Sunday, 5 February 2017

Small Copper

Even though the Small Copper can be found throughout most of Britain, it's numbers have fallen drastically over the last few years, becoming very rare in some areas.

The females are slightly larger than the males and, the male's abdomen is thinner than the females,  [best way to determine the sex of this butterfly] otherwise the sexes are alike. Normally in August an aberration form of this species can be found called Caeruleopunctata [mainly in the females] where there is a row of blue spots toward the bottom of each of the upper hind wings and, very rarely seen an Albino form. There are 2-3 broods each year, flying between the beginning of April and the end of October.

The males can be found overlooking their territory on a favourite perch [whether it is on the ground, a flower, grass stem etc]  and, every now and again dashing off at high speed looking for females for which to mate with or, fighting off intruders. They use various flowers to feed on, including Fleabane, Ragwort [one of their favourites] and Thistles etc.

The females lay their eggs [ova, ovum] on Common and Sheep's Sorrel, even sometimes on Dock Leaves. They overwinter as a caterpillar.

Male Small Coper on Ragwort

Male Small Copper on Ribwort Plantain, overlooking his territory
 
Female Small Copper, form Caeruleopunctata
 
Female Small Copper



All photographs are the copyright of Nick Broomer

Friday, 3 February 2017

Grey-patched Mining Bee [Andrena nitida]

A very common Mining Bee found throughout Southern Britain, flying between late March and July.

Grey-patched Mining Bee, [Andrena nitida] on Wood Spurge, a plant which attracts a lot of insects,
including, Butterflies, Moths, Ants, Bees, wasps and flies etc.

Sunday, 15 January 2017

Brimstone

 Brimstones can be seen just about anywhere in England and, is common in both Wales and Ireland but still has not reached Scotland. The Brimstone hibernates through our winters here in the U.K. and, is probably the longest living butterfly in Britain, some possibly living for about a year, if not slightly longer, if only by a few days, and a few of them could live long enough to be flying at the same time as their offspring.

This female Brimstone was photographed on, 29th June,which was born the previous year
and has hibernated through a long winter it's offspring could be flying about 7th July onwards

The females lay their eggs [ovum] on Common Buckthorn and, Alder Buckthorn, normally on the back of small fresh leaves. But, they can also be laid close to a leaf bud, on the stem of a small branch and, even on the upper side of the leaves.The eggs are laid from the beginning of May to early June, the latest i have witnessed a female Brimstone laying eggs was on the 9th and 10th June on Common Buckthorn in my garden.

A freshly laid Brimstone egg on the back of a unfurling
Common Buckthorn leaf
 
3 Brimstone eggs having been laid just below the unfurling
Common Buckthorn leaves
Several Brimstone larva on the top of a mature Buckthorn
leaf, photo taken, 8th June

Female Brimstone ovipositing on, 9th June

The eggs are quite light in colour when first laid, turning a dirty yellow after a few days and, 24 hours before the larva hatches the egg turns grey. The tiny larva emerge after about 8-15 days.


A freshly laid Brimstone egg
A brimstone's egg after a few days

The larva have 4 moults, [5 instars]. The caterpillars when they first emerge tend to live/feed on the back of the leaves. From the 2nd instar larva to the 5th instar larva, they tend to feed on the top of the leaf, and rest on the rib. This stage lasts between 4-6 weeks.

A newly emerged 1st instar Brimstone larva on the back of a Common
Buckthorn leaf showing it's first feeding damage
2nd instar Brimstone larva at rest on the rib of a leaf

3rd instar Brimstone Larva

4th instar Brimstone larva

5th instar Brimstone larva, having attached itself to the Cremaster,
it is busy attaching the girdle to the leaf and itself
5th instar larva ready and waiting to pupate

The pupa is joined to a leaf, plant stem by a Cremaster [joined to the abdomen] and a girdle, [around it's waist]. This stage lasts between 15-18 days.

Brimstone pupa, day 1

Brimstone pupa, day 2

Brimstone pupa, day 14
Brimstone pupa, day 16 and emerged 24 hours later

 Brimstones always land with their wings closed. They feed on a variety of flowers, including Clover, Dandelion, thistles and Fleabane etc.


Male Brimstone
Male Brimstone
Female Brimstone

Female Brimstone

 All photographs are the copyright of Nick Broomer

Saturday, 14 January 2017

Pearl-bordered Fritillary

The Pearl-bordered Fritillary was once a common butterfly in English woods when coppicing was common place. But since the demise of this practise of woodland coppicing, it has also brought the demise of this beautiful butterfly in many parts of England. It is still commonly found in Scotland, with a few sites left in Wales and just the one site in Southern Ireland.

