‘Moor’ lepidoptera skipping about.

Despite the changeable weather over the last week or so, good numbers of the iconic Large Heath continue to be seen on Thorne Moors and a few have also been seen on Hatfield Moors by Robbie Millar a student from Plymouth University who is undertaking a study of the species after the re-introduction onto Hatfield Moors around 2005.  More on that in a future post.

Other species skipping about include

Ochlodes sylvanus: Large Skipper. Image: Martin Warne.

Ochlodes sylvanus: Large Skipper.
Image: Martin Warne.

Both species are perhaps best described as ‘restless’ and both adopt a similar posture when basking in the sun.  The Large Skipper (above) is easily identified as it is the only species which has mottled rather than clear golden wings.  The first males emerge mid May and the butterfly can still be around in August and occasionally lingering till September.  Cock’s-foot is its favoured food plant whilst on wet acid soil it will use Purple Moor-grass.

The mis-named ‘Small’ Skipper because four other species of British Skippers are smaller than this species are considered more secretive than the Large Skipper.  Their preferred food plant being Yorkshire-fog where they lay their eggs in a grass sheath.  Generally Small Skipper is found in taller lusher grassland than Essex Skipper and more open places than Large Skipper.  A flight period extending from June until the end of August.  Frowhawk suggests that the life expectancy of the imago is around twenty days for both species.

Thymelicus sylvestris: Small Skipper. Image: Martin Warne.

Thymelicus sylvestris: Small Skipper.
Image: Martin Warne.

Readers visiting Thorne or Hatfield Moors are asked to keep an eye on the ‘Small Skippers’ and look out for the Essex Skipper, which is very similar but check out the tips of the antennae: are they black or brown?  Black and a short sex brand running parallel with the forewing edge as opposed to being at an angle then you have the Essex, drop us a note or better still send an image to execsec@thmcf.org   

The Brimstone larva hang on well to the Alder Buckthorn leaves that they are busily munching their way through.  The small population subject of the ongoing study are observed at various times of the day, predominantly feeding from the upper surface of the leaf but can occasionally be located on the under surfaces.  Some are still quite small, around 7mm or so whilst others approaching twice that length.

Gonepteryx rhamni: Brimstone. Image: Helen Kirk

Gonepteryx rhamni: Brimstone.
Image: Helen Kirk

Other snippets

Natural England seem to be attracting the attention of a well known conservation campaigner lately.  It seems that nature’s erstwhile guardians are dithering over designations (again) …. this time the West Pennine Moors.  OK Avery is focused on addressing the ‘Hen Harrier’ issue and his ability to retain the plight on the public horizon is to be applauded, but there are wider ramifications for this ‘neglect’.  We sense the saga has a way to run yet and will watch with interest.

Of Hen Harriers, have you logged Sunday 9 August in your diaries?  See Hen Harrier Day for more details.

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