Tag Archives: camouflage

Early May, Flowers and Insects

The spring blossoming continues, with the next wave of flowers coming out in succession, as happens every year. But now, thanks to the first blooms and blossoms and warming temperatures there are many insects around. Some are less welcome than others, but are very important to the food chain, such as the Rose Aphid (Macrosiphum rosae) , the original ‘Greenfly’ which gardeners detest although they’re not as destructive as they’re supposed to be. Here’s a winged female which has landed on a tulip blossom and given birth to two live young, which stand behind her.

A winged female Greenfly with two newborn babies standing behind her.
A winged female Greenfly with two newborn babies standing behind her.

Greenfly reproduce mostly asexually, meaning they are females and don’t require a mate to fertilise them, although there are occasionally males which do mate with females. And Greenfly give birth to live young. These ones disappeared soon after I took this photo, probably because the tulip wasn’t to their taste, or because a predator spotted them. Aphids are eaten in huge numbers by some flying insects, such as this female Large Red Dragonfly (Pyrrhosoma nymphula) , which I photographed nearby:

A female Large Red Damselfly perched on a leaf. These are highly-predatory insects and will eat anything they can catch, including small spiders.
A female Large Red Damselfly perched on a leaf. These are highly-predatory insects and will eat anything they can catch, including small spiders.

Of course, even damselflies don’t have it all their own way. They have to be careful where they land. Take this dandelion flower for example – can you see the predator lying in ambush?

The white dot is a white death - a Flower Crab Spider waiting to kill anything small enough that comes near.
The white dot is a white death – a Flower Crab Spider waiting to kill anything small enough which happens to come too near.

This predator, the Flower Crab Spider (Misumena vatia) can also turn yellow and this one soon did, making it impossible for me to photograph it in any meaninful way, as it simply could not be seen against the flower. In the close-up below you will notice yellow flecks on its abdomen, the first signs of the colour change it underwent.

Beautiful but deadly, the Flower Crab Spider as seen up close, and already starting to turn yellow. Even the biggest bumblebees fall prey to these little terrors of the garden jungle.
Beautiful but deadly to all insects, the Flower Crab Spider as seen up close, and already starting to turn yellow. Even the biggest bumblebees fall prey to these little terrors of the garden jungle.

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.

Trout About

Wicklow certainly got its fair share of rain last night, and there are a few showers still knocking about right now, with the promise of a deluge overnight and tomorrow. But the streams and rivers are still relatively clear, and it’s good and sunny, so keep an eye out for Brown Trout (Salmo trutta) in the sandy shallows.

A small Brown Trout basking in a very shallow river. Keep your eyes peeled.
A small Brown Trout basking in a very shallow river. Keep your eyes peeled.

They are brilliant at looking like bits of waterweed, so watch for any movement, make light steps on the river banks (because they will feel heavy vibrations) and move very slowly, and you will almost certainly get good views, especially if you’re next to one of the many little hump-back bridges which are found throughout Wicklow.