Sunday, June 30, 2013

Caterpillar sheds its skin to find a butterfly within...

A couple of weeks ago whilst out walking in the sunshine,I came across a stand of nettles at the edge of a footpath and spotted some small tortoiseshell butterfly caterpillars grouped together, as they do when they are recently emerged.

CLICK ON ANY IMAGE FOR A LARGER VIEW




I was intrigued as I watched them doing something that seems to be a kind of collective defense mechanism, to warn of potential predators-that is, this 'twitching' movement...


The usual reminder here that you will not see these videos in an e.mailed version of the blog-you will need to visit direct.

video

Anyhow,I decided that as there were quite a few, I'd take home a small amount to observe and try to photograph through to the butterflies emerging.

By day 7 of watching the caterpillars feeding on fresh nettle that I provided each day, they began to step up their intake...and output come to that, as they began to consume as much as possible before pupation.

Overnight on the seventh and early on the 8th day, they all became golden pupae...



They really are one of nature's many wonders...



And so the constant replacing of food plant and cleaning out of the daily 'frass' had come to an end and now they were to remain motionless until the next stage of metamorphosis was done. Well, no actually! I had read that even at this stage it was possible for movement to be observed and had even seen the occasional twitch myself.

I wasn't prepared for what I witnessed next though....I have never seen this amount of movement before...

video

This is only a short clip from the video I took, the whole thing is over 10 minutes long and even then, there were other similar bouts during the same day and into the next.

As the time for the butterflies to emerge grew ever closer, the change in colour of the pupae became very noticeable and even the wing colour could be seen...



I set up the camera to try and catch one emerging and began a vigil to ensure I was ready. Several cups of coffee and toilet breaks later, followed by a period of about one hour's uninterrupted close quarter study and my patience was rewarded...

video

Once again,the video above is only a clip from the original to allow it to load on the blog in a reasonable amount of time. What a magical thing to be able to see at close range though...a real privilege.

There followed a period of twisting and pumping by the butterfly to inflate its wings fully that took quite a while, but eventually it began to resemble the insect we all know...


Eventually it began to exercise its wings in preparation for a maiden flight and I then placed it in the sun to warm itself fully. I took the following photograph, moments before that happened and it disappeared from sight...



I can report that not only did all of the caterpillars I brought home become beautiful small tortoiseshell butterflies, but having released them in a secluded local spot, I have since seen at least one happily sunning itself at the same location.

That's all for this time, until the next update, thanks for your interest,see you again very soon...

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Strangely strange....

Some blog posts will suit certain folks...and others not. I would suggest that if you have a fear of spiders,or even, photos of spiders, then this one may be a 'not' for you! You have been warned.....

Having said all that, these,to my mind anyhow,are the cuties of the spider world and one of my favourite species...I speak of the Jumping Spiders.

I was lucky enough to find a pair of what I think may be Evarcha species? (don't hold me to that) and the........mating... was quite......energetic...




Well,that's something you won't see everyday...and here's another...

This is the 'birth' of tiny hoverfly larvae...


Click on any photo for a larger image





The eggs that these emerged from are only a couple of millimetres in length and so you can see how small the larvae themselves are.

I also came across another larva, this one was green...



And then, a couple of firsts for 2013 to follow. My first Common Blue Butterfly and also a Tortoise Bug...









And so to the 'stranger than strange' section for this update...

I love seeking out the odd or unusual in the natural world and here are a couple of offerings that illustrate this beautifully?




I think this one pictured above is the larva of the cereal leaf beetle. I have found these before and although this one differs a tad in colour/pattern, I reckon it must be the same species.

Second one is...well..is, more of a mystery at this stage. The only thing I can say at this stage is that, I have found something very similar before and although I was unable to come up with an identity, somebody was kind enough to offer a possible i.d. but...I can no longer find either the photo, or the identity...



More? Okay then...try this minute.....thing!


This one was just about 2mm I guess. May even be a connection to the one above? So many questions, and so little time...

Erm..as I began with spiders I think it's only fair to make sure that my arachnid warning was worthwhile and so I'll add this crab spider as well.


This was a bit of an experiment-one of those days when I left the macro lens at home in favour of an old 35mm film lens that I used with extension tubes. I was quite impressed with the detail and given it was just natural light, a reasonable result?

As for the condition of my little pinky? What can I say? The horrors of macro photography...if you look really closely you can see the top edge of my finger is missing a slice! That happened when I removed it whilst attempting to cut hardboard with a Stanley knife! It was a long time ago...I'm better now!

