Tuesday, 13 August 2013

Butterflies, Moths, Caterpillars and Parastic Wasps

Mavis has started laying her signature blue eggs again. She also currently has No Tail, being mid-moult after her lengthy broody stint which took up the majority of the summer, and is therefore looking somewhat scruffy. There are stubby signs of the New Tail Developing, and as I am grateful for the eggs I've decided not to tease her too much about it or she'll likely go on strike.


At breakfast this morning I happened to glance out of the window and notice a caterpillar walking slowly up the Wisteria. It is a caterpillar of a Vapourer Moth, which is odd because I have never seen the moth before. Female Vapourers are peculiar in that they don't have much in the way of wings and therefore remain more or less where they hatch, laying their eggs on the cocoon.


An Incredible Person I think you'll agree. Moth caterpillars are more interesting to look at than butterfly ones (on the whole). Talking of which, our Selection Box Of Whites are all growing well. Indeed, they are getting through cabbage at a ridiculous rate, and decimate a leaf virtually before your very eyes...



This is apart from the handful who have, as predicted, turned out to be harbouring parasitic wasps. Best to look away if you are of a delicate nature as the next pic is a rather graphic one of the wasp larvae bursting out of the live caterpillar. Eeewwwww! They take the living caterpillar over, controlling it's movements until they are ready to hatch out, and then the poor pillar person dies.


I checked the box this morning and discovered our first chrysalis, which is exciting. Several of the pillars are heading up onto the sides of the box and some are Sitting Very Still, which is the start of turning themselves into a chrysalis, so I'm hoping to get some pics of the in-between stages because it's fascinating to see. In fact I don't think this one has been all that long since he turned from caterpillar into pupa as you can still see the spots, so I suspect this is a Large White in the making. Once one goes they all start to turn, so it shouldn't be long before the box is full of butterflies.



Talking of chrysalises, I also spotted one hidden among the grasses of Magdalen Hill when we went in search of Painted Ladies (migrant butterflies) at the weekend. We didn't see any Ladies but I was pleased with the chrysalis. I wondered whether it was a moth, but I think on balance a butterfly is more likely as the moths tend to spin silk cocoons around the pupa whereas butterflies have these hardened shells of the chrysalis instead.


Magdalen also yielded this Rather Interesting Owl Pellet (they seem to be a bit like buses for me at the  mo- haven't seen one in months and then two come along in the space of a week). I suspect this is also a Tawny, and presumably the colour is down to blackberries.


We've been rather Blessed With Wildlife in recent weeks. For example, I've seen more crickets this year than any other. This rather smart chap was sitting on the bathroom wall over the weekend. Tiny Body, Enormous Legs.


And of course there are also My Moths, whose numbers seem to have peaked if the last few nights are anything to go by. No new species at all for the first time last night, and I was hoping to get to 300 this year! Oh well, they are still a Joy To Behold regardless.

 Bordered Beauty

Phoenix

M and I took a walk around a section of the Mottisfont Estate this morning, having jettisoned the boys to a friend's house and a field for metal detecting respectively. I was over-joyed to find two small blue butterflies flitting among the grasses. I managed to get close enough to take some pics and I think they are Common Blues. Just Beautiful. I find them totally magical and am still smiling about it. Such dainty little things.




A little further on, near the wheat field, there was also a Fritillary, this one I think is a High Brown, although I find Fritillaries very hard to ID so if anyone knows different please shout! These two today have taken my Butterfly Count for the year so far to 22, out of the 59 native species in the UK plus a few migrants. So I'm not doing too badly for butterflies either.


I was rather taken with the beautiful bright yellow of this flower, which I think is Cat's Ear, or possibly a Hawkbit of some variety. I love the rectangular petals.


 Finally, I'll leave you with a Common Blue resting on some ripe wheat. 



Have a good day all. 

CT :-)

12 comments:

  1. Hi CT Great selection in this post. Glad to hear the hen is laying again. I have heard crickets but not seen one adn your butterflis adn Moths are wonderful. I would love to see a Blue. I am going tothe I.O.W. on Saturday for over 2 weeks so I am hoping I will find more butterflies there.

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    1. Ooh the Isle of Wight is lovely- have you been before? Some gorgeous beaches with interesting rock pools and footprints of dinosaurs in the rock. You'll love it I'm sure.

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  2. The Common Blue is beautiful.
    You will be popular, not, for hatching out all those cabbage whites...

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    1. Too true! Despite my best efforts of removing caterpillars and hatching them off the veg patch plants the remaining brassicas have been pretty much gobbled up anyway. Evidently it's a Very Good Year for Whites :-)

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  3. Very interesting post CT with all sorts of things you would not normally see. Love the crysalis and the gory parasites-fabulous to see this! Although I am of course sad for the caterpillar. I have a caterpillar image to post, I found it on one of the silver birches when I was removing the sawfly. Just a bit behind with posts now. Rescued a seagull chick this morning though, so am happy I found it and its back with its family (The MDs).

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    1. The Collins insect book has a useful section on caterpillars, if you haven't already found it. My general thinking on them is that the more interesting/ hairy/ spiky/ unusual they are the more likely they are to be moths in the making. Looking forward to seeing yours.

      V pleased re the seagull chick- what would they do without you I wonder? :-)

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  4. Love the Common Blue - haven't seen one yet this year - I need to get out more!!! Love watching your caterpillars progressing - lots of Large and Small Whites in our garden too this year and its been a great year for Peacocks :)

    My moth trap last weekend was full mainly of well worn lbj's - a nightmare to id!

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    1. Really hoping one or two might be green veined to relieve the smalls and larges!

      I think the moths are between ancient ones and the new batches at the mo- we've def had a mix of doddery old blokes and fresh young things this week :-)

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  5. I'm glad you're getting Mavis' blue eggs again. Lovely moths again, and butterflies, too. I do love the blues, they are so beautiful. And I'm fascinated by your fritillary. Your ID could be right; I wouldn't know if it was a High Brown or Dark Green without seeing the under-wings. It is a lovely creature.

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    1. I wondered about the dark green, I don't think the underside was all that different from the top if memory serves.

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  6. Wonderful! We have a large number of caterpillars on our kale. They have eaten pretty much, the whole lot! Maybe we shall have to buy them some cabbage and pop them in a box to watch them as you are. However, I fear that they may be eaten by a certain pup who goes by the name of Bracken and I wouldn't want to be held accountable for the demise of any pillar people as you so wonderfully name them!

    I absolutely adore blue butterflies! Some of the commons are so tiny!

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    1. It's amazing how quickly they go through growing veg. We have no brassicas left at all having been away for a week. Worth putting them in a pot- they are fascinating things to watch develope. Perhaps have a word with Bracken beforehand though!

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Thank you for leaving a comment. I always enjoy reading them and will try my best to reply to every one. CT x