Skip to content

Posts tagged ‘macro’

Vernal stars

Wood Anenome, Anemone nemorosa

Anemone nemorosa

Stretching on red spindle stems through still sleepy foliage to find the warmth of the vernal sun, this has got to be one of my favourite Spring flowers. The Wood Anemone Anemone nemorosa is a splendid sight when its tiny stars form a white carpet on a woodland floor.

The six white petals (technically its sepals) are sometimes streaked with just the slightest hint of purple-pink and can be softly shaded with lavender on the reverse. A delicate blue version Anemone appennina is sometimes grown in gardens and often becomes naturalised which may account for the odd colour variation.

It’s found flowering as early as March, but Spring appears to have been a little late this year so enjoy them while you can. These were photographed at West Woods, near Marlborough, Wiltshire.

Leucospid wasp

Parasitoid wasp, Leucospis gigas, female

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.

Read more

Hawthorn Sheildbug

Hawthorn Shieldbug, Acanthosoma haemorrhoidale

Acanthosoma haemorrhoidale

I found this splendid little chap in my garden. It’s an adult Hawthorn Shieldbug Acanthosoma haemorrhoidale a member of the Hemiptera an order of insects most often known as the true bugs. It will overwinter as an adult, often darkening before hibernation and will emerge again in the Spring.

The antennae in Hemiptera are typically five-segmented, although they can still be quite long, as can be seen in this photo.

Hemipterans have sucking/piercing mouthparts. The mandibles and maxillae are sheathed within a modified labium to form a ‘beak’ or ‘rostrum’ called a proboscis. This sharply pointed tube is capable of piercing plant tissues and is used to suck out the liquids – typically sap. When the proboscis is not being used it is folded flat against the underside of the body.

The young are called nymphs and resemble the adults to a degree although they are often mistaken as other insects.

Ashley Wood has produced a series of illustrations showing the life stages of a range of UK shield bugs, which is particularly useful for identifying the immature nymphs and the various instars.

Check it out here.

 

Searching for Arty

Marsh Fritillary caterpillar, third instal

Euphydryas aurinia larva, third instar

It’s taken me two years to find Arty the Marsh Fritillary caterpillar Euphydryas aurinia. I found him when I was out in the Salisbury Plain Training Area searching for larval webs with Mervyn Grist and the Bulford Conservation Group (BCG). Mervyn has been conducting these larval surveys and collecting this important data with the help of the BCG since 2001.

During last year’s survey I didn’t find any. But this year I found three webs, two had been vacated but the second had three tiny black caterpillars inside. One of which is shown above.

The once widespread Marsh Fritillary has declined dramatically throughout Europe and is regarded as endangered or vulnerable in most of its range. The UK is actually one of its remaining strongholds, but even here it has declined by over 60% and has become extinct in much of Britain. However, Salisbury Plain is recognised as an important (and protected) breeding site for the species and fortunately at approx 300 square miles, it’s big, but better than that, it’s right on my doorstep.

Ironically protection for the butterfly has come because the British Army use about 150 square miles of the Plain as a military training area, particularly its heavy artillery and tank units. Subsequently this little butterfly has been nicknamed the ‘artillery fritillary’ or as I call it ‘Arty’. Due to about 340 days of live firing, about 39 square miles are permanently closed to the public, and access is greatly restricted in other areas, although conservation groups like ours can get access on non-firing days, subsequently it’s a wildlife haven and if you like butterflies. A privileged glimpse of what we’ve lost.

The female fritillary will look for Devils-bit scabious Succisa pratensis, crawling down through the vegetation to lay from 150-350 eggs in neat rows on the underside of one of the basal leaves. She seems to have a preference for prominent, medium-sized plants growing in a sunny position. After hatching the caterpillars spin a dense web for protection and after eating the first plant crawl off together to find and spin a web in another. They might do this several times.

Fortunately this makes surveying relatively simple. Spotting the dark purple flowers of ‘devil’s-bit’ is easy enough as is the rather conspicuous larval web. However, there is a lot of scabious on the Plain, which is a good thing, but bending over to check the base of each one, hour after hour, is back-breaking work. Can I just remind you I found 3 webs and 3 caterpillars.

As the caterpillars grow they moult their skin – each of these changes is called an instar. At the third instar they change from greenish-brown to black with a speckling of tiny white spots and rows of short black spines. At the end of August, early September the groups break up and individuals go their separate ways.

The caterpillars will reappear in February or early March after making a new web on a scabious plant where they may be seen clustered together absorbing the warmth of the sun. By early May they will have pupated into a chrysalis and the adults will start to emerge two or three weeks later.

Incidentally the little black dots around the caterpillar are frass (caterpillar poo).

