The September Shropshire Invertebrate Group meeting took us to Prees Heath, the fantastic Butterfly Conservation reserve close to Whitchurch in the North of the county. Whilst we were too late in the season for the famous invertebrate attraction of the site, the Silver Studded Blue Plebejus argus, this was a site where we were bound to find plenty of late season interest.
It ended up to be a very enjoyable day. The weather was markedly better than it had been for several days, and as the sun shone the sweep nets and beating trays were deployed to good effect. I recorded several good species, including five species of ladybird, four species of bug, several moths and caterpillars and some nice diptera species.
The commonest shieldbug was the Gorse Shieldbug Piezodorus lituratus, though this individual was found on a Common Broom Cytisus scoparius, which seems to be preferred by the species. In fact, I am not sure I have ever seen seem on gorse (Ulex). This is an adult, though there were also some late stage instars to be seen.
|Gorse Shieldbug Cytisus scoparius|
A new species of bug for me was swept from some long grass on the site, these Myrmus miriformis. This is one of the Rhopalidae and is found in two colour forms, though I only found the green form on the site.
It was not just insects that were in evidence. There is also a large population of the spider Araneus quadratus. This adults of this spider appear in late August and early September, and it is often found in well scrubbed grassland habitats with plenty of gorse, which are robust enough for the webs to hold. This is an attractively patterned spider, and though colours can vary the basic pattern is always the same.
Some of the more interesting finds was a good selection of moth caterpillars, with the larva of an impressive six moth species found on the site. The crowd-pleasers were these showy Poplar Hawk-moth Laothoe populi caterpillars, found on sallow (Salix). Though they were quite obvious and easy to find, I suspect that potential predators think twice before tackling them.
|Poplar Hawk-moth larva Laothoe populi|
|Poplar Hawk-moth Laothoe populi|
This mystery caterpillar required a bit of help from county moth recorder Tony Jacques to identify. It is in fact the larva of a Burnet Companion Euclidia glyphica, and it becomes one of a small number of species that I have seen in larval bu not adult form. The larvae feed on clover (Trifolium) and trefoil (Lotus).
|Burnet Companion larva Euclidia glyphica|
A more expected caterpillar to find on a heathland site was the heather (Caluna) feeder Beautiful Yellow Underwing Anarta myrtilla. This is a very distinctive caterpillar, beeing a deep green with distinct white and yellow markings.
|Beautiful Yellow Underwing Anarta myrtilla|
We also found these young Buff-tip Phalera bucephala larvae. These caterpillars live gregariously and, as with this group, can quickly defoliate entire branches of a range of deciduous trees.
|Buff-tip Phalera bucephala|
This pretty pink and white caterpillar was one that I recognised, and a quick check revealed this to be the larva of the 'Ling' Pug Eupithecia absinthiata f. goossensiata. Once a distinct species, this is now thought to be the heathland race of the Wormwood Pug. The adults of the two forms look different, and the larvae look even more different.
|'Ling' Pug Eupithecia absinthiata f. goossensiata|
Finally, with some more identification help from Tony, I found this True Lover's Knot Lycophotia porphyrea larva. Unsurprisingly, this is another feeder on Caluna.
|True Lover's Knot Lycophotia porphyrea|