Monday, 5 December 2016

Moth Mondays - The Ruby Tiger

MOTH MONDAYS


The Ruby Tiger
Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Arthropoda
Class: Insecta
Order: Lepidoptera
Superfamily: Noctuoidea
Family: Erebidae
Tribe: Arctiini
Genus: Phragmatobia
Species: Phragmatobia fuliginosa
(Arctia rubricosa)



A change for this week... another Tiger... but quite a "plain" one... the Ruby Tiger [Phragmatobia fuliginosa] l'Ecaille cramoisie...
a small moth, much attracted to windows at night.
Called by someone on an insect forum I use... "The Burlesque"!!

They are an attractive moth.... and here, very frequently observed!!
A brown, furry thorax and brown forewings, occasionally grey-black in the more northern forms.... hide a secret....
it is the hind wings of this moth that are the spectacular part...
here mainly black with a scarlet edge....
[see below for description of the base form which is almost reversed]....
and the ruby-red and black-striped abdomen.

The hind wings of this one are closer to what is expected...
but still contain a lot of black.  If you look carefully....
you can just make out a paler ring around the bigger spot on the righthand forewing.
Also we are beside the Aigronne...
so there are three waterboatmen and a mayfly in this picture.


The caterpillars, whilst still called woolly bears, are yet again more like a bristly scrubbing brush than anything described as woolly!!


Much smaller than the previous two Tigers.... the wingspan is 35–45 mm
The 'reference' species has the thorax and forewing dark reddish brown with a blackish comma-shaped (?) spot at the centre of the wing, edged with carmine (?).
Hindwing carmine, more or less colourless in the leading edge of the wing, with more or less confluent black spots before the margin and at the apex of the central area of the wing.
The name-typical / reference form P. fuliginosa has the forewing rather densely scaled and the hindwing bright rose-red with distinct black spots.
Underside strongly suffused with purple-pink.
There are numerous subspecies....

Most possibly borealis ...
the wing is transparent enough to show the pale leading edge of the hindwing.

P.f. borealis
has vivid black markings and in which the red is confined to the sides of the abdomen and the anal part of the hindwing.

Most probably P.f. borealis....
the forewing is almost completely without scales....
and you can clearly see the red of the hindwing.
P.f. subnigra has a very dark forewing but must not be confused with the northern form;
it is scarcely darker than true fuliginosa, and not so transparent as borealis.
P.f. flavescens has both the abdomen and hindwing in yellow instead of red.


This is one from the underside....
the odd grey blobs are where I have tried to tone down reflections.
[My little camera has a built in LED ring-light.]

The moth flies twice, in May and from July to August depending on the location....
and if there is a second brood.

The egg is reddish grey.
The larva is light or dark grey with a black brown head.
The entire body is covered with pale, rusty hairs; these hairs are always more black brown in placida, and sometimes so in fuliginosa. There is a visible yellow stripe down the back with pairs of black and white spots beside the hair tufts.
It can be found in June, late autumn and after hibernation in April, on low-growing plants, on high-roads, railway embankments and waste fields.
On warm days in the winter the larvae sometimes leave their hiding-places and are then found on footpaths and roads, running about quickly.
The caterpillars feed on various herbaceous plants:
Salix sp, Rubus fruticosus, Prunus spinosa, Filipendula ulmaria, Plantago lanceolata, Senecio jacobaea , Taraxacum officinale .
The pupa is black with the abdomen marked with yellow in the segmental incision

This is a really good example of the ordinary, foxy brown 'base' version....
you can clearly see the ring around the larger of the black dots...
but as for it being "carmine".... that's debatable!

Next Monday... The Jersey Tiger and bonus....the Scarlet Tiger....


________________________________________________________
Sources
Other than Wikipedia.... and personal observations!
Moths and Butterflies of Europe and North Africa [ also known as Leps.it]
A superbly illustrated site.... marvellous on the Micromoths...
but difficult to use on a tablet/iPad.... an awful lot of scrolling needed.

