Posts Tagged ‘brimstone’

Natural observations

May 19, 2015

The images below show two distinct colour forms of the nursery web spider, Pisaura mirabilis.  The distictive markings show particularly well in the brown form and they also come in fawn as well as shades of grey!  A relatively common species found in suitable habitat.  The male of the species is known to offer a nuptial gift of a wrapped up prey item which functions as a mating effort that increases the chances of a males mating success.

Pisaura mirabilis, brown form

Pisaura mirabilis, brown form


Pisaura mirabilis, also comes in shades of grey

Pisaura mirabilis, also comes in shades of grey

Images: Peter Kendall

Another astute observation was that made by Martin Warne who captured the Orgyia recens or Scarce Vapourer image below.  This species is not common, UK Moths website considers it quite rare and confined to a few locations in the east of England having formerly been quite widespread.  The Humberhead Levels was and remains a stronghold as clearly illustrated on the Butterfly Conservation species fact sheet.  See also Yorkshire Moths for regional distribution or NBN Gateway for national.   Many of the former sites have been lost to habitat destruction, as the female of the species is flightless there is little chance of colonies and small isolated populations surviving when hedgerows have been grubbed out.

Orgyia recens or Scarce Vapourer

Orgyia recens or Scarce Vapourer

Scarce Vapourer is listed by JNCC as a UK BAP Priority Species.



Brimstone update: It is pleasing to report that the ovum have and are continuing to hatch, but they were late.  Clearly they had not read Frowhawk et. al.  Was this delay consequential of the cooler weather with cold nights?  The egg cases are still attached to the underside of the alder buckthorn leaves and are a transparent film of miniscule thickness.  The larva are tiny, at best perhaps 3 or 4mm.  They are not particularly easy to spot as they lay alongside leaf veins, but a thorough check with a hand lens rewards patient endeavour.  There are some excellent images on UK Butterflies which show a transparent egg case with a first stage instar.

Time to stand and stare, time to study nature? Brimstone 3 ….

May 4, 2015

A large proportion of the brimstone ova have changed colour to a yellow with a more recent ‘white’ ovum present alongside a few of them, perhaps an example of what Frowhawk had described and mentioned in the ‘brimstone update’ of 29 April.  The batch of four are still present, as are the three with pairs and singles a plenty.

150504 Gr 4 ova hrk 088

Click on the image above to see three yellow and one white ovum, two on the mid-rib and two on veins.

I’ve even managed to locate some more ovum on another alder buckthorn plant further south in the hedge.  The leaf buds are not as far advanced as those with the larger numbers of ova already present.  What is interesting is that one leaf bud has three ova which look as if they were laid at the same time, the leaf bud is still quite tight with no sign of an open leaf and one of them is actually on the stem not soft leaf tissue (click on the image below to enlarge).

150504 3 Gr ova hrk 091

Both male and a female brimstone were observed in the general area but not seen to show an interest in each other or in prospecting the hedgerow for new sites to egg lay.

Other insects active were numerous Large Red Damselfly and what appears to have been a gathering of Nomada sp. or ‘cuckoo bee’ (quaintly referred to as a social parasite) around a burrow entrance under coppiced hazel bushes …. BWARS is an excellent website to try to establish their identity as it has some good images, as does Eakringbirds (another excellent website) and whilst BWARS offers distribution data the species text is not yet available.  Of around 30 Nomada species I have it narrowed to three possibilities and only one appears in Skidmore (2006) so watch this space for an update.

150504 Frog hrk 085

The gardener’s friend watching for opportunity ….



Observations of Brimstone butterfly ovipositing

April 24, 2015

Spring is here, with most of the summer hirundines and warblers with us and that delightful sulphur yellow herald of spring is busy ovipositing on the alder buckthorn in local hedgerows.

150424  Brimstone ovipositing hrk 40021Above: Top towards the right hand side of the image shows, in addition to the ovipositing female, an ovum (egg) laid on an emerging leaf.  Click on the image to enlarge.

