Tag Archives: beetles

The Spring/Summer Intermediate

We’ve had a cold spring this year, and now we have reached the intermediate time when spring turns into summer. The first thing you will notice about this time of year is that, despite long days and sunny spells, there are few butterflies about. You might see one or two Orange-tip butterflies still on the wing,  but their time is now pretty much over until next year. They are beautiful though:

There are, of course, other butterflies around, but they are small in number, and mostly more drab species, such as the Speckled Wood,  which is a species I’m very fond of because it makes up for its lack of colours with attitude, being a cheeky butterfly that will ‘buzz’ you. However, butterflies aside, there are lots of other interesting creatures, such as beetles. In woodland glades you might find long horn beetles, aka timberman beetles, feeding on pollen. Here’s a very handsome species, Rhagium bifasciatum, which I found on a buttercup flower:

On the bogs along the coast of Wicklow there are many interesting creatures and plants to be seen at this time of year. There are warbler species and Stonechats are very brazen and beautiful in their breeding plumage – such as this male which regarded me suspiciously as I walked along the railway fence:

At this moment the bogs are covered in the beautiful blooms of the Yellow Flag, an iris species which grows in waterlogged ground and even in ponds. Many insects depend on them:

Keep an eye out for a very large caterpillar, which you might see crossing your path on a bog walkway if you visit a nature reserve. This wonderful-looking creature is the caterpillar of the Drinker Moth (Euthrix potatoria). The caterpillar is actually the source of the name, as it is said to be seen to drink drops of dew at this time of year,  a story that could have some truth to it, as folklore often does.:

The moth is much smaller than the caterpillar, but technically a large moth, as all of its relatives are quite big. The Drinker Moth is very stout and robust in a chunky sort of way. While you are looking for these caterpillars you might have a largish dragonfly zoom noisily past your ear. This will probably be the Hairy Hawker (Brachytron pratense), which is one of our earliest large dragonfly species. It is colourful and definitely hairy. I was very lucky to get a close-up shot of one only recently, and the camera lens was literally only a few centimetres from the dragonfly, which remained calm as it perched on a nettle:

Finally, a number of people have asked me if I could tell them what the amazing-looking  small blue-green beetles are that can be found on almost every flower along the coastal dunes in the last few weeks, as it is not easily found in books or online. That is definitely true. This beetle is the Blue-Green Soft-winged Flower Beetle (Psilothrix viridicoeruleus), which is a remarkably hairy little creature and seems to spend its time eating pollen and mating. Living the dream, I guess:

   Lately we have been having a very wet and cold time of it, and this does sometimes happen, with the weather far below par up until the Summer Solstice, which is the longest day of the year, but also the exact border between the seasons, ending the springtime and starting the true summer. The Summer Solstice this year will be this Friday at precisely six minutes before five o’clock in the afternoon in our local time, which is British Summertime (15.54 GMT). Many great summers started off as bad, if not worse than this one, so we can still hope for the best.

Fledglings and Maybugs

It was a tough spring for the birds because temperatures were almost relentlessly below normal, causing plants to bloom, blossom and leaf late, and insects to be in short supply. I was surprised to see the Blackbird above with such a large fledgling chick. I had put some cream out for them, cream which had just gone off, but they loved it.

Two Cockchafer beetles - the males have rooster-like red combs on their antennae.
Two Cockchafer beetles – the males have rooster-like red combs on their antennae.

Last Thursday was our first really warm sunny summer-like day and later that night I found Maybugs, better known as Cockchafer Beetles, coming to the lights of the house in huge numbers. In fact, I’ve never seen so many at one time. They will be flying around Wicklow skies until late in June, and possibly even into July.  They are heavy beetles and when one very big one accidentally blundered into the web of a female Giant House Spider the poor spider was quite at a loss what to do, as the beetle was a bit bigger than its usuall prey. The Cockchafer fell out of the web soon after, ably assisted by gravity:

When spider dreams come true they're generally too big to handle.
When spider dreams come true they’re generally too big to handle.

Field Meeting of the National Biodiversity Data Centre

National Biodiversity Week ended on bank holiday Monday, but it really only heralds the start of summer. We have had a very mixed spring, with a colder May than anyone would have expected, but the wildlife is certainly out there. During Biodiversity Week the National Biodiversity Data Centre held its field meeting for volunteer recorders of butterflies and bees here in Wicklow, starting in Glendalough.

Above the Upper Lake in Glendalough Dr. Úna Fitzpatrick gets the recorders to pose. I'm not in the photo, for obvious reasons.
Above the Upper Lake in Glendalough Dr. Úna Fitzpatrick gets the recorders to pose. I’m not in the photo, for obvious reasons. In this particular area we were looking for Graylings, a species of butterfly quite rare in Ireland.
Dr. Tomás Murray and Dr. Úna Fitzpatrick who administer the butterfly and bee recording projects. You will probably know them from the radio, and they are always looking for new recorders. Here pictured at Buckroney Nature Reserve to the south of Brittas Bay.
Dr. Tomás Murray and Dr. Úna Fitzpatrick who administer the butterfly and bee recording projects. You will probably know them from the radio, and they are always looking for new recorders. Here pictured at Buckroney Nature Reserve to the south of Brittas Bay.

Most of the wildlife seen was actually at Buckroney Nature Reserve on the second day of the meeting, and not in the very crowded valley of Glendalough. However, there were lots of these insects which you will see around over the summer, Common Dor Beetles (Geotrupes stercorarius) one of the most common species of dung beetles. They are related to the famous Egyptian scarab beetles and have massive digging claws as they do.

One of many Common Dor Beetles in Glendalough. These ones were very recently hatched out as they had no mites on them.
One of many Common Dor Beetles in Glendalough. These ones were very recently hatched out as they had no mites on them. Usually these stocky beetles have loads of mites hitching rides on them from dung heap to dung heap.

Down at Buckroney Nature Reserve we had more luck. This area is part of the Brittas Bay dune system and very hot in bright sunlight due to all the sand. And it’s packed with wildlife.  Such as…

A freshly emerged poisonous day-flying Cinnabar Moth, one of the most beautiful moth species and remarkably common along the dunes. It's poisonous to eat of course, so you're safe unless you have a taste for moths. It actually looks far more like a butterfly when flying.
A freshly emerged poisonous day-flying Cinnabar Moth, one of the most beautiful moth species and remarkably common along the dunes. It’s poisonous to eat of course, so you’re safe unless you have a taste for moths. It actually looks far more like a butterfly when flying.

And here are what naturalists look like in the field when they’ve caught something interesting…

Dr. Murray examines a specimen brought to his attention. Don't worry folks, they were all released unharmed.
Dr. Murray examines a specimen brought to his attention. Don’t worry folks, they were all released unharmed.

There were quite a few interesting creatures at Buckroney, so I’ll post some photos of them in the next instalment.