Last week I was pleased to see the first vapourer moths of the year on the wing along the public footpath by the silt lagoons and later, Beach Hut volunteer Dave Roberts recorded one at the start of the visitor trails. A favourite of mine, they have some interesting aspects to their lifecycle….
The males fly during the day and at night and so can be seen on warm days during the flight period of July – October, starting slightly later in the north. They occur in one protracted generation throughout this period. The males are a bright orange colour, making them obvious in flight and are worth looking at closely if they land to appreciate the colouration, with dark cross bands and white spot near the trailing edge of the forewings.
The females on the other hand are totally different. They are completely flightless, possessing only vestigial wings. Grey/brown in colouration, they have a large, swollen abdomen and spend pretty much all of their imago (adult) lifestage in the vicinity of the pupal case that they hatched out of. The female releases pheromones that attract the flying males and after mating they lay their eggs on the empty pupal case, where they (the eggs) will overwinter.
And it’s not just the imago insects that are interesting. The larvae are stunning, with a dark coloured body, they are covered in tufts of long hairs of different colours and lengths. Four of these hair tufts, located towards the larva’s head end and cream in colouration are thought to mimic the eggs of parasitic wasps. These wasps lay their eggs on the larva, which then hatch and eat the moth larva alive, before pupating themselves inside or on the eaten body of the moth. Mimicking the eggs of these wasps is thought to provide protection for the moth by fooling the wasp into thinking that the larva has already been parasitised.
Vapourer moth larva. Roger Tidman (rspb-images.com)
Larval foodplants include many broadleaved trees and shrubs, therefore allowing the species to occur in a range of habitats. They are common and widespread throughout much of the UK.
Then come along to the Marsh Fayre, Saturday 20th September (that's tomorrow!), 12.00 - 17.00 at Beckingham Village Hall and The Old Willow Works, Old Trent Road, Beckingham - both near Gainsborough.
This event, held in promotion of our nature reserve at RSPB Beckingham Marshes is a celebration of Nottinghamshire and Lincolnshire communities, crafts, small businesses, charities and entertainers and is kindly organised and supported by KISMET Theatre Company and Beckingham History Group.
Entry and activities are FREE and include -
There is lots going on and something for everyone, so please support the event if you can - it should be a great afternoon out!
Some bird movements in the last few days have produced some nice sightings, whilst insect numbers continue to do well on sunny, warm days. Highlights of the last week include -
Another bittern sighting today on Phase 2.
Spotted flycatcher, 3 greenshank, 6 snipe and 2 jay over the visitor trails yesterday - thanks to Dave Roberts for these.
13 golden plover over our storage containers - first of the autumn yesterday and more overhead today.
Dunlin over the Beach Hut yesterday.
4 hobby feeding over the site - thanks to Dave again for this record.
Several large flocks of small birds around the site including the public footpath alongside the silt lagoons and on the Sustrans route 64 at the south end of the site. Flocks include mixed finches and buntings, tits and chiffchaff. Worth looking through these.
Increasing numbers of teal, wigeon and shoveler - winter approaches!
At least two flocks of c.100 starlings at the north and south end of the site - winter approaches again!
Vapourer moths are on the wing, with the first of the year yesterday from the Beach Hut and on the public footpath.
Hornets feeding up and down the public footpath - take a look at David Morison's photo of these in the gallery section.
Red admiral, small tortoiseshell, speckled wood, common blue, whites, peacock and comma still on the wing. Migrant hawker, common darter and common blue damselfly are still flying in good numbers - summer clings on!