Monday, 30 December 2013

Mothing moments - June 2013


I'm back! Only two weeks into a five-week, scot-free winter holiday at the end of what has been a fairly overwhelming year... it's time to relax and, on the advice of Her Majesty, time to reflect.

But first, I have a bit of explaining to do.

Last post. 30 June. Exactly six months ago.

Those eggs...

Moth eggs, of course.

Sitting pretty in this picture is a Cabbage Moth which I had potted in my garden on 31 May and kept overnight to photograph. This was a bad idea really. Have you heard the expression "she nearly had kittens"?

Well, the moth freaked out and laid 139 eggs in the pot.

All of which hatched out.

Oh mammy

And that was chaos. When I opened the lid of the pot to put in some lettuce, the tiny, ravenous caterpillars started sprinting up to the rim. I had to take a small paintbrush and gently flick them back to the bottom one by one. Thankfully they all took to the lettuce, and minus a few casualties I released them in Glencairn Park a few days later (by which time they were looking more green, fat and healthy than in the above photo). After I'd let them go, I had a look around the meadow and found this little guy, Micropterix aruncella, one of my favourite micro-moths:

And how nicely he posed for me, too!

Catching adult moths resulted in a couple more very nice rearing projects over the course of June. Firstly, on 8 June, I caught the first Small Phoenix for the garden. It refused to pose with its wings open, so I transferred it to a plastic sandwich bag (with care) to facilitate the photograph.

Let me out of here!!

And of course it didn't like that, and jettisoned five white eggs, three of which turned a marbled orange colour like this one -

Small Phoenix egg

- and hatched into little loopy larvae which eventually grew into large loopy larvae!

See? Loop!
While collecting broad-leaved willowherb from the garden to feed the Small Phoenixes (Phoenices?) I managed to find a fourth, younger, "looper" on the leaves - good to see the species is breeding naturally in the garden!

By this stage, I also had eight early-instar Beautiful Golden Y caterpillars, from eggs laid by this lovely lady -

Beautiful Golden Y - you saw her with her friend the Silver Y in the previous post
- and here's one of them moulting its skin:

I'm regenerating!!!
The box where I kept the caterpillars. A family shot of the four Small Phoenixes - two large ones clinging to the lid with their rear claspers while suspending a leaf stalk between them, on which sits the other large caterpillar (pooing) and the young one. Now how about that for a pose!

Meanwhile, a chapter of my life was closing. Exams were done, school finished, teachers thanked, friends hugged. Every upper sixth class reaching the end of seven years together feels the mixed joy and sadness of leaving. But for this class, at the end of their time together, there was far more sadness than anyone expected - a death in the school community shot a hole in everybody's hearts.

On 4 July, I bid goodbye to my wee "children", releasing the 4 Small Phoenix and 6 Beautiful Golden Y caterpillars in Glencairn Park, which is a much better place for them than my garden (where the wrath of the mower knows no bounds). That day, there were quite a lot of other moths - and butterflies - to see...

Daytime observation 4 Jul 2013

@ Glencairn Park J3075

Golden Lance-wing Epermenia chaerophyllella 25 Larva [Ye N]
Beech Pigmy Stigmella hemargyrella 10 Mine (vacated)
Beech Midget Phyllonorycter maestingella 2 Pupa [eY N]
Small Magpie Anania hortulata 1 Adult
Nettle-tap Anthophila fabriciana 5 Adult
Yellow-spot Twist Pseudargyrotoza conwagana 15 Adult
Ash Bud Moth Prays fraxinella 1 Adult [Y]
Silver-ground Carpet Xanthorhoe montanata 1 Adult
Little Cosmet Mompha raschkiella 1 Larva
Small Phoenix Ecliptopera silaceata 4 Larva Release
Beautiful Golden Y Autographa pulchrina 6 Larva Release
Common Marble Celypha lacunana 1 Adult [Y]
Common Slender Gracillaria syringella 50 Mine
Common Slender Gracillaria syringella 10 Larva
Narrow-bordered Five-spot Burnet Zygaena lonicerae 6 Adult [Y]
Straw Grass-veneer Agriphila straminella 3 Adult [Y]

Speckled Wood 2 Adult
Ringlet 7 Adult [Y]
Meadow Brown 1 Adult [Y]

Epermenia chaerophyllella larvae on hogweed

Phyllonorycter maestingella (confirmed by rearing through) pupa in mine on beech

Speckled Wood butterfly

Pseudargyrotoza conwagana

Ash Bud Moth, Prays fraxinella

The kiddies: Small Phoenix and Beautiful Yellow Underwing larvae. I think the red cross mark on the rump of the Small Phoenix is apt - a wee resurrection theme going there!

Celypha lacunana

Gracillaria syringella larvae, exposed from leaf spinning on ash

Ringlet butterfly

Narrow-bordered Five-spot Burnet, pair in cop

The reason I had to let the caterpillars go early, of course, was because on 6 July, I was to depart on a tip-top not-so-secret mission to the Swiss Alps, to climb mountains - and stuff!

More on that next time, God willing!

Spoilers... :)

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