Last autumn I attended a fascinating nine week course at the Warwickshire Wildlife Trust on macro moths. I did hear the comment “what do you want to do a course on moths for?” a number of times but it was a fascinating evening class.
It has helped me appreciate the sheer diversity and number of moth species in my garden alone. Most importantly it has helped me understand what I need to do to make the garden a more friendly habitat for both the adult moths and their caterpillars. Of course many of these caterpillars are also food for the many birds we have nesting in the garden as well at this time of year.
The Scarlet Tiger (Callimorpha dominula) is a relatively large moth (23-27mm). It is typically a southern moth in the UK (south of the Wash), in the south west and rarely in the south east. It has unmistakable white and yellow spots and blotches on black on the forewing and a largely red hindwing which can just be seen in my photograph.
The adults fly in June and July by day and at night. Its preferred habitat is wetlands, including riverbanks and ditches, grassland, coastal habitats (not applicable here!) and gardens ¹.
According to wikipedia the caterpillars mainly feed on comfrey (Symphytum officinale), but also on a number of other plants including Urtica (nettles), Cynoglossum (borage), Fragaria (strawberries), Fraxinus (ash), Geranium, Lamium (dead-nettles), Lonicera (honeysuckle), Myosotis (forget-me-not), Populus (poplar), Prunus (cherry), Ranunculus (buttercup), Rubus (blackberries et al), Salix (willow) and Ulmus (elm) species). All of these are in plentiful supply here in the lanes and in the garden.
¹ “Concise guide to the moths of Great Britain and Ireland” by Martin Townsend and Paul Waring (ISBN 978-1-4729-6583-7)
Scarlet Tiger Moths are in the family Arctiidae, subfamily Arctiinae which includes the tigers, ermines and footman.
Honey Pot Flowersare wedding and celebration florists based in Warwickshire in the United Kingdom specialising in natural, locally grown seasonal flowers. We grow many of our own flowers allowing us to offer something very different and uniquely personal.
I think that all young children are fascinated by mini-beasts and my interest in the garden ecology around us has not gone away. It never ceases to amaze me just how many different bugs and small creatures you come across whilst digging and working among the flowers. This virtual tour of the garden gives me a great excuse to find out more.
I must admit that I have probably been rather undisciplined in what I have called a ‘bug’ over the years. The Green Shield Bug (Palomena prasina) is in fact a true-bug in the Order Hemiptera.
This intriguingly shaped bug with its shield shaped flat body, tiny head and long red segmented antennae is very common and a native in the UK. It has sucking mouthparts and feeds on the sap of deciduous trees and shrubs. Writers indicate that their impact on cultivated plants is negligible though.
Most accounts indicate that they are active from April/May through to October after which they hibernate over winter. This individual was seen in mid-November basking in the autumn sun. The green shield bugs become active in the spring, mate and lay their eggs. Once hatched the shield bugs go through a larval and four nymph stages before reaching the final stage. To me the nymphs look like little green ladybirds (but they are not) and we have often wondered what they are when we have seen them during the summer.
Interestingly the bugs change colour from bright green when they are feeding in the summer to brown when the hibernate. Presumably this is a camouflage mechanism for when they are hibernating in the winter undergrowth.
If you are interested to learn more there is plenty of information and many detailed photographs on the appropriately named British Bugs website at www.britishbugs.org.uk .
The following shared YouTube video by ‘Bugs Summer’ shows the green shield bug nymph very nicely:
One of the things I love about writing a blog is that it encourages you to investigate around a subject more than you might otherwise do so.
Over the last month the hornets have been much more noticeable in the garden than at any other time of year. I presume that they must be about all year but we only tend to notice them when the apples ripen and the cider production begins.
According to Wikipedia the European Hornet (Vespa crabro) is the largest eusocial wasp in Europe. Certainly the ones in our garden at around 3cm in length make the ordinary wasps look petite and delicate. The hornets have a very characteristic yellow band across their heads and brown hairs over their thorax. They are brown and yellow compared to the black and yellow of the common wasp (Vespula vulgaris).
They just love any apples that have been pecked by the birds and it appears that they get rather intoxicated by the (fermenting?) juice. From time to time they seem to just fall out of the apple onto their backs and onto the ground, lie there for a while with their feet in the air and after a few minutes fly back to the apple for more!
According to the UK safari website , the larvae eat insects taken back to nest by the adults. As with wasps this probably makes the hornet a friend (rather than foe) in the garden helpfully eating unwanted insects and reducing their numbers.
This same website indicates that hornets are mostly in the south east of England and range northwards as far as Nottinghamshire. Our population here in Warwickshire must therefore be part of this tough northern stock (the ones with the Midlands accents).
There has been concern about the arrival of the Asian Hornet (Vespa veluntina) in the UK which is an invasive non-native species. As a predator of the honey bee its arrival is of great concern. I am fairly sure that the hornet pictured in our garden is the European Hornet as the ‘Asian Hornet’ has an entirely dark brown or black velvety body, bordered with a fine yellow band and a much blacker abdomen. Only the 4th abdominal segment is yellow/orange.