Eeeeek! This is all getting a little weird...I'll wind things up for this entry with something a bit nicer...


This colourful caterpillar is the larva of a micro moth-Depressaria daucella I think? If it isn't...then I am not to blame as I pinched the identity from somewhere else as I originally thought it was a sawfly larva....anyhow, that's it for now, toodle-pip!


Addition: 27/06/13

I don't normally so this but I'm adding a photo to clarify a point about the mystery bug....This is the one that was moving Maria...might help?



Friday, June 07, 2013

Watch out for the Billy Witches...

I mentioned in my last update to the blog that I was going to try and find a leaf-roller weevil in action. In other words, actually rolling a hazel leaf.

Well...I have to report that I have not yet manged that, but did find a freshly rolled leaf-and so at least I now know that they have started on the process of rolling the hazel leaves that will become home to the next generation of larvae...

              

My local woodland is now reaping the benefits of the coppicing that took place a couple of years ago, and the rides are full of wild flowers and in particular buttercups...


On my last visit,I noticed that these were attracting cantharis beetles. I counted thirty in one area alone...

CLICK ON ANY PHOTO FOR LARGE VIEW ON BLACK


The fabulous wasp beetles were also buzzing around the buttercups as well...



Although these beetles mimic the marking of a wasp, they are completely harmless and are usually happy to pose for photos. Although,I think this one was trying to shake a leg?

If you are one of my readers that dislikes spiders, and I know there are a few...perhaps you might consider skipping the next photo? Although, to my eyes, these are kinda cute!


I think these are probably Araneus species spider-lings  At this stage they bear little resemblance to the adults with this yellow colouring.

Another insect that seems to be around in larger than usual numbers is the snipe fly. These are quite large as flies go and look at first glance, a little like the big robber flies...


Snipe flies of the genus 'Rhagio (which I think this one is) are sometimes called 'down-looker' flies, after their habit of perching head-downward on tree trunks etc.


The news from my garden moth trap is that I seem to be catching fewer than earlier in the year, as far as numbers go. There have been some interesting finds though. I recently had this visitor...

A Common Cockchafer (Melolontha melolontha)
This is the cockchafer or 'May Bug' or even.. Spang Beetle, or 'Billy Witch'.
I think this may be a male? You are supposed to be able to tell male from female by counting the number of 'leaves' on those fantastic looking antennae. Males sport seven,whilst females have six. I am sure that looking closely at the antennae on the right of this picture, I can just about make out seven?

These beetles were abundant once upon a time. That is until the dreaded pesticides were introduced. However, since the new regulations, they are making a comeback.

But the real star of the year so far must surely be this next beauty...

An Eyed Hawk Moth

This took my breath away. What a moth this is. It is a big insect and wings open, measured well in excess of 3" The colouring and markings and texture are superb and when it opens its wings to reveal those eye-spots...Wow!






You might just recall from last year (although, why should you?) that I had some caterpillars of the buff-tip moth that pupated...



I had my doubts as to whether I had managed to keep any of them successfully through the winter months, I kept a close check on them and things didn't look good. Come early spring I felt a few of them for signs of movement but most seemed hard and lifeless.

I had given up hope by late May and decided to clean out the container that housed them. Lucky for me that I did because, on opening the top, right at that very moment, there was a moth emerging for one of the pupae; I grabbed my camera and took some photos...

A Buff-tip Moth just out of its pupa


Once fully recovered from the effort of emerging and having sat for almost 3 hours, just drying out and inflating its wings, the moth looked like this...


Eventually it folded its wings into the recognised resting position, along it's back and the full beauty of this creature and superb camouflage became obvious...



                                               

I am so pleased that I managed to keep these and had the privilege of observing the whole life-cycle, other than the egg stage. Since the day this one emerged, I have had a further 4 that I've been able to release.

The only other thing of note, besides the sparse amount of moths in the trap (which by the way I have added to the diary page,but still need to identify most of) is this wasp...


I had three of these one night in the trap. I think they are Ichneumon wasps but wouldn't like to go further than that. They are parasitic wasps and can be tricky to identify fully.

I seem to have lots of new things I could add to the blog,and may even have got a little out of sequence with some finds but, I think that'll do for this time and I'll try and update again soon. I hope once again that you have found something of interest in this latest entry and, as always, thank-you for your interest.

Until the next time then...