Thursday, September 05, 2013

Another blog update, another mystery?

Well for a change I can start this update by answering some queries, rather than posing some...

From my last update then.

Let's try and run these in order; the moth eggs that emerged on thistle. I had no clue from the tiny instar at that stage what they might be. Well my friend Jason Elmore suggested that it may be an early instar of the Dark Dagger moth, and that did look quite close, but once they had moulted a couple more times, it became clear what they actually were-Knotgrass larvae...

That fits too with thistle being a foodplant and so hopefully that one has been resolved. Even so, if you disagree please feel free to let me know and I'll be more than willing to eat humble pie-I have plenty left yet.

Next are those 'silky sputniks' that we thought might be constructed by spiders. I can now reveal that having spent w-a-a-a-a-a-y too long for my own good observing them, they are indeed spider creations...

Not much of a photo I know but the evidence is there as we go through the keyhole.."Who would live in a house like this?" Awe...such a shame about     David Frost.

A couple of, even worse, cropped shots of the teeny spiders that emerged...

And so at least we can now be secure in the knowledge of being confident these are spider structures, even if the species is still in doubt.

I did find another similar looking 'nest' recently...

Hmmm...doesn't look all that similar now that I look at it again but, you get the idea-similar enough?

Lastly from my previous update, Jason E. was wondering if the eggs I found that had turned red prior to the larvae emerging could have been Oak Hook-tip?

I would never normally have been able to say with any confidence that they weren't , but I actually trapped an oak hook-tip moth a while ago and whilst in the trap overnight, it produced a few eggs that I managed to photograph and they have a different structure to the ones in my last update...

If they were not oak hook-tip, then what were they? I think I said that I hadn't managed any photos that were worthy of including at the time, well I'll share what I did get-these are when the larvae had just emerged and were,I guess around 2-3mm in length at that time...

And now? They look like this...

Looking very striking now they have moulted and grown but other than now knowing they are geometrids, or loopers, not much wiser-there's always the next update though.


Staying with caterpillars and larvae for a bit, I saw and photographed another of those fluffy little sawfly larva that I saw on alder last year around this time...

It's the larva of the woolly alder sawfly (Eriocampa ovata) 

This isn't my attempt to corner the market in oddities but, here's (above) 'The Vapourer' that I always think looks oriental?

Another? Okay, if you insist-how about this mega hairy beast...

What we have here is the Pale Tussock that can be found from July to October, feeding on oak, birch, lime, or hop leaves; although less lightly to be seen in hop gardens these days, as there aren't many left. Hop gardens that is, not moths or their larvae.

Before I put caterpillars to bed, so to speak...this was a real treat for me and I hope will be the same for you. I was able to watch an Elephant Hawk-moth lava munching away at rosebay willow-herb and caught it on video...

A reminder here that this video won't show in the e.mail version of my blog

And a full length shot reveals that this is quite a beast-I measured the length of this particular specimen at 80mm. As you can see, it was extremely wet from the overnight dew when I first found it...

It seems to be a bit of a tradition now to include at least one unknown oddity per update and so I guess I had better keep tradition alive by adding one here, as we are approaching the end of this missive?

Too large to be a ladybird pupa and I don't think my original thought of some kind of gall is right either, but what do you think?

Oh! Just before I take my leave-I wanted to mark the fact that 2013 has been a bumper year for clouded yellow butterflies, even to the extent of finding one in my local woods one day...

I had to chase this around for sometime before it allowed me a photo and they are very strong fliers too. What shocked me though, was just how brutal all the other species were towards it. Each time the yellow descended from the trees to nectar, it was harassed by pretty well all of the other butterflies. I watched as it was hounded by large white-comma-peacock-meadow brown-brimstone-green veined white and even a small copper that looked ridiculous compared to the size of the clouded yellow but still saw it off.

I wondered what it was that allowed every other butterfly species to share and yet, all were united against this stranger.

'Time gentlemen please' or you'll still be reading this when I publish my next update. Until the next time then...


  1. Superb again JJ! Pleased that you found the answer to those sputniks and also the eggs and larvae!
    Love the eleHK photo and munching footage too! Amazing!

    Your question on the what is it, leads me to ask, what was it on? ;-)

    What about those 1,400 Rambur's shieldbugs being found??? Incredible isn't it?
    Off to Cornwall on Sunday for a week! :-)



    1. Hello Maria, Yes, always nice to be able to resolve something for certain (ish)...
      I didn't include the plant for that....'thing' 'cos I wasn't sure if I remembered right-I thought it was alder but could be wrong! Helpful eh?

      Yes, seems as thought this bug is more widespread than we first thought. Still haven't found anymore here after my initial find in 2011 (Benenden).

  2. Yep, me again! I saw this and thought of you! ;-)

    1. I also saw this on Yahoo I think and until I looked closer at the photo, thought it was one of those rings of.....erm....sperm! That springtails construct and then the females have to negotiate...could see that it is something completely different and intriguing though.

    2. Oh...forgot to say, enjoy Cornwall...

  3. Thanks JJ! Will have a think about the 'mystery' gall/cocoon (yours I mean!)

    Thanks for your wishes too! :-)


  4. Hello JJ.
    Looks like my ID's were up to the usual standard then. I won't make excuses, although I can think of plenty if I need to !! The loopers all look the same to me so no help on that on, (not that I was a lot of help in the first place !!)

    Not even gonna attempt the spider ID, to many look the same at that stage, but if you get some shots when they're older, I'll have a go at getting it wrong. Would love to find a Pale Tussock caterpillar though.

    Hope your well.


  5. Hey were willing to try at least-I get so confused that often don't even get that far. It's a tricky business for us amateurs to get right and I'm just grateful that you are interested.

    Yes, those Pale Tussock are quite something eh?

  6. Wow, what a great post. I loved the elephant eating video!! Big smiles on that one. The link Maria left is very ineresting as well, what a specacular 'thing'...

    Hope you're well!

  7. Thank-you Crystal. Yes Maria is a great source of information and knowledge, much as yourself :-) I am very well thanks, if a tad busy...hope all's well with you too.

  8. Stunning photography as always & a very interesting read, i agree about the Clouded yellows and i was lucky enough to find a place where there were a few and easy to get close too.
    Hope your keeping well.

    1. Hi Mark-good to hear from you and I hope you are well also. I must try and find your C.Yellow shots then.


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