Wednesday 20 June 2018

Home Patch - Ladybird, Moth Larva and ?Bee

For some days now I have been keeping an eye on these Blackfly in the hope that they might encourage Ladybirds into the garden. And they did, two to be precise ... and, alas, both Harlequins. The photo immediately above and below are of the same Ladybird as the second one was under a leaf and hard to reach. 

There is a bee of some sort in residence in our insect hotels. It hovers (come to think of it, do bees hover?) in the air when I walk past, but I have yet to get a good look. 

I keep checking for butterflies in the garden: there have been a couple of sprightly blue ones on the wing, too fast for identification purposes; but other than those, butterflies have been noticeable by their absence. There was an early 'spring flurry' of these insects weeks ago when I saw more Brimstones in an afternoon than probably in the rest of my whole life; but what is happening now? I wonder if you saw this article...

On a more positive lepidopteran note, we found a Mullein moth larva on some Buddleia. This is a first for our garden. Of course, the caterpillar would decide to choose the delicate leaves of a rather delicate newly-planted (butterfly-friendly) Buddleia, ignoring the mass of green growth on the established white Buddleia!

Monday 18 June 2018

Insects in the Grounds of Helmingham Hall

I seem to have been chasing my tail a bit recently, so here are a few pretty pictures of Helmingham Hall and the insects in the grounds. You may have seen the hall on the Antiques Roadshow recently or perhaps on a previous Who do you think you are? programme. I tried to keep a casual eye open for bees on flower heads as we strolled around, particularly in the walled garden. But we saw some other insects, too ...

I think the creature above is a Variable Damselfly and the one below is an immature Large Red.

The moat makes an ideal environment for odonata.

Inside the walled garden we smiled at the topiary rabbits ...

and a frog prince!

It was good to see a few Meadow Browns, my first of the season.

I'm wondering if these were leaf or Flea Beeetles of some variety, possibly Crepidodera aurata

We noticed a couple of Broad-bodied Chasers on the vertical posts.

The next few photos show bees I noticed on the flower heads ...

This bee favoured a beautiful Delphinium.

You can see David here by the knot garden, with this fragrant patch of lavender and old-fashioned roses just in front of him. Despite the grey weather, the scent was one of pure summer!

Saturday 16 June 2018

Nursery-Web Spiderlings Expected in Home Patch

With the spider's legs in all directions, I had to look twice to see what was going on here; but as soon as I realised I was looking at a spider with her egg-sac, the scene began to make perfect sense. You can read more about these arachnids here. We have had these spiders in the garden before, but this is my first sighting of the egg-sac.

Friday 15 June 2018

Dragons, Damsels, Moths and Butterflies at RSPB Minsmere

We spent a few hours at RSPB Minsmere over the weekend, where there were some wonderful dragonflies flying about in the sunshine. This is a female Black-tailed Skimmer, not a species I have often seen before.

It was a magnificent insect, as you can see. The adult male has a blue abdomen.

There were a number of Four-spotted Chasers on the brambles ...

... and on the reeds.

The one above is a female.

We encountered a couple of Cinnabar moths, one on the ground on the path to the sea and the other on the wing above the Adder Trail. Such lovely insects!

We also noticed this tiny Cinnabar larva on a stalk of Ragwort which, I guess, had failed to thrive (or could it be a moulted skin?).

I'm not entirely sure, but think this may be a Variable Damselfly. As ever, please feel free to correct me!

We stopped by the bridge on our way home as we have sometimes seen Demoiselles here. There did not appear to be any...

... but the Yellow Waterlilies were wonderful.

This was the view from Whin Hill, high (by Suffolk standards) above the Island Mere hide. The remains of the old BBC Springwatch cabin are just off the photo to the left. 

This was where we found the first Cinnabar moth.

We also saw a couple of tiny Small Heath butterflies ...

out in the sunshine.

We had been told by the staff on the desk that it was probably too warm for reptile sightings, but the insects seemed to be basking in the heat.


It has been a busy week and I'm sorry it has taken so long to post these pics! Enjoy the weekend ...

Tuesday 5 June 2018

Dunwich Heath Again - Do You Recognise This Caterpillar?

There were few butterflies about on Dunwich Heath last Sunday afternoon but, most obligingly, this Small Copper perched for a while near our favourite seat. I have been wondering about the plant: do you think it is Heath Speedwell? It was definitely more pink than blue to my eyes, though there could be a touch of mauve in there somewhere. The area comprised dry sandy heathland, so the Pink Water Speedwell seems an unlikely alternative. 

While I was looking for butterflies in the heather, David noticed a tiny 'snake' (well, a caterpillar) in the grass by his feet. I have posted these pictures on iSpot, but do let me know if you recognise it. It couldn't be a Grayling larva, could it? I have seen the adult butterflies in this area.

It made me wonder why some lepidopteran larvae have sideways stripes (e.g. the Cinnabar moth with its black and orange bands and the Swallowtail butterfly with its segments of green, black and amber) while others (e.g. the Shoulder-striped Clover moth) have lengthways ones. The Striped Hawkmoth caterpillar seems to have lines going in both directions! These linear markings must be to do with camouflage and particular habitats.  

And speaking of camouflage, this moth below, blended in so beautifully with its sandy environment that I would have missed it all together if it had not fluttered its wings. Doesn't it blend perfectly with the bits of twig? After a while it flew along the side of the heather and gorse, and was equally well hidden. I'm guessing it is a Common Heath (too pale and indistinct for a Lattice Heath?), but again I have posted it on iSpot.

We ended our walk with a pot of Earl Grey in our favourite cafe in Dunwich. David had a slice of lemon curd cake and I chose the coffee and walnut. I'm afraid we were hungry and gobbled them up before I thought to take a photo!

For more on wing colour, pattern and iridescence you might find this article from Exeter University of interest. I am always fascinated by iridescence.

Saturday 2 June 2018

Excavation at NT Sutton Hoo (and a Damselfly, of course)

We decided to visit to NT Sutton Hoo again this afternoon before the heavy showers arrived, and we were so pleased that we did as we discovered it was the last day of an excavation, the first for almost three decades, which is being carried out by MOLA (see this link too). There was plenty of digging and panning going on, and we were able to see some Neolithic flints and Bronze Age potsherds that had come to light.

It was a strange afternoon, with short bursts of hot sun followed by humid swathes of grey cloud. There were plenty of people about but few insects. We noticed one very large orange and black sand wasp (like the Red-banded Sand Wasp here), but it was too fast for my camera. I see the linked website actually mentions Sutton Hoo as a location, so perhaps I am on the right ID track.

I presume these little holes in the area near the mounds were made by ants, wasps or some other 'digging' insect. 

What a lovely spot for an excavation! 

A new viewing tower is to be built in this area, but I was disappointed to find that there are no plans for a lift to make the feature more accessible.

 You can see just how sandy the soil is.

We had a good look around this area of the site before heading back towards Tranmer House (below).

I kept my eyes open for insects and eventually found (what I think may be) a Common Blue Damselfly on a leaf ...

On our way back to the exhibition area we paused to check the small patch given over to wild flowers...

There was a good-sized carpet of this yellow-green sedum: I'm not sure how 'wild' it is and I'm sure I know it by another name (update 4 June: the name I was trying to remember is Stonecrop). 

The dog rose below in the wild flower garden reminds me that June is already upon us. We bought a few bedding plants to brighten up our own garden on the way home, and hopefully to attract more insects. We checked again for bats this evening, but failed to see any. There was one Cockchafer/Stag Beetle floating around: it narrowly missed my hair!