Wednesday, 10 February 2016

Non-Moths of 2015 - Ants

Ant, winged female.  Subfamily Formicinae.  In my garden light trap in Hayes on 22 August 2015
Ant, winged female.  Subfamily Formicinae.  In my garden light trap in Hayes on 22 August 2015
Just two photos this time, but interesting ones.  These are ants that turned up in my garden light trap on consecutive nights in August.

Late in the summer, ant nests come to a climax, and on a day when the weather is suitable they send out hundreds of winged males and females.  It should be a warm day with no strong wind and usually a light overcast.  On a really good day, sometimes you can see swarms of ants flying over pavements, where they have made their nests in the sand used to bed down the flagstones.

When they have met and mated, the males die and the females drop their wings and find a place to set up a nest for the next year.

People don't usually think of ants as being winged insects - which is reasonable, because most of them don't have wings.

These two have clearly not mated during their nuptial flight, because they still have their wings the next morning after a night resting in the trap.

Ant, winged female.  Subfamily Myrmicinae.  In my garden light trap in Hayes on 23 August 2015
Ant, winged female.  Subfamily Myrmicinae.  In my garden light trap in Hayes on 23 August 2015
You can see that although they are obviously ants, they look quite different from each other.  One is smooth and brown, and the other is smaller, wrinkled and reddish.  They belong in different sub-families.

Thursday, 4 February 2016

Orchids at Wisley 2016

Rossioglossum grande.  RHS Wisley, 26 January 2016.
Rossioglossum grande.  RHS Wisley, 26 January 2016.
While I was at Wisley RHS gardens looking at the exotic butterflies with my friend, I took some photos of orchids.  These are in a small area next to the hot section of the glasshouse, and are always worth a look.

Phragmipedium besseae.  RHS Wisley, 26 January 2016.
Phragmipedium besseae.  RHS Wisley, 26 January 2016.
Some of them are typical examples of what people think of as orchids, others less so.  All of them are showy, usually a lot more so than our native species.

Paphiopedilum x leeanum.  RHS Wisley, 26 January 2016.
Paphiopedilum x leeanum.  RHS Wisley, 26 January 2016.
Luckily, they are all labelled with their names.  Many are species, but also, many are hybrids, often artificially bred in a hothouse environment.

Zygopetalum Warringa Wonder gx.  RHS Wisley, 26 January 2016.
Zygopetalum Warringa Wonder gx.  RHS Wisley, 26 January 2016.
The "gx" in the name is short for grex, a word which is used to indicate that the orchid in question is such a horticultural hybrid.  This one was particularly impressive, and I took the photo against the light, which streamed through and illuminated those mauve-striped white petals.  (Pity the background is a bit fussy.)

I also noticed, scattered through the hothouses, many different Streptocarpus and other Gesneriads.  This one was intriguing.

Unidentified Gesneriad.  RHS Wisley, 26 January 2016.
Unidentified Gesneriad.  RHS Wisley, 26 January 2016.
It has little succulent leaves in rosettes.  It wasn't labelled, but the flower is a family Gesneriaceae flower type.  It was in a crack between stones in the side wall, not far from some actual Streptocarpus.  I'd like to grow one if I could identify it!


Sunday, 31 January 2016

Wisley Butterflies 2016 Part Two

Unidentified Butterfly.  Butterflies in the Glasshouse at RHS Wisley, 26 January 2016.
Unidentified butterfly.  Butterflies in the Glasshouse at RHS Wisley, 26 January 2016.
 Here are some more tropical butterflies from RHS Wisley.  I have not been able to identify any of this group.

Photos from the side and the top show the full creature but are rather formal.  I rather like the more personal touch of angles like this first one.

Unidentified Butterfly.  Butterflies in the Glasshouse at RHS Wisley, 26 January 2016.
Unidentified butterfly.  Butterflies in the Glasshouse at RHS Wisley, 26 January 2016.
Here is an orange-winged specimen feeding from one of the glasshouse flowers.  You can see its long proboscis probing deep.  In the first photo above, the proboscis is curled up in its normal resting position.

Unidentified Butterfly.  Butterflies in the Glasshouse at RHS Wisley, 26 January 2016.
Unidentified butterfly.  Butterflies in the Glasshouse at RHS Wisley, 26 January 2016.
Another three-quarter view.  This time you can see the stance of the body and orange-tipped antennae.

