Tag Archives: butterfly

Longhorn Moths and Silver-Ys

I said it before, and I’ll say it again, you really do not know what you’re going to find round the next bend in the road in Wicklow. Here’s something really remarkable I found feeding on the Cow Parsley – a Longhorn Moth:

Longhorn Moths, just like Longhorn Beetles, get their name from their extremely long antennae, which in this species are truly immense.
Longhorn Moths, just like Longhorn Beetles, get their name from their extremely long antennae, which in this species are truly immense, being almost twice the length of the moth’s body.

And the excitement didn’t end there – this particular species is one of the two most colourful species found in Ireland, known only by its scientific name of Adela croesella.  It is (as far as I know) only found in the Burren, on the west coast of Ireland. So to find it in Wicklow is very exciting. Only the males have such long antennae, apparently to impress the females with, as is often the case with extremely exaggerated bodily appendages.

A Silver-Y moth, named after the beautiful 'y' shaped mark on its wings, which is upside down when the wings are folded, as in this photo.
A Silver-Y moth, named after the beautiful ‘y’ shaped mark on its wings, which is upside down when the wings are folded, as in this photo.

Today I was very glad to find my first Silver-Y of the year, which had to be rescued from a polytunnel. Silver-Ys migrate to Ireland from southern Europe and North Africa, and it seems they also attempt the return journey, although some will attempt to survive the winter in greenhouses. This one might actually be a larva which hatched out in the polytunnel itself.

Finally, a word about camouflage – for anyone who doubt species of white butterfly have adequate camouflage, just look at this female Green-veined White feeding on a cystus flower – truly impressive camouflage as it feeds:

Just another petal on one of many flowers unless you look more closesly.
Just another petal on one of many flowers unless you look more closesly.

Meanwhile, back in Wicklow…

We are having a magnificent spring this year. The last two weeks have been almost completely sunny, with just the right amount of rainfall to keep the plants happy. Blooming dandelions are providing an extra amount of pollen for the bees, and there are many very happy bees around this year. And bees are not all aggressive stinging insects. Many are quite laid back, such as this female Early Mining Bee below. They seem to be quite inquisitive insects.

A female Early Mining Bee perched on my finger today. They can be very relaxed and curious insects if they don't feel threatened.
A female Early Mining Bee perched on my finger today. They can be very relaxed and curious insects if they don’t feel threatened.

But the mining bees don’t have it all their own way. There are also ‘cuckoo bee’, species which will lay their eggs in the mining bees’ nests but which do not themselves make nests. Instead the young of the cuckoo bee hatch out early and feed on the eggs and grubs of the mining bees. These cuckoo bees can be very handsome species, but look more like small wasps. The species photographed below seems to be Nomada panzeri, a species that parasitises the nests of Tawny Mining Bees.

A Nomada cuckoo bee flying close to ground level, beneath blades of grass just above the ground in search of mining bee nests.
A Nomada cuckoo bee flying close to ground level, beneath blades of grass just above the ground in search of mining bee nests.

But the insect you will probably be noticing most of all at this time of year is the male Orange-tip butterfly. This species only comes out for a few weeks in spring, usually appearing around mid-April and then completely disappearing usually before the end of the first week of June. They are extremely difficult to photograph, but somehow I got decent shots of two different individuals today.

A male Orange-tip basking in the late afternoon light today.

A male Orange-tip feeding on nectar along a hedgerow today. Females are all white with not even a little bit of orange colouring on them.
A male Orange-tip feeding on nectar along a hedgerow today. Females are all white with not even a little bit of orange colouring on them.

 

 

Earthly Delights in the Wicklow Garden

This year Wicklow is enjoying an incredible spring, and this Easter is one of the best we’ve ever had. The butterflies have arrived in great numbers and among them spectacular beauties like the Peacock.

The first Peacock of the year, sunning itself on some boards.
The first Peacock of the year, sunning itself on some boards.

And this truly is the ‘Spring of the Ladybirds’ as they are absolutely everywhere. The Seven-spot Ladybirds are the most numerous but also look for the tiny orangish-coloured 14-spot Ladybirds.

A load of Seven-spot Ladybirds sunning themselves on a box tree. Two of them are having a bit more fun than the rest, and a small wolf spider is sharing the basking spot.
A load of Seven-spot Ladybirds sunning themselves on a box tree. Two of them are having a bit more fun than the rest, and a small wolf spider is sharing the basking spot.

Slightly less commonly noticed, but probably just as widespread are the Tawny Mining Bees. These lovely bees make volcano-like mounds at the tops of burrows in which they lay their eggs. They are solitary bees, not living in large nests, although it is possible to see numbers of them sharing areas of the garden.These bees only show up for a few weeks in spring, usually in April, and they then fill in their burrows and the adults die while the young spend almost a year of their lives underground in the tunnels. The mounds disappear too, as the bees use the soil to seal the nests shut. When the grubs reach adulthood they will dig themselves free next spring and build their own nests.

A female Tawny Mining Bee on the mound at the mouth of her mine.
A female Tawny Mining Bee on the mound at the mouth of her mine.