Hunting for winter inverts

Apologies for the poor upkeep of posts on my blog of late…for one it has been pretty grim weather for the last couple of weeks, which hasn’t made it particularly conducive for either birding or photography, and also I am being kept fairly busy with the workload associated with undertaking a university degree! That said, there really is still plenty to look at and fin when you start looking…

I shall start with some moths. My faithful little heath trap has been doing ok just outside the caravan, but catches really have decreased fairly significantly recently. November (slash Autumnal) Moths have been perhaps the most common features, whilst Feathered Thorns have been turning up fairly regularly, which is great! Their bipectinate antenna, presumably from which the name originates, are superb! I have helped out with a couple of the moth-trapping events run on campus by the uni’s environmental society ‘Ecosoc’, and a particular highlight was an Oak Nycteoline, which is a new one for me. Otherwise, the usual suspects such as Beaded Chestnuts, Large Yellow Underwings, Common Marbled Carpets and Black Rustics provide the rest of the entertainment…

Feathered Thorn – a truly superb species which has been a regular moth in the traps recently. This species has just one, relatively short generation, being on the wing from September to November

This smart moth is one of three confusingly similar species, that all occur at this time of year: the November Moth, the Pale November Moth and the Autumnal Moth. It can be very tricky to separate the three species on external characteristics alone, especially in the frequent melanistic individuals

This smart little moth could easily be taken for one of the angular micro moths in the Tortricidae family. It is an Oak Nycteoline. They are on the wing from October through to March, and come in a cool variety of different forms. I have no idea what justifies its name, but it is certainly amongst the more exotically-named lepidoptera species! All online dictionaries have thus far fallen short of defining the meaning of this intriguing name
…onto the other invertebrates then. Scavenging around campus and bush-bashing has revealed a surprising diversity of inverts clinging on despite the grim weather. One of the really cool things has been the discovery of the winter forms of Common Green Shieldbug. As their name suggests, they are for the most part an all-green shieldbug. However, as winter approaches and temperatures cool, individuals loose this green colour and fade into their dark brown form. This re-affirms their camouflage against the increasingly dulled tones associated with autumn and winter. It seems that they may also begin turning green again as temperatures warm in the spring. We have found many of these brown individuals around, and some in-between forms too!
There have also been plenty of other shieldbugs lurking around on plants around the campus- on Friday Will Hawkes and I managed to find three different species in one of the gardens, namely that of Gorse, Hairy and Common Green Shieldbugs. Will also managed to find one of these stunning little Cinnamon Bugs (Corizus hyoscyami). These bright little coleoptera species resemble the Fire Bugs that inhabit the nearby continent, and so it was cool to come across one in the garden. Butterflies and bees are all still very much on the wing, with plenty of fresh Red Admirals and Peacocks still out and about on still days, perhaps looking for somewhere to pitch up overwinter, such as a warm shed. The odd Bombus terrestris passes by still, and Honey Bees are still collecting pollen from the few flowering plants on campus! 

The smart Cinnamon Bug (Corizus hyoscyami). This is a species spreading northwards in the UK, with no records further than Liverpool as yet. It is most often encountered in the south, and is relatively common across Europe, having been recorded as far north as Finland! Its common name originates from the insect’s apparent cinnamon fragrance if sniffed closely!

An interesting little beetle, with finely-indented elytra. This is the Cereal Leaf Beetle (Oulema rufocyanea), which can be a pest species on cereal crops

Just one example of the amazing difference between Common Green Shieldbugs at the moment! Very cool. Here are some more…

Common Green Shieldbugs

A Hairy Shieldbug

Gorse Shieldbug

Red Admiral

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