Sunday, 13 January 2013

Wild about...Butterflies and other insects 2012

Wild about...butterflies and other insects 2012

  The sanctuary and surrounding landscape journeys through a calender of changeable faces. Some appear dramatic, inspiring mood and thought, but it never seems so beautiful as when the sun breathes warmth and light into burgeoning plants, and the wildflowers begin to bloom. It is at such times that the insects gather to  feed on the leaves, petals and stems, and drink on the sweet, clear nectar. The sanctuary homes an unimaginable variety of insect species, but none are quite as enchanting or uplifting as the butterflies.

Comma butterfly (Polygonia c-album)

  Compared to other butterflies, the comma can look dishevelled and frayed, as if cut from a careless template by a jagged edge scissors. Despite being distinctively orange, it can easily disappear into its woodland surroundings simply by closing its wings. It gets its name from the small white mark on the underside of its wings, resembling a comma. It has been photographed here on a bramble, an important food source for this and many butterflies.

Peacock butterfly (Inachis io)

  The peacock butterfly is instantly recognisable by the distinctive eye spots on the tips of each of its four wings. Appearing as the eyes of a much larger animal, it can help the butterfly ward off predators. This bright red / orange butterfly also has a darker underside to help camouflage them into the wooded background. The one photographed on the bluebell, a natural food source for the peacock butterfly, is faded, possibly after hibernation.

Small copper (Lycaena phlaeas)

  Adult small copper butterflies will feed on buttercups, dandelions, ragwort, red clover, and yarrow, all of which can be found in and around the sanctuary. This particular butterfly proved quite difficult to photograph, being nimble in flight and never settling for long.

Common blue (polyommatus icarus)

  A beautiful butterfly that looks impressive against its natural green environment. At the sanctuary, it was found away from woodland, near tall grasses and thistles.

Small tortoiseshell (Aglais urticae)

  The small tortoiseshell is another of the orange butterflies. Patterned in black and pale yellow, with an irregular blue fringe, there were many sightings through 2012, particularly outside the wood. This probably reflects the abundance of local plantlife it uses for food.

Green-veined white (Pieris napi)

  The green-veined white is easily mistaken for other pale coloured species, of which there are many fluttering around the local woodland. It can be particularly difficult to identify in flight, however, here it can be seen feeding on the many available food sources.

Orange tip butterfly (Anthocharis cardamines)

  Its name comes from the distinctive orange wing-tips of the male, which are absent from the female. This makes it difficult to distinguish the female from other pale coloured butterflies, particularly in flight.

Large white (Pieris brassicae)

    Another pale coloured butterfly that can be difficult to distinguish from other similar looking species. The above is female, identified by the two black upper-side spots that are absent on the male. The large white was prevalent in the woods where many of its food providing wild flowers grow.

Speckled wood (Pararge aegeria)

  Abundant woodland butterfly that feeds on many of the available plants, including: bramble, ragwort and cuckoo flower.

Ringlet (Aphantopus hyperantus)

  When settled on a plant, as is this one, the ringlet is quite easy to identify, with its white-centred black spots, ringed in gold. The brown wings are fringed with white. Another bramble feeder, it will also gather nectar from the local ragwort and thistles.

Gatekeeper (Pyronia tithonus)


  The gatekeeper is a mix of orange and brown. The male (above) can be distinguished by the dark markings on its forewings. It can be mistaken for the meadow brown, particularly in flight. Another butterfly to utilise bramble.

Meadow brown (Maniola jurtina)

  As its name suggest, the meadow brown was primarily found in open, natural grasslands, where their food plants were allowed to grow untouched. Was not seen at all in the wooded areas around the sanctuary.

Red admiral larvae (Vanessa atalanta)

  Seeing these caterpillars was a bit of a surprise given that I can't recall seeing (or at least accurately identifying) a red admiral butterfly around the sanctuary in 2012. The presence of these five caterpillars on the woodland edges at least confirms they were present, although the quantity is unknown.

Cinnabar moth caterpillar (Tyria jacobaeae)

  These yellow and black cinnabar moth caterpillars were destined to re-emerge as bright red and black moths. The female lays eggs on the ragwort, on which the caterpillars then feed.

Other insects

Yellow shell moth (Camptogramma bilineata)

  Upon my approach, this yellow shell moth flew from the path to the undergrowth, where it hid at the base of tall grass. It had the most amazing pale green eyes.

Large yellow underwing (Noctua pronuba)

  Unusually about in daylight, this large yellow underwing was walking amongst the grass on the woodland floor.

Vine weevil (Otiorhynchus sulcatus)

  Put vine weevil into an internet search engine and you will find any number of ways to destroy them. Seen as the destructor of garden plants, it is a flightless beetle with a narrow head. This one was photographed in the local woodland, where it can enjoy the variety of plants without the threat of poisons.

Green tiger beetle (Cicindela campestris)

  As the name suggests, this tiger beetle is green with pale spots. As this picture shows, this beetle prefers ground unhampered with too much vegetation.

Noon fly (Mesembrina meridiana)

  A fantastic looking fly with a shiny black body adorned with metallic gold trimmings. Seen here basking in the open sunshine.

Stilt bug (Metatropis rufescens)

  Orange / brown coloured bug with long spindly legs, photographed here on the plants of open grassland.

Scorpion fly (Panorpa sp.)

  The photograph doesn't do justice to the oddity that is the scorpion fly. It has a scorpion like tail that curls up at the back but lacks the potency of its namesake. It also has a long projection from its face, through which it feeds on insects.

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