Lepidoptera.eu   An excellent resource... with distribution maps

UK Moths This is quite a simple site... but nicely put together.

The German site Lepiforum.de - For really good samples of photos...
including museum specimens: to use....
Enter the Latin name and then select the Latin name from the list of pages found.
There is probably a lot more on this site... but I don't read [or speak] German!!


Monday, 28 November 2016

Moth Mondays - The Cream-spot Tiger

MOTH MONDAYS


The Cream-spot Tiger
Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Arthropoda
Class: Insecta
Order: Lepidoptera
Superfamily: Noctuoidea
Family: Erebidae
Tribe: Arctiini
Genus: Epicallia
Species: Epicallia villica
[aka: Arctia villica]


Possibly the most recognisable moth next to the Garden Tiger is the...
Cream-spot Tiger [Epicallia villica] i'Ecaille fermière or i'Ecaille villageoise.
In fact it is often mistaken for the Garden Tiger....
understandable as the wings are almost the reverse of the former.
The female is a day flyer.... the male only flies at night...
not entirely correct... they both fly at night...
but if you see one in flight during the day, it is most probably a female.

They are a very distinctive moth....
black forewings, occasionally very dark brown....
with white/cream, slightly rectangular blobs...
and rich egg-yolk yellow hindwings with a pattern of black spots or blobs...
and an orange, through to bright-red at the tip, abdomen.


This is a typical Cream-spot Tiger.


The caterpillars, still known as woolly bears, are more like a bristly scrubbing brush than anything described as woolly!!


The forewing markings on the adults are also quite variable...
but are almost always white/cream splodges on a black background...
In Leps.it and Lepidoptera.eu, there are examples of forewings that are almost completely white... with black markings. Here, they are not so variable.

You will notice that apart from the example on the right, there is very little variation here.
Also... the darkest example has almost yellow hindwings...
rather than the egg-yolk yellow of the examples that follow.
The hindwings are rich egg-yolk yellow, with black spots....
Here are three examples.....




They also have a much more delta-winged shape than the Garden Tiger.

The nice delta-shape.... but not as delta-winged as the Jersey Tiger.



It has a wingspan of 55 to 68 millimetres
Normally nocturnal, the females fly by day.
It is found across the Western Palearctic...
and as far north as West Siberia and reaches North Africa and Southwest Asia.
It inhabits woodland, woodland edges and areas with bushes and hedges and sunny open grassy areas....and can be found resting on leaves.
These moths are most common in March to July, in meadows, grasslands, and scrubby areas.
The caterpillars hatch in late July, winter semi-underground or in deep leaf-litter and pupate May of the following year...they are quite sensitive to frost... often seen in the spring as they look for somewhere to pupate
They feed on low growing, non-woody plants...plantains, deadnettles, blackberries and dandelions, etc.


The Cream-spot Tiger is very photogenic from underneath...
the sub-marginal edge of the forewings and
the lead-edges of the hindwings are both red.
(for what Sub-marginal means see Susan's comment)


Next Monday... the Ruby Tiger....



________________________________________________________
Sources
Other than Wikipedia.... and personal observations!
Moths and Butterflies of Europe and North Africa [ also known as Leps.it]
A superbly illustrated site.... marvellous on the Micromoths...
but difficult to use on a tablet/iPad.... an awful lot of scrolling needed.

Lepidoptera.eu   An excellent resource... with distribution maps

UK Moths This is quite a simple site... but nicely put together.

The German site Lepiforum.de - For really good samples of photos...
including museum specimens: to use....
Enter the Latin name and then select the Latin name from the list of pages found.
There is probably a lot more on this site... but I don't read [or speak] German!!

