Saturday, 31 May 2014

Week 19, Extra: Carpet, Muslin & a little Gem

Not the contents of my living room but a few of the captivating critters around Box Moor. After the rain at the start of the week, I managed a couple of outings, targeting moths in particular. With some 2400 possible UK species, and less than 30 on my found list, the odds are in my favour to experience the thrill of a new discovery.....every time I go out! It is strangely addictive.

However, before I get to the moths, it is a bug to rival any jewel that Mr FabergĂ© could create. The tiny but beautiful Woundwort shieldbug. It is, of course, a member of the True Bug (Hemiptera) order (no Fake Bugs peddled on this blog thank you). It is a bona fide gem of nature, which was once rare in the UK but numbers have since grown. This one was at the Bovingdon Brickworks site. However, Martin Parr has also found them at the Gadespring cressbeds, a site which is not yet open to the public but which has an “Open Day” tomorrow 11am - 2pm. See the Box Moor Trust website for details.

Martin is one of two Conservation Managers at the Maple Lodge nature reserve near Rickmansworth, but he is also very kindly carrying out some informal survey work for the Box Moor Trust. He introduced me to the shieldbug species earlier this month and, so, it was all the more rewarding to finally find one. The only downside was that it was deep in dark undergrowth, so, in order to photograph it, I had to lift it out. I would have preferred a natural setting but my finger had to suffice. Anyway, back to the sheildbug: “There is one generation per year; the nymphs feed on hedge woundwort (Stachys sylvatica) and sometimes other plants...such as white dead-nettle. New adults may be found from August onwards.” Keep your eyes peeled!

Next up, who could resist an ivory cloak with black spots, accessorised with an extravagant, white feather ruffle!? Not me, that's for sure. Another Brickworks find, an elegant female Muslin moth (Diaphora mendica) that looked positively strokable (is that even a word?!). The male is a grey-brown colour and is nocturnal. The female gets out and about during the day, soaking up the sunshine (sensible lady). The larval food plants are “dock, dandelion, heathers, chickweed, plantains, Purple-moor grass and Eared Sallow”. It isn’t rare but was a joy to find, and, it actually sat still for photographs, which made it all the more satisfying. [Better reproductions can be found in a set on Flickr here]

Now, to the Common Carpet moth (Epirrhoe alternata). It’s not difficult to see how it acquired its name. It’s widespread i.e. “common”, and it looks like, well, a 1970’s carpet (what? It does!). I think it is mostly nocturnal but “is easily flushed in the daytime”. This one was at Roughdown Common.

A couple of other moths, photographed in the drizzle at Dellfield. The Yellow-barred Long-horn (Nemophora degeerella) (look at those antennae!) and the tiny (6mm long) Diamond-back moth (Plutella xylostella).
  • Longhorn fact: This is probably a male, judging by the length of the antenna (i.e. long! (and I am resisting all smutty jokes)). 
  • Diamond-back fact: it only lives 14 days.

    Long-horn (Nemophora degeerella)
    Long-horn (Nemophora degeerella)
    Diamond-back (Plutella xylostella)

Finally, the prize for the most curious find of the week goes to this

    Side 1
    Side 2

It was approx 1cm long, “hairy” and obviously “plugged into” the willow (Salix fragilis) leaf. In fact, it’s probably the larval casing of a Coleophora lusciniaepennella moth. Basically, inside that tightly compressed casing, created from the leaf, is a developing larva. As it grows, it constructs new cases in which to live. It feeds by attaching to the leaf and “mining” for nutrients. At this stage it’s still feeding but will soon enter the pupation phase, when feeding stops and metamorphosis occurs. The adult moth emerges June or July. It’s an incredible process these little creatures go through!

Birding moments of note this week at the Brickworks: I not only heard but saw the male Cuckoo singing; a stunning male Bullfinch perched in the open but not long enough to photograph unfortunately, and I heard my first Brickworks Willow Warbler.

1 comment:

Martin Parr said...

Another great entry Lucy! Had never heard of Coleophora, and I love the Muslin moth, a great find! Glad to see you caught up with the shieldbug, great pics, not seen this at Bovingdon yet - but did find a sloe shieldbug and a Eurygaster testudinaria there on Friday. Will send pics shortly. Cheers for the Maple Lodge link and name check!

Kind regards, Martin