Tag Archives: zoology

What’s moths got to do with it?

Believe it or not, quite a lot.
Moths are major bio-indicators and moth biodiversity and habitat biodiversity, or lack of it, are linked. My friend Veronica French recently contributed to a large-scale study of moths for a paper about the relationship between tree biodiversity in forests and arthropod biodiversity (like insects, spiders, etc.), just published in the scientific journal Forest Ecology and Management under the title “Can Mixed Species Stands Enhance Arthropod Diversity in Plantation Forests?”:


Congratulations Veronica!

Now we are in October there are very few moths and butterflies around, but nevertheless you will see this smallish moth at your windows, the Hebrew Character – Orthosia gothica. It is important to remember that although they might not be on the wing so much, if at all, these species are still going about their lives in the countryside, albeit as caterpillars, or in suspended animation as pupae, which will later hatch out into adult moths.

The Hebrew Character, a very common moth species still seen at night-time windows in October.

Summer… back from oblivion

In May and June the weather went haywire, temperatures well below normal and vast quantities of rain pouring from the sky weekly. Well things are finally starting to look up. The weather seems to have stabilised, with temperatures last week actually reaching 27 Celsius and last night was a balmy 19 C, today all my various thermometers are hovering over 24C and it’s barely lunchtime. Anyhow, the flowers are blooming like crazy. Ireland is said to be one of the best places in the whole world to see fuchsias, which are not indigenous plants but garden escapees originally from southern Chile and Argentina. They have become an unmissable part of our new countryside, and many moths and butterflies like them too.

Beautiful fuchsias hanging by a Wicklow roadside right now.

But if that’s not enough for you, then there’s the oceans of nectar-filled colour to choose from. The Butterfly Bushes, Buddleia davidii are now weighed down with their various coloured blooms, each of which is a remarkable variation of a single type of scent. Needless to say the butterflies, hoverflies and everything else loves them.

A Red Admiral feeding on Butterfly Bush.


A Small Tortoiseshell tucks into the buffet.


And although this summer has been a genuine disappointment (butterfly numbers are WAY down below average) migrants are reaching our shores, and here is the single Painted Lady (below) I’ve seen so far this year, resting and basking on top of bramble in the 27 C of last week.

My one Painted Lady sighting this year. Elegance personified.

However, don’t let the butterflies take all the limelight – there are some truly fantastic beauties out there, and some of them are exotic-coloured beetles. I call this one the Dream Beetle for a long and complicated reason, but mostly because it has no common name. It’s one of the nectar-feeding long-horns, and last week was only my second time ever seeing one. The last was five years ago in the garden. This one (below) was out on the hogweed by the road. All praise the hogweed, it feeds armies of the most important insects in our countryside, and more besides. Importance, of course, is relative.

The Dream Beetle, Strangalia quadrifaciatus, is a large beetle that feeds on nectar and is only very rarely seen. We are very fortunate to have them in Wicklow, but I’m the only person I know of who has seen one! That’s why a camera is so important.

Well, the blog is back after terrible flu, endless rain, sub-summer temperatures and the many other little nuisances that afflict the online naturalist. I do plan to change the direction a little though, and perhaps make things more exciting. But you, dear reader, will be the judge of that…

The November that thought it was summer

November has drawn to a close and taken with it an extraordinary weather pattern that has allowed summer flowers to continue blloming, and inspired many trees and shrubs to begin producing big leaf buds and some to even begin producing early flowerbuds. But there were two sights that I have been more astonished at then all others:
Firstly, a field with red meadow poppies still blooming in it, and not just any field, but one on a quite windswept hill overlooking the village of Newcastle, just a mile from the Wicklow coastline.

Meadow Poppies blooming near Newcastle village. This photo was taken on the 13 November!

But even more amazing than this have been sightings of butterflies throughout Wicklow. Just last week I came across a Red Admiral perched on a sunny tree trunk down on the East Coast Nature Reserve, and moments later a Small Tortoiseshell flew down a path and over my head. Last year we had heavy snow and freezing temperatures everyday from the 25 November and well into December. This is clearly a very different kind of year, and many plants are behaving in a strange manner that could point to a very mild winter and no snow.

However, personally I don’t want to make any predictions at this point, as anything can happen in January.

A Red Admiral sunbathing on a sunny tree trunk on the East Coast Nature Reserve taken on 22 November.