Monday, 21 November 2016

Moth Mondays - The Garden Tiger

MOTH MONDAYS
The Garden Tiger
Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Arthropoda
Class: Insecta
Order: Lepidoptera
Superfamily: Noctuoidea
Family: Erebidae
Tribe: Arctiini
Genus: Arctia
Species: Arctia caja



Possibly the most recognisable moth, the Garden Tiger [Arctia caja] l'Écaille-Martre can be seen day and night...
and the caterpillars, called woolly bears, are often seen in the open in Autumn.
Woolly bears needn't necessarily be the Garden Tiger...
all the Tigers have hairy caterpillars... and so do some other moths....
notably the Oak Eggar.
The hairs on all these larvae are irritant and can cause skin to blister in extreme cases.


This is a Garden Tiger Moth caterpillar....
 The forewing markings on the adults are quite variable...
but are almost always brown splodges on a white/cream background...
Chinery states that all brown forewings are found.

Seven examples of wing patterning from photos taken here....
the first is almost as per Chinery...
the third is the darkest I've seen....
the seventh is the lightest,

The hindwings are red or orange, occasionally yellow, with black spots....
here they seem more orangey/pale scarlet than any other colourway.
Three examples.....

These are the palest hindwings I have on record... [30/08/2015]
it also has the largest blobs... which are blueish in the centre!
A darker orange this time... [27/08/2012]
with dark black blobs....
the grey on them is a reflection of the flash!
[With the first example.... no flash was used.]
A pale scarlet with a golden fringe and smaller black blobs [27/08/2016]

It has a wingspan of 45 to 65 millimetres
Normally nocturnal, it will fly by day if disturbed.
It is found across the Palearctic.
It loves damp ground and is most frequent in river valleys.
These moths are most common in June to August, in gardens, park, meadows, grasslands, and scrubby areas.
The caterpillars hatch in August, winter semi-underground or in deep leaf-litter and pupate May/June of the following year.
They feed on low growing, non-woody plants.
In recent years another weapon may have been added to their defence armoury...
it has been discovered that some species of Tiger moths can emit sound at frequencies that jam a bat's echo-location.


Sitting pretty!
Next Monday... the Cream-spot Tiger....



________________________________________________________
Sources
Other than Wikipedia.... and personal observations!
Moths and Butterflies of Europe and North Africa [ also known as Leps.it]
A superbly illustrated site.... marvellous on the Micromoths...
but difficult to use on a tablet/iPad.... an awful lot of scrolling needed.

Lepidoptera.eu   An excellent resource... with distribution maps

UK Moths This is quite a simple site... but nicely put together.

The German site Lepiforum.de - For really good samples of photos...
including museum specimens: to use....
Enter the Latin name and then select the Latin name from the list of pages found.
There is probably a lot more on this site... but I don't read [or speak] German!!

Monday, 14 November 2016

Butterflies of the night.....

The Scarce Chocolate-tip [Clostera anachoreta] la Hausse-queue fourchue or l'Anachorète
...or moths?
Where we call them moths...
the French for Moths is...
Papillons du Nuit....
literally "Butterflies of the Night"....
a bit of a misnomer, because there are quite a number of moths that are day-flying....
the Hummingbird Hawkmoth and the Mother of Pearl being two that are regularly seen... especially if you grow lavenders or have a Buddleia.

Hummingbird Hawkmoth [Macroglossum stellatarum] le Morro-Sphinx
Mother-of-Pearl [Pleuroptya ruralis] la Pyrale du Houblon...
a micro-moth... also a misnomer...
this is bigger than some 'ordinary' moths!!


Then, there are the Tiger Moths....regularly here we regularly have the Garden Tiger, the Cream-spot Tiger and the Jersey Tiger....all fly night and day. with the Jersey Tiger perhaps edging it as the one to see during daylight... especially in very sunny weather

Cream-spot Tiger [Epicallia villica] l'Écaille villageoise.....
Jersey Tiger [Euplagia quadripunctaria] l'Écaille chinée


I have always liked moths... mainly because of their two types of colour scheme... camouflage or brilliant warning colours.
Most of the day-flying moths are the latter.... the nightbirds go for camo-colours!!
but, you only see these wonders... and I use that word deliberately...
you normally only see them by accident.

