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...


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...


  1. Well as ever, everything was most certainly of interest, and illustrated with cracking images too!

    Especially love the Wasp beetle and the Cockchafer!

    But how could anyone not say WOW to that Eyed HM?? What a fantastic looking creature! Beautiful photos!

    So fortuitous that you went to the Buff tips' enclosure when you did. They're also rather beautiful and it's great to see them 'pumping up' into their flying form.

    Love the wasp! I might be tempted to go so far as suggesting Ophion species... but as you say, they're not easy!

    Thank you for another superb blog entry!


  2. Wow, love them all, great images. Amazing luck with the Buff Tip emerging at that very moment, wonderful series.
    Was going to suggest Ophion for the wasp, since I commonly get them in the moth trap too-I see Maria has beaten me to it.

  3. Thanks for your visit and comments Stevie. I will check out the suggestion for the wasp, sounds good.
    Yes, the Buff Tip was fortunate and the turned out to be even more attractive than I had imagined having not seen them up close before.

  4. I always capture and releases the Ichneumon wasps that fly in my house from the porch light or open windows. They are nocturnal and very docile. Just let them climb on a paper plate and shake out the window slightly.

    Great page, like identifying insects

    1. Thanks for your comment Michael. Yes, I know these wasps have a perceived fierceness about them, but I have never had any problems and they are great looking things. Just had another one in my latest moth trap...


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