Saturday, August 24, 2013

Don't waste your walk chatting on the phone...

The countryside isn't an extended office-get off your phone and watch what your dog is doing, stop it from messing on the footpath and from pestering people (me) who want to experience the surroundings in solitude.....

Did I say that out-loud? I was just letting off steam...

I should begin this update with a reflection on my last-you might remember it was partly about some fox moth caterpillars that I had discovered as eggs and had assumed they had reached maturity as larvae...

Well that turned out to be quite wrong as they continued to feed and grow and now have evolved into something quite different...

As well as being hirsute,I have also learnt that this colouration is referred to as rufous, meaning reddish-brown and is actually used as an adjective name for many animals, and in particular birds. It's also where the name of the moth is derived I guess.

A spider....Oh! Spider alert for those who are averse here...a spider that I have been seeing fairly regularly of late is the crab spider Misumena vatia...

These are remarkably able to change colour from white to yellow, although I have read this can take up to 20 days with the reverse only taking 6 days. 

It's thought that this species lives for no more than 2 years and so, let me think...20 days to change, 6 to change back...erm......over 2 years, only 28 times max?

These spiders don't spin a web to catch their prey-rather they use the colour change/camouflage trick and then grab their prey with front legs that have tiny hooks at the tip. Then, instead of wrapping the prey in silk as many spiders do, they will (here comes the gory bit) hold the prey and suck all of its bodily fluids dry.

And so what is the web/silk in my photo above? Well this is a female and I know that they use silk to protect their eggs (yes, these spiders lay eggs) and so I assume that's what's going on here and she is protecting her offspring.


Having been lucky enough to see painted lady butterflies this summer,I began searching for evidence of egg laying on thistle. It was always a long shot and I found none, but did discover more moth eggs...

A few days later these extremely small caterpillars began emerging...

Having moulted at least once (not quite sure how many times) they looked like this...

I'm sure you won't be too surprised when I tell you that I have no idea of identity at this stage,
 but will try and keep observing to see if later instars provide better clues.

     I did come across another couple of eggs that I am sure are moth...

They turned this amazing red colour just before hatching...

What emerged however, was not bright red larvae but...well...I have to be honest here and say that I've failed to get any photos that I am happy with as yet-but as soon as I do, I'll post here...


A couple of strange ones now-something unexpected that I found on alder and has been puzzling me ever since. This little bug? Parasitised somehow or is it as simple as it hasn't emerged properly? 

All I can really add is that it was still alive at this stage but didn't make the following day. I did see something similar a few years ago, but that involved a fly-I have tried to locate that picture but my filing system is less than perfect chance!

Again, with this next 'thing' I have photographed one before but didn't get a positive i.d. at the time, with most people thinking it was spider related...

It was only around 15mm or so across and woolly looking. It was firmly attached to the underside of the leaf and there was no sign of activity close by. Tell you what...if I find out what this is for sure I'll tell you, as long as you tell me if you already know?

Enough for now, just to add that for anyone who follows my monthly article in print, I promised to provide a full list of butterfly species spotted within half a mile of home this year...

They are, in no particular order, to date:

Common Blue
Speckled Wood
Red Admiral
White Admiral
Large White
Small White
Green-veined White
Silver-washed Fritillary
Small Tortoiseshell
Small Copper
Green Hairstreak
Large Skipper
Small Skipper
Orange Tip
Holly Blue
Painted Lady
Clouded Yellow

Until the next time...


  1. Exquisite macro shots JJ. Love your Foxmoth Catp. Stunning. I hatched some from eggs in my moth trap one year and reared them to this stage. I set them free after, as I heard they were difficult to overwinter and didn't want to take the chance of losing them. I guess I got too attached! Tho I took some images, I wish I'd taken more. But hey, I can enjoy yours instead.

    1. Thanks for your comment. How interesting that you also raised some of these...I may well release mine too as I also read they can be tricky to overwinter...

  2. Hello JJ,
    Just a quick one, getting late, early start, the eggs and caterpillars you found on thistle look like early instar of the Dark Dagger.
    The colours in yours are a lot richer but the bumps and hairs look right.


    1. Thanks for this Jason, will check that out. I am guessing the colours are richer as these are early instars? Or maybe the flash?

  3. How right you are JJ. People miss so much of nature whilst being on their phones. Almost daily I witness people walking their dogs and using their phones. How terribly sad that these people miss out on so many tiny wonders of nature. Fantastic photos and very informative. Thank you. :)

    1. So true...we are all different I suppose but, to quote Jim Morrison...'People are strange'

  4. Fascinating blog again JJ! Superb shots too.
    It certainly raises more questions than I could find an answer to! Lol!

    The bug nymph does look as though it hasn't emerged properly... strange anyway!

    Love those eggs on the thistle. Stunning structures!

    Found lots of those silky 'sputniks' this year, and uploaded a shot to iSpot in the hope of getting an ID, but seems nobody knows! Lol! I thought spider, but not sure. Guess the only real way to know is to rear them out.

    Oh and quite right to let off steam! I totally empathise with your sentiments too! ;-)


    1. Thanks for your interest as always Maria...yes those structures may well be spider but still no wiser-maybe,as you say, need to keep one to observe.

    2. I'll leave that one to you then JJ, just in case they are spiders!! ;-)

  5. Hello again,
    Just been looking for an ID on a caterpillar I found, when I saw a photo of some moth eggs that had gone from creamish to red, like the ones you have a photo of. Could be yours are Oak Hook Tip ~ Watsonalla binaria? Can't be many that go that colour !!


    1. Hello again Jason. Thanks for thinking of me when you came across the information. I don't think these are Oak Hook-tip eggs though because I have some photos of those and the eggs are different. I will publish in my next update in a few days so that you can compare.


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