They first appear in late April and, throughout June. They are single brooded, and the sexes are quite similar. The eggs [ovum] are laid on or close to, various Violets and, the tiny larva hatch between about 12-16 days. They overwinter as a caterpillar and, resume feeding in the spring. The pupal stage last a further 2.5- 3.5 weeks.

Male Pearl-bordered Fritillary
Male Pearl-bordered Fritillary

Female Pearl-bordered Fritillary
Female Pearl-bordered Fritillary

All photographs are the copyright of Nick Broomer

Friday, 13 January 2017

Red Admiral [life cycle]

The Red Admiral hibernates in small numbers in Britain, with the majority of these butterflies arriving on our shores from mainland Europe, starting off from North Africa and, Southern Europe.

Our hibernating Red Admirals emerge from their slumber, normally in early March, are the first to start breeding. Laying their eggs [ovum] normally on the top of small/fresh  leaves and, sometimes on the flowers of the Common Nettle, [Commas are also known to lay their eggs on Nettle flowers] in full sun. The earliest i have witnessed a female ovipositing was on 16th March. The eggs hatch after about one week. There is one brood a year, extended over several months with the first butterflies making an appearance as early as the middle of May, continuing right through to November.

Note. A Red Admiral was photographed ovipositing, Kingston Lacy, Dorset 7.11.2016. Ref. Andrew Cooper

Note. Another 2 Red Admirals were photographed ovipositing, Roughmoor, Taunton  16.12.2016 and 28.12.16. Ref. Nigel Cottle


Red Admiral ovum on a Nettle Leaf
Photo Taken 25th March

Red Admiral ovum unusually on the underside of a Nettle leaf
photo taken 19th March
Red Admiral ovum on Nettle flower
photo taken 20th July
 
The tiny larva on emerging are quite colourful and, it's body is covered in small sparse hairs somewhat similar to that of a newly emerged 1st instar Comma larva.The tiny caterpillar will then build a hide-away in the form of a tent made from Nettle leaves.

Before they have their first moult, they have already developed a spiky appearance, which will stay with them throughout their life as a caterpillar.The larval stage lasts about 24-30 days, and they have 4 moults [5 instars].

1st instar Red admiral larva, having just emerged
1st instar Red Admiral larva 24 hours before it's first moult
2nd instar Red Admiral Larva
   
3rd instar Red Admiral larva
4th instar Red Admiral larva making another tent
5th instar Red Admiral larva
 
A Red Admiral larval tent

When the Red Admiral final instar is ready to pupate, it will seek out a suitable clump of Nettle leaves with which to make a final tent. This last tent will be more like an umbrella shape rather than a tent which it had lived in as a larva. This is done so that the butterfly, when it emerges from the pupa has more freedom of movement and, doesn't damage it's wings when expanding them, and can fly away unhindered. If the tent had been shaped like a larval tent, how would the butterfly emerge from an enclosed structure?.......

Red Admiral 5th instar larva just starting to pupate under it's opened umbrella
shaped tent, leaving the butterfly plenty of room when it emerges
3rd June 16.57 pm

Red Admiral pupa, 4th June 20.15 pm

Red Admiral pupa, 5th June 7.25am

Red Admiral pupa, 6th June 8.23 am

Red Admiral pupa now showing the wing colours of the butterfly
23rd June, 15.24 pm
The Red Admiral butterfly having just emerged clinging on to it's empty pupal
casing, 24th June, 12.47 pm

Red Admiral on Ragwort showing the wing undersides

Red Admiral showing the upper wing colours


















Wednesday, 11 January 2017

Broad-bordered Bee Hawk-moth

The Broad-bordered Bee Hawk-moth is a day flying insect and, can be seen between  the beginning of May through to the end of June, and is mainly found in sunny woodland rides.

You can quite often find this beautiful Moth feeding on Bugle, [that grow in damp areas, woods, meadows etc.] one of it's favourite flowers for nectar.

Broad-bordered Bee Hawk-moth feeding on Bugle
[photo taken 4th May]
 The females lay their eggs [ovum] on the undersides of Honeysuckle leaves and, are easy to find.

Freshly laid egg on the underside of a Honeysuckle leaf
[photo taken 30th May]
When the tiny larva  hatch they feed and rest on the back of the Honeysuckle leaf, until they become much larger when they are far more conspicuous.

A newly emerged 1st instar Broad-bordered Bee Hawk-moth larva
[photo taken 5th July]
A 1st instar larva
[photo taken 18th may]
A 1st instar larva ready to make its first moult
[photo taken 19th May]
Late 2nd instar larva
[photo taken 3rd July]
   
All photographs are the copyright of Nick Broomer