In a period of around thirty minutes one female was observed as she carefully selected the buds on which she place a single egg and on just three occasions she laid two a little way apart from each other, in this period she laid around forty tiny skittle shaped ovum.  They seemed really exposed and open to predation by hungry blue tits or patrolling parasitic hymenoptera.

150424 G rhamni  ovum hrk 40026

The ovum are generally laid on exposed buds at height, that was true of the majority of today’s observations.

UK Butterflies attributes a bud with two eggs present as being either two different females or the same female visiting at different times.  Today’s observation challenges that, as it was the same female with negligible time lapse between each ovum being deposited on the same bud.

150424 G rhamni ova hrk 40029

However, there were three examples where the same female laid eggs in pairs, as shown on the above (lower) branch and on a bud leaf along the veins of the recently opened leaf.

When I returned later, a number of the initially colourless (‘white’) ovum had begun to change and showed a hint of ‘bluey-green’  but one of the pairs had gained a further ovum so whilst the image below is not of any particular photographic merit it does evidence the observation.  What I cannot offer is whether it was the same female returning or a different one laying alongside the earlier laid ovum.

150424 3 G rhamni ova hrk 40034

The moral of the story?  Get out there, even back gardens can offer budding amateur naturalists the opportunity to add to the knowledge base of our wildlife.  Despite the statutory penchant for professional consultants, there is still a case to be made that it is still the amateur naturalist who has made by far the greater contribution to our catalogue of knowledge through careful and meticulous observation and study – after all, as we learnt at our recent Annual Meeting – Charles Darwin was essentially an amateur able to follow his own line as he was not reliant upon state or commercial funding?

The State of Nature

May 27, 2013

With the window of opportunity that a Bank Holiday Monday provided how many of you were out there benefiting from the experience of interacting with our declining wildlife?  How many of you later in the evening tuned into Springwatch to learn what many of us have been recording?  At least Chris Packham recommended viewers download and read The State of Nature Report and for that he is to be applauded.  I’d be curious to learn how many ‘hits’ the RSPB website got subsequent to his ‘plug’.

It makes pretty depressing reading, one of the report’s headlines reads …. We have quantitative assessments of the population or distribution trends of 3,148 species.  Of these, 60% of species have declined over the last 50 years and 31% have declined strongly.

One might wonder what the Government response to this will be, denial or a public relations exercise rolling out case studies of funded ‘biodiversity building’?

What the report and programmes like Springwatch should encourage us all to do is to get out there and record the biodiversity then the evidence is there for those who write such ‘natural history obituaries’.  It might also encourage those who pproclaim themselves as guardians or champions to try a bit harder and actually safeguard and protect declining habitats and species.

There is certainly some stunning invertebrates about at the moment for those with patience to capture on camera.

The hoverfly Dasysyrphus albostriatus (another stunning shot captured here at Crowle by Phil Lee) is a woodland edge species and widespread throughout much of the UK.  With around 276 species known to Britain, they make a good group to study.  There is a Hoverfly Recording Scheme and more details can be found here.

Dasysyrphus albostriatus 2 Crowle Moor 12.5.13

This superb image of the wasp beetle Clytra arietius was taken by Steve Hiner on Thorne Moors recently.   A long-horn beetle whose larvae feed on the wood of deciduous trees which have an association with fungi.  The adults feed on pollen and females supplement their protein intake by taking smaller insects as well.


One of the earliest butterflies to emerge in spring is the stunning sulphur Brimstone, another of Steve Hiner’s Thorne images.  I suppose the four peacock butterflies sunning themselves on 4 January don’t really count as they would have been tempted out of hibernation.


So, get out there before it’s too late.  Get out there and make a difference.  Despite the depressing reading to be had, the interaction with the natural world always re-invigorates determination to challenge and change when opportunities present themselves.

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Mark Avery

Quis custodiet ipsos custodes?

a new nature blog

I write about politics, nature + the environment. Some posts are serious, some not. These are my views, I don't do any promotional stuff and these views are not being expressed for anyone who employs me.

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