Or at night, attracted to your windows....
(when will someone, please, publish a guide to moths from underneath??)

How, though, can you see wonderful nightime moths like these....

Just some of the moths that will be coming to this blog on Mondays!
Beautiful Marbled, Scarce Chocolate-tip, Burnished Brass [f.juncta]
Black Arches, Buff-tip, Lunar Thorn


...you need to bring them to you!!
So, a good way to attract them is to deliberately mimic the "bright-light-in-the-window" process....
the simplest being a strong light shining onto a large white sheet....
effective, certainly.... but with great drawbacks... the moths very rarely stay still and....
you are standing there, at night, giving off carbon dioxide....
and attracting all the mozzies from the locality to where you are!!
Been there, done that, "shoulda-worn-a-beekeepers outfit"!
Not nice...not nice at all.
And they will keep moving, making photography and identification difficult, to say the least.

The better way really, is a trap... a light trap.... as mentioned in the last post.
All moth traps are essentially portable... in that they are quite small...especially in comparison with the white sheet method.
But they need power for the lamp... mains level power!!

I really wanted to find out what we had here by true "papilions du nuit"...
not just the totally random sample of the ones that came to the windows....
so, last year Martin who lives nearby, lent me his aged moth trap...
he's been "mothing" a long time... and his dad had built it for him many moons ago.
Martin's trap is an MV trap... MV means mercury vapour... the gas in the enormous bulb.

Martin's trap...ready to go....
it has about twice the volume of ours
And this is it switched on...
it is so bright, that even though it was only just dusk....
this is the best picture I could get!!

This is powered from the mains, running a transformer....
and is controlled by a choke and a starter... rather like a fluorescent tube....
but everything is bigger and heavier.
And MV bulbs are now not available as of the start of 2017....
so Martin has bulk bought!!
Either that, or get rid of a perfectly serviceable piece of equipment.

But the easy capture of interesting moths that one never sees....
prompted me to buy one for us... but MV traps are no longer available...
so I eventually decided on an extremely portable one that folds away into its own suitcase...
and it was the cheapest, too! Probably because it had nothing that was especially moulded...
it is a 2CV of the "mothing" world.

It, too, runs off the mains...
but the two 20W UV low-energy bulbs can be run off a car battery using a voltage inverter....
that means I can set it up anywhere.... a great advantage here...
I'm not restricted to by the house or just over the bridge into the meadow....
where we, mistakenly, set up Martin's trap...
it is very difficult to sleep by the light of six artificial moons shining in the bedroom window!!

This is what ours looks like... set up for the first time on June 22nd this year.
This is it closer....

The light from our trap is less than half the strength of Martin's...
that means we cannot attract moths from a huge area, so we might miss some exciting ones...
and we cannot compete with strong moonlight.

This is Martin's trap versus a full moon...
the inset is ours at the same exposure!!

But there is an advantage in that we do attract ones that are more local to the trap.... therefore, sampling for this environment is better....
and a 28 day cycle  of dark days sets a routine....
in fact, even though I couldn't start trapping until the Summer had started...
because of the weather...
we are already seeing what species are fairly constant in quantity....
and would act as bat-fodder.

Mondays from now onward will be Moth Day....
at present, that's over four years of Monday posts sewn up!!

Wednesday, 9 November 2016

It was an increasingly long, hot Summer!!

