Monday, 23 March 2015

Weevily Recognised

The weevil Andrion regensteinense was a nice find in the garden today, yet again a species that was crawling up the outside wall of the house. This weevil is found around gorse (Ulex) and Broom (Cytisus).

Andrion regensteinense

I am becoming quite fond of weevils, there is something about their architecture that I find fascinating and under magnification they look such wonderfully bizarre creatures.

Andrion regensteinense

Sunday, 22 March 2015

High Hopes

It was the first Shropshire Invertebrate Group meeting of the year today, and we met up in the Wyre Forest to have a look around. Invertebrates were in short supply, with one notable exception. The wood ant Formica rufa was very busy, with this hug mass of insects.

Formica rufa

The closer you looked, the more ants there appeared to be...

Formica rufa

With the writhing mass creating a piece of natural art.

Formica rufa

This was as close I could get without ants crawling up my legs.

Formica rufa

I wouldn't be willing to bet against this lot being able to move a rubber tree plant.

Saturday, 21 March 2015

The MV has it

A nice selection of moths in the traps this morning. I ran both the actinic heath and the MV Robinson, with the MV winning narrowly by 24 moths to 18.

Twin-spotted Quaker Anorthoa munda

Dotted Border Agriopis marginaria

The Satellite Eupsilia transversa

Early Grey Xylocampa areola

Thursday, 19 March 2015

Put to the Sword

I set both the actinic heath and MV Robinson moth trap yesterday evening on both sides of the garden. There was a modest catch, as would be expected on a March night, but whilst the MV won in terms of quantity (seven moths to four), the actinic won in terms of quality.

I will do well in the rest of this year to catch a better moth than the Red Sword-grass Xylena vetusta that was in the actinic this morning. This is fabolous moth, and not really on my radar of possibilities for the garden. I love this about moth trapping, that something so unforeseen can suddenly appear. In hindsight, this is probably not that unlikely. The species likes damp woodland and moorland, and whilst it is not well recorded in Shropshire the flushes of the Long Mynd would appear to be suitable for this species. 

Red Sword-grass Xylena vetusta

The remaining moths were a little more mundane. though it was a nice selection of Orthosia  species that were also there to greet me - Hebrew Character Orthosia gothica, named after the black markings likened to Hebrew letters, the plain but subtly beautiful Common Quaker O. cerasi and the diminutive Small Quaker O. cruda.

Hebrew Character Orthosia gothica

Common Quaker Orthosia cerasi

Small Quaker Orthosia cruda


It was a day for early emerging pollinators, and for appreciating the importance of our early spring flowers. One of my favourite flowers in Lesser Celandine Ficaria verna, which flowers here in March. It is one of the first flowers of the year and the butter-yellow petals are a wonderful sight on the road verges in Batch Valley. This plant is also very important for early-emerging insects, which have a limited choice of flowers to utilise, and some species seem quite tied to Lesser Celandine.

To prove the point, the Drone Fly Eristalis tenax, was quite numerous this lunchtime. The species gets its name from the similarity to male hive bees (drones), though this individual is a female, as you can tell by the eyes not meeting at the top of the head.

Drone Fly Eristalis tenax
Solitary bees are now emerging, and proving to be their customary challenge to identify. I am fairly confident that this is Andrena bicolor, a common mining bee that emerges early in the spring. This bee uses Lesser Celandine, as with the larger female, and Dandelion Taxacum officinale, as with the smaller male.

Andrena bicolor

Andrena bicolor