 

 

Roesel’s Bush-cricket

Roesel's Bush-cricket, Metrioptera roeselii, male

Metrioptera roeselii – male

Taking macro photos of insects is as much about luck as anything. But of course you increase your luck by being out there. I was laying on Morgans Hill trying to take a photograph of a grasshopper when this little lady crawled out of the grass allowing me to get this side-on shot. It’s a female Roesel’s Bush-cricket Metrioptera roeselii. You can tell it is a female by the scythe-like ovipositor and that it is Roesel’s by the yellow/green edge to the pronotum and the three spots/patches just behind on the abdomen.

Roesel’s are normally brown or yellow-brown with a hint of green and maybe a touch of red but this may be the rarer green form.

This is a cricket that was rare in Britain prior to the 20th Century and pretty much only found on the South-East coast of England. Since then it has rapidly increased its range in the South, to the North and West possibly helped by the rough grassland found along the sides of many of our roads which have provided it with ‘corridors’ inland.

It favours damp grassland that is relatively undisturbed. The male’s high pitched stridulation is meant to sound like the crackle of overhead electricity cables. Have a listen here thanks to http://www.orthoptera.org.uk

It’s also said to be reminiscent of the song of the Savi’s warbler. You can listen to that here thanks to http://www.rspb.org

Let me know what you think?

 

Adonis Blue

Adonis Blue butterfly, polyommatus bellargus, male

Polyommatus bellargus – male

The photo above of a second generation Adonis Blue Polyommatus bellargus taken at Martin Down in Hampshire shows the typical chequered fringe of the male. This is a butterfly which can only be confused with the male Common Blue Polyommatus icarus but in comparison that has a plain fringe as can be seen here. In my opinion the Adonis Blue is bluer, less purpley and the colour is rather more dense. I’ve found that the wings of the common blue are slightly translucent, so depending on the light, the spots and markings on the underwings can often just show through. You may just about be able to make this out depending on the quality of your monitor.

Adonis in Greek mythology, is the male god of beauty. This is certainly a handsome butterfly, arguably the most attractive of the British blues.

What do you think? Feel free to add your comments below.

Southern belle

Southern comma butterfly, Polygonia egea

Polygonia egea

Following on from my last butterfly post from Kefalonia.

Walking through the village of Assos a new butterfly species introduced itself to me, the Southern Comma Polygonia egea. A paler, less heavily marked (but perhaps slightly brighter orange) version of our native Comma Polygonia c-album. For a comparison see my previous posts a female comma and spiced orange.

Well it certainly liked the heat, happily basking in the full afternoon sun. Usually on the tarmac or on the whitewashed walls, like the one pictured here, caught between the shadows. I noticed that the underside was slightly paler and less cryptically marked than our indigenous species and the characteristic white marking on the underwing was more silvery and less like a comma and more like a squashed letter ‘Y’.

 

The lesser of two weevils

Hazel-leaf roller weevil, apoderus coryli,

Apoderus coryli

Whilst looking for Adonis Blue butterflies on West Yatton Down I discovered this little chap standing on a Hazel leaf. Further investigation revealed it to be a Hazel-leaf roller weevil Apoderus coryli.

It’s a beetle belonging to the family Attelabidae subfamily Attelaninae which are sometimes called giraffe weevils for rather obvious reasons. These primitive insects have a bell-shaped thorax (pronotum) and rather protruding eyes.

Read more

Old World Swallowtail

Swallowtail butterfly, papilio machaon

Papilio machaon

The slight gap in posts is due to the fact that I had to jet off to the Greek island of Kefalonia to fix my good friend Captain Corelli’s mandolin. Whilst staying in the charming harbour village of Assos I was lucky enough to get a photo of this fabulous Old World Swallowtail Papilio machaon and its equally stunning caterpillar, see photo at end of post. All it took was an early morning trek up a mountain to a small fortress built in 1593 by the Venetians.

It may surprise some readers to learn that that this spectacular insect can be seen here in England. Although the British species, Papilio machaon britannicus is restricted to the Norfolk Broads and is now one of our rarest butterflies, partly due to the distribution of the sole larval foodplant, Milk-parsley Peucedanum palustre.

In comparison britannicus is slightly smaller, darker and more strongly marked.

Read more

The lovers

Hamearis lucina – Male and female

Hamearis lucina – Male and female

Inching along the crest of the hillside I approached ‘the hole’ with some trepidation. A somewhat optimistic visit a few weeks earlier had revealed that someone had used a tractor with a rotary cutter to flail the bramble and blackthorn to the ground and deep into the boundary hedge. To say I was a tadge cross would be to put it mildly, I may have even said a naughty word. This after all is ‘the hidden place’ that I’ve sworn to secrecy and as it is one of the few remaining spots in Wiltshire where it is possible to see good numbers of Duke of Burgundy Hamearis lucina and no people, other than the occasional dog walker, it is my entirely selfish intention to keep it so.

Read more