common Blue Polyommatus icarus resting on Devils-bit Scabious Succisa pratensis.
Leucospis gigas – female
Earlier this year I enjoyed a short break on the Greek island of Kefalonia. I took quite a few photos of insects, many of which I have still to identify. Needing help I uploaded this image of a wasp to the Hymenopterists Forum on Facebook. Almost immediately Irenel E. Popescu came back suggesting it might belong to the Leucospidae, a small specialised group of ectoparasitoid wasps within the Chalcidoidea superfamily.
Using this as a starting point, and after a further trawl of images on the internet, I concluded that it was most likely the Parasitoid Wasp Leucospis gigas.