Unidentified Butterfly.  Butterflies in the Glasshouse at RHS Wisley, 26 January 2016.
Unidentified butterfly.  Butterflies in the Glasshouse at RHS Wisley, 26 January 2016.
This pretty autumnal-coloured butterfly has lost part of its near wing, and you can see part of the upper wing pattern of the wing opposite.  The upper colours look to be very similar to the lower ones.

Unidentified Swallowtail butterflies mating.  Butterflies in the Glasshouse at RHS Wisley, 26 January 2016.
Unidentified Swallowtail butterflies mating.  Butterflies in the Glasshouse at RHS Wisley, 26 January 2016.
Finally, a mating pair that we saw soon after entering the hot glasshouse.  The female might lay eggs, but unfortunately there will not be the right environment for a new generation to appear.

Thursday, 28 January 2016

Wisley Butterflies 2016 Part One

Malachite, Siproeta stelenes.  Butterflies in the Glasshouse at RHS Wisley, 26 January 2016.
Malachite, Siproeta stelenes.  Butterflies in the Glasshouse at RHS Wisley, 26 January 2016.
Time for a break from the rather drably coloured flies and harvestmen of the last couple of posts.  As usual, the Royal Horticultural Society gardens at Wisley released tropical butterflies into their hot glasshouse, and I took a few photos.  It's quite a spectacle.  If you go, you probably should get in early, or book a timed visit (free to RHS members).  I went in with a friend when the gardens opened at 10 am.

Some of the butterflies (like some of our native species) have underwings that are completely different from the upper patterns.  This Malachite is one; above, you can see one taking apple juice from one of the fruit stations set out along the paths.  Below, the upper view of a specimen resting on a white flower among green foliage.

Malachite, Siproeta stelenes.  Butterflies in the Glasshouse at RHS Wisley, 26 January 2016.
Malachite, Siproeta stelenes.  Butterflies in the Glasshouse at RHS Wisley, 26 January 2016.
Here's another species that has even more of a double image.

Blue Morpho, Morpho peleides.  Butterflies in the Glasshouse at RHS Wisley, 26 January 2016.
Blue Morpho, Morpho peleides.  Butterflies in the Glasshouse at RHS Wisley, 26 January 2016.
The side view, with autumnal browns, yellows and reds, is very pleasing, but you can't see why it's called a Blue Morpho until it opens its wings.

Blue Morpho, Morpho peleides.  Butterflies in the Glasshouse at RHS Wisley, 26 January 2016.
Blue Morpho, Morpho peleides.  Butterflies in the Glasshouse at RHS Wisley, 26 January 2016.
That second specimen is resting on my friend's bag.  She put this and a couple of other shots on a post on her Facebook page.  (This is the same person whose blog is linked to at the top right of this blog, as "The Reluctant Raw Foodist." )  Maybe it was looking for food, or perhaps it thought the brightly patterned and strongly textured bag was a good place to rest.

I'll finish this post with an Owl and post some more next time.

Owl, Caligo memnon.  Butterflies in the Glasshouse at RHS Wisley, 26 January 2016.
Owl, Caligo memnon.  Butterflies in the Glasshouse at RHS Wisley, 26 January 2016.
Actually, two Owls, on a trunk which is a fairly good disguise for them.  I do not have a shot of the upper wing surface of an Owl - but if I google it, it seems to be very similar to the underwing.

Sunday, 24 January 2016

Non-Moths of 2015 - Flies from Sevenoaks

Unidentified fly in the light trap at Sevenoaks Wildlife Reserve, 5 July 2015
Unidentified fly in the light trap at Sevenoaks Wildlife Reserve, 5 July 2015
I haven't been taking pains with flies, mostly because I know so little about them.  Some of my fly photos, inclusing a couple of these, are still unidentified, even this one, though it looks quite distinctive.  If any viewer does know any of these anonymous flies, please leave a comment!

This post shows some flies from the light trap behind Sevenoaks Wildlife Reserve visitor centre.

Unidentified fly in the light trap at Sevenoaks Wildlife Reserve, 24 September 2015
Unidentified fly in the light trap at Sevenoaks Wildlife Reserve, 24 September 2015
Another unidentified specimen, this time perhaps because the photo does not show many helpful features.

