Thursday, 8 August 2013

A Game Of Cat And Dog, Moths, Beetles, Butterflies And Mulberry Vodka

Cleo (or the White Faerie Queen as she is more properly titled) is now 14. She came to me as a kitten from a rescue centre and has been with me through thick and thin. She pre-dates Ted, of whom she is not a fan, and if he gets half a chance he chases her. They therefore live fairly mutually exclusive lives so what follows is fairly unusual. To see the two of them choosing to lie down in the same garden in close proximity to one another at the same time is unheard of, and worthy of photographic proof, even if, as the pictures show, they weren't entirely relaxed, and each was definitely aware of the other, although they were doing their best to pretend otherwise....

 "Ahh, this is the life. Relaxing in the sun on my wall. And no sign of that bloody dog anywhere to spoil things..."

"What's that you say? He's over there?"

"If I lie here very, very still, she won't even notice me, but I'll keep an eye open, just in case there's a Chasing Opportunity..."

 "Ha! Take that, dog! Look how fierce my fangs are. Very Fierce Cat Indeed. Not A Cat To Be Messed With. Or Chased. At All."

"Oh there she goes again. But I can't be bothered to chase her now, think I'll just go back to sleep."

"Ha! That worked. The bugger's gone back to sleep. There is No Doubt About Who's In Charge Around Here."

I did my Butterfly count yesterday which revealed different butterfly activity in the front and back gardens. The back had brimstones, gatekeepers and a peacock...

Male Brimstone on Corn Cockle
Male Brimstone on Everlasting Sweet Pea

And the front (where the bigger veg patch containing the cabbages is located) had Large and Small Whites, and a Comma sunning himself on the tree leaves.

Small White on Common Fleabane

  Comma on Indian Bean Tree Leaf

The Butterfly Count runs till Aug 11th so there is still time for you to take part if you want to, and you can do it as many times as you like. It's been interesting to do a few (they're in 15 min batches) at different times of the day over a period of a week or so and in different weathers and compare results.

I have started to make the Mulberry Vodka. We're off to Gran's this afternoon to raid the tree for more berries. Mulberries ripen at different times so when they are ready (a lovely deep reddy/ purpley colour) I just add the berries to the bottle (plus sugar which I've already put in) as and when, then when I think there are enough, give it a good shake every now and then but essentially leave it for a couple of months in a dark place (usually till mid-winter or Christmas time). The vodka goes a gorgeous red/ purple colour and it's a very warming drink to stave off the chilly winter evenings. If I remember I'll post some pics of it when it's ready. Yum!

I've seen a couple of flying insects that I'm struggling to ID. Lou I think you might be the person to ask, or praps Suzie in possession of her Fine New Insect Book?

  Bit worried this is the one you had on your blog this week Lou that eats moths?!

Is this an Ichneumon variety? The tail didn't look quite right, or indeed the eye position, for that to me. Beautiful wings though, like stained glass minus the bright colours.

*Update. I very much fear this is an Ophion Luteus, or Yellow Ophion, who lays eggs INSIDE moths caterpillars!!!!!

Staying on the insect theme but rather distressingly I'm afraid, this lovely Silpha Atrata beetle (who eats snails) was in the Moth Box today. I took a rubbish photo of him this morning so got him out to take some better ones just now and to my horror, discovered this.....

His head and upper torso area is absolutely covered in red mites.
Yuk. Vile things.
I thought he was dead but then he moved! So I have put him outside, not being sufficiently Beetle Savvy to know whether this is something he can survive or not, and not wanting to bump him off if he can. I can't say it looks good though. Poor creature. Aren't they horrible?

Talking of insects, look what else was in the Moth Box this morning!!!!

TWO bloomin hornets.
I realised something was up before I got to the Moth Box because I could see the moths buzzing about inside in a distressed way that isn't normal. As soon as I scooped the hornets out (what a brave woman! I hear you cry) they all settled down and fell fast asleep, so no real harm done. It's a right old pain if they are going to start coming into the box though.

I think it's time to look at some nicer things, so here are a selection of today's moths.

A lovely Pebble Hooktip

The rather romantically named Dark Sword Grass, which is a new moth for me

A Lesser Yellow Underwing: brown until she flashes her under-skirts which are bright yellow/ orange

Dun-Bar, a very variable moth in terms of colour and shading, but always with the same lines and central dots

A very furry and sleepy Lobster Moth resting on some pink bunting!

Six-Striped Rustic
(rather striking I thought)

Dark Sword Grass head on and with one antennae missing. Hope he'll be able to find his way around like that, poor thing.

A twiggy Pale Prominent

Furry Peppered Moth, head on

The next two are to show you the difference between the Swallow Prominent and the Lesser Swallow Prominent moths, who look identical until you notice the white "triangles" on the wing. The Swallow Prominent (above) has narrow, long and thin white triangles at the back of the wing, the first of which reaches more than half way across the wing towards the head.

