Sunday, 18 June 2017

An Invertebrate Interlude

It's the best time of the year for seeing invertebrates and I've certainly been seeing a lot lately. When you start to look closely at nettles and flowers like cow parsley you start to find yourself in a magical miniature world. I'm declaring today's blog post an invertebrate special.

Let's start with the lepidoptera- the butterflies and moths. I've several of these lovely bright cinnabar moths lately.

Yesterday I was stunned to see a huge elephant hawk moth flutter past but sadly I wasn't able to get a photo of the magnificent animals. Another magnificent moth was this considerably smaller one, a common tubic

Most moths are considerably more understated than those, like this nettle-tap moth

These small moths get their name from their fondness for nettles and I saw lots of these around a large stretch of nettles recently. Another under-stated moth is this brown silver-line

This species likes bracken and you can probably just about make out that there is a piece of bracken right in front of it. I saw this moth up in the New Forest but a more spectacular Forest sighting was this silver studded blue

This is yet another species that is in decline in the UK as it's habitat is heathland. I'm always grateful that I can easily visit the New Forest and the heathlands in Dorset as otherwise I wouldn't have a chance to see species like this.

Moving on, take a look at this flower I took a photo of. 

In a quick glance this looks simply like a honey bee on a flower. But look more closely and you can see that this honey bee has fallen victim to a waiting crab spider (Misumena vatia). These spider lay in wait for prey and can capture surprisingly large items. What's really cool about these spiders though is that they can change colour by secreting a pigment into the outer cell layer of their bodies. In the US they generally live on goldenrod flowers and are bright yellow! 

Here's a sizeable insect, an ichneumon wasp (Achaius oratorius)

These are one of those species of wasps with an unpleasant life cycle. The female finds a host insect to lay an egg on or inside. When they hatch the larval ichneumon feeds on the host, killing it when it is ready to pupate. That's nature for you!

Here's a rather impressive fly, an Empis livida dance fly

These flies can be found in hedgerows and are nectar feeders, hence the long proboscis. That suggests they are probably pollinators so as unattractive as species like this are they are still really important. 

Finally, here's a damselfly which I don't think I've featured on this blog before, a large red damselfly

These bright damselflies are the first damsels to emerge in the UK and are found around still and slow moving water sources. There is actually another species, the small red, which is very similar but that is rarer, though the New Forest is something of a stronghold. 

Well that's all for today but I hoped you liked this trip into the world of invertebrates. If you are walking near a hedgerow at this time of year look closely at the leaves and flowers and you never quite know what strange things you will find!

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