Well..
it is November now... and we haven't posted for four and a half months....
it is difficult to really know where to begin...
so, being 'Bwitsh', I will start with a cuppa and mention the weather....
it had been an increasingly long, hot Summer...
everything is parched...
we had a record temperature of 41.6 Centigrade on the 24th August...
and any rain has been totally negligible.... and at the wrong time of day....
which meant that it evaporated off before it could do any good.
And that lack of rain continued into the middle of October...
which then turned colder... but not necessarily wetter...
the end of October up to last weekend we had 40mm in total....
we can't be more specific than that...
as something seems to have glued up the rocker in the raingauge...
hmmph! Spiders.... or a mason bee....?
The total above is from the "analogue" gauge... the ground just swallowed it....
two days after the last rainfall and veggies pulled out of the ground were dry!
We haven't yet been round the pré, but out there.... in mid-October....
there were cracks in the soil that were around 30mm wide and 20cm deep...
the millstream hasn't changed height, nor has it gone cloudy.

The Norway Maples by the Aigronne a few days ago....
....and the potager as day breaks at the beginning of October!
So... onto the wildlife....
The Barn Owls raised at least one owlet... without a camera inside the box, it is impossible to know with certainty...
the eggs hatch at intervals...and they fledge the same.
We are basing the count on the "one" we have records of on video...
our only hesitation being that "the one fledgling" stayed at the nestbox for rather a long time!!


This is the only picture that shows more than two owls at the same time!
Our presumption is that the fledgling is the middle one....

All the usual suspects were around... Swallows, Black Redstarts, Wrens, Tits [asst'd.], Stonechats, Warblers, Woodpeckers, Moorhens, etcetera...
the Swallows appear to have managed three broods this short Summer... as have the Wrens...
a pair of Great Tits didn't read the nestbox guide... and used a deep, open-fronted box destined for other species.

Look, would you please read the  manual!!

With the felling of the poplar plantation that bordered our verger, we lost the close proximity of the Golden Oriole... we heard them regularly, but distant.
However, our Turtle Doves made it back across the Mediterranean!!



Welcome back!

Despite the soggy... nay, sodden, Winter and Spring this year, the Aigronne and the millstream have become sparklin'ly clear and the weed has managed to grow properly.
We've been graced by bountiful numbers of dragons and damsels...

A female Western Spectre dragonfly... possibly our dullest insect raptor...
and a brighter, female Migrant Hawker [I think....?]
And one of our Beautiful Damselflies

and, having been loaned Martin's marvellous moth trap last year, we invested in a new, portable one ourselves... more from that in a later post...
but we've run it four times at approximately monthly intervals and found fascinating and beautiful moths and other insects....
the most numerous being the caddisflies... the larvae of which will be food for the aquatic predators...
setting up close to the millstream has also snared water boatmen, "may"flies, midges of all types and aquatic beetles.
You will have to wait for the wondrous moths... but here is a very small sample of "the other insects"...

Eight, on the outside identical, ground beetles*, two other small beetles and a micro-moth....
.... a tiny leafhopper.... 4 or 5 millimetres long....
....and one of the ichneumons... possibly an Ophion species*....
along with a small caddis fly and a little rove beetle!!
These are all interesting bycatch from the moth trap and shows the diversity of insect types.
* These have been identified... see Susan's comment.

On the mammal front we've been visited by martens, deer, stoats and hedgehogs....
the "pieges photographiques" showing us all but the Stoat, which has now been seen twice from the bedroom window....
just on the other side of the bridge. Both times, viewed going the same way... seems to indicate a waterside patrol...
probably after our Watervoles and the Moorhen chicks.
Baron has caught some Yellow-necked mice....according to Faune Touraine they don't exist here...
or didn't until we supplied photographic evidence!!

This is a marten... probably a Fouine or Beech Marten...
investigating a hole carved by a woodpecker...
and, no, it isn't this light at 3.46am at the beginning of September...
I have "inverted" the picture to make it easier on the eye!
The pré is now reasonably wooded in the intended places... but with more work to do yet...
however, the corridors for the wildlife are established...
though sadly, locally, many more are being lost as local farmers enlarge their fields...
or remove them to allow ploughing closer to the edge.
So... that is the state of Pré at the moment...