The white triangles on the Lesser Swallow Prominent (located just above this writing at the back of the wing) are much shorter and don't reach half-way across the wing. Easy when you know how (!).

Two more for illustrative purposes- Pale Prominent Male (above) and Female (below). They can be differentiated by the tuft sticking out at the back of the male- this is absent in the female, who has a smooth bottom (no rude comments please).

No Moth Box tonight- they need a rest and L and I are meeting old friends tomorrow so I will have no time to go through them. Friday night will have to be my Moth Night for counting and recording purposes. Small children arrive tea time on Saturday so I will need to find somewhere safe to put the moths until they wake up! (the moths, not the children). I wonder how M would feel about having them and the caterpillars in our bedroom? It won't be the first time he's come back to discover wildlife in various states of rescue asleep in our room, so I don't suppose he'll mind!

I hope all are well and enjoying the day, we're off to hunt mulberries....

Till next time,

CT :-)


  1. I would not fancy being trapped in a moth box with a hornet....poor moths....and brave you! Funny you should mention my new insect book as it's right next to me. I thought it might be a wasp of some sort but the nearest thing I can find is a sawfly. Beautiful moths and the six-striped rustic is sunning.

  2. I've just found the red one :-( It's an Ophion Luteus or Yellow Ophion and lays it's eggs INSIDE moth caterpillars!!!!!!!!!!

  3. Which moth is it that nibbles my clothes. Or is it a caterpillar?

    1. It's only the common clothes moth that eats fabric (well, actually it's their caterpillars), so you're safe with all the others :-)

  4. Actually, bugs can be really disgusting, can't they? Living on each other and in each other and all other sorts of yukkiness (note my use of the double 'k' form of yuck to reinforce my overall disgust at the yuck of it all.)

    I hate seeing varroa mites on honey bees. I want to invent the world's tiniest tweezers to be able to pick them off without damaging the bee. And don't get me started on ticks. (Shudders.)

    And may I make a polite request? Can you put a 'HORNET WARNING' sign atop your lovely posts so I can brace myself should one appear all of a sudden-like? Many thanks for your kind co-operation in this delicate matter!! X

    1. If you see "HWFD" on the post title you'll know to prepare for hornets, (because that will mean Hornet Warning For Denise, in case you were wondering). Actually, I think we've all had enough of hornets this week so unless there is a Truly Remarkable Hornet Occurrence over the next few days I'm not planning on posting any more of them.

      Are you alright with owl pellets, because I do have one of those for the next post? A Tawny, if that helps, and free of bones as far as I can see, although it has got lots of beetle bits in it, and some dried grass (for digestion, or one of their 5 a day I suppose).

      I think teeny weeny tweezers for insect-type people are a great idea. If you make some I will buy a pair :-)

  5. Terrific photos. Lovely Teddy looks very relaxed and it's good to hear there's peace between him and Cleo. I love the butterflies, I don't think I've ever seen a Brimstone in my garden. Poor beetle, those little mite creatures are horrible (and as I'm typing this a moth has just appeared and is crawling over my computer - to get a better look, perhaps?!)

    1. Ted was so relaxed he'd virtually sunk into the lawn. Cleo tolerates him in that superior way cats apply to everyone who isn't them :-)

      I don't think I've ever seen a Brimstone till this year, but that may be because I am paying butterflies more attention than I ever have.

      I felt terrible for that poor beetle, uncertain what the best thing to do for him was :-(

      Love the fact a moth was trying to help with your typing! I think they must know you are a moth lady too, from the encounters you get :-)

  6. Some great photos there CT and lovely moths and butterflies. Felt really sorry for the beetle though :( I haven't put out moth trap for a week - mainly due to overnight rain being forecast but it will hopefully be out tonight.

    I can imagine the Mulberry vodka will be rather delicious :)

    (Btw Hornet flew into car as I opened door - had to encourage it to leave before driving off!!!!!)

    1. Very glad to hear it didn't appear as you were driving- that would have been terrible. I would imagine even the bravest among us would baulk at driving calmly with a hornet loose in the car!

      I also felt awful for the beetle- I didn't want to put him out of his misery if the encounter with the mites was survivable, but also didn't want to leave him suffering. Horrible situation.

  7. Sorry I have only just got round to reading this! I'm touched that you felt I may have been able to help :) I guess you weren't too happy to find that this odd insect preyed upon your beloved moths, but I guess everything has it's place in the circle of life!

    Those hornets are mighty scary looking!

    Ted looks so very relaxed, maybe he could teach Bracken a thing or two about the kind of behaviour which keeps me happy!

    1. Hey Lou :-)

      Everything has its place in nature for sure.

      Will have a word with Teddy about sending calming down thoughts to Bracken. This will work as long as there are no pigeons about!! :-)


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