Fly, family Anthomyiidae, in the light trap at Sevenoaks Wildlife Reserve, 24 December 2015
Fly, family Anthomyiidae, in the light trap at Sevenoaks Wildlife Reserve, 24 December 2015
For some reason, some of the photos taken with my marvellous new camera are still blurred.  I have not worked out why.  Am I moving the camera relative to the subject, perhaps?  These are all taken with a heavy camera held in one hand, holding an egg box in the other, which is not a particularly steady arrangement, so I might try a faster shutter speed.

This and the next fly were identified to family on iSpot, and the final one is one of the few I can identify myself.  These last three were all in the light trap on a December day when there were no moths, so they were all I had to photograph!

Lesser Dung Fly, family Sphaeroceridae, in the light trap at Sevenoaks Wildlife Reserve, 24 December 2015
Lesser Dung Fly, family Sphaeroceridae, in the light trap at Sevenoaks Wildlife Reserve, 24 December 2015
 Another slightly blurry shot.  At least this last one (below) is sharp enough.  These Yellow Dung Flies are quite pretty.

Yellow Dung Fly, Scathophaga stercoraria, in the light trap at Sevenoaks Wildlife Reserve, 24 December 2015
Yellow Dung Fly, Scathophaga stercoraria, in the light trap at Sevenoaks Wildlife Reserve, 24 December 2015
This post is probably rather samey to most viewers, so I will try something different next time.


Sunday, 17 January 2016

Non-Moths of 2015 - Harvestmen


Harvestman, Oligolophus hanseni. Cuckoo Wood, High Elms, 12 August 2015
Harvestman, Oligolophus hanseni. Cuckoo Wood, High Elms, 12 August 2015
I have a row of posts planned, showing creatures that came in or near moth traps last year that were not moths.  Starting with harvestmen, which are not spiders, even though they look similar. (I'll end with spiders.)  Some have short legs, like this Oligolophus hanseni, and some have very long legs, so that they are one of the three groups of creatures that get called "Daddy Long-legs."

They are carnivorous, and when I do night trapping sessions I often see them wandering around, presumably on the hunt (though possibly on the hunt for mates), like this first one, which was just passing by my trap when I photographed it.  I don't usually find them actually in the trap.

Harvestman, Leiobunum blackwalli.   Hayes, 11 November 2015
Harvestman, Leiobunum blackwalli.   Hayes, 11 November 2015
This female Leiobunum blackwalli was on the outside of my garden trap in Hayes in the morning.  It has long legs, but not really long legs.  Unlike this:

Dicranopalpus ramosus.  House wall in Crowborough, 7 October 2015.
Dicranopalpus ramosus.  House wall in Crowborough, 7 October 2015.
The legs of this Dicranopalpus ramosus are so long and fine that I failed to get their tips into the shot.  My eyesight is not as sharp as it once was!  Here is a closer shot of the body:

Dicranopalpus ramosus.  House wall in Crowborough, 7 October 2015.
Dicranopalpus ramosus.  House wall in Crowborough, 7 October 2015.
Unlike spiders, harvestmen have a single part to their body.  The two eyes are on top of a little periscope at the front.  There are enough species that I am very dubious about identifying most of them, but this one has long forked palps as well as those long, long legs out to the sides, so I can pretend to be knowledgeable by identifying it at a glance.

These last two harvestmen were not actually in or near an actual moth trap, but I always check the front wall of this house in Crowborough when I visit, because moths are often to be found resting near the porch light.  When I took these photos, part of the wall was instead covered with these D. ramosus, with among them just one different harvestman:

Red Harvestman, Opilio canestrinii.  House wall in Crowborough, 7 October 2015.
Red Harvestman, Opilio canestrinii.  House wall in Crowborough, 7 October 2015.
A Red Harvestman, also long-legged, but with the legs spread fore and aft instead of to the sides.

Red Harvestman, Opilio canestrinii.  House wall in Crowborough, 7 October 2015.
Red Harvestman, Opilio canestrinii.  House wall in Crowborough, 7 October 2015.
Close up, you can see more differences, such as the much shorter and unbranched palps.  The tip of the one to our right is not missing; it is turned under, feeling the surface of the wall.

I did not identify any of these except for the Dicranopalpus ramosus.  That was done by helpful people on iSpot.

Friday, 8 January 2016

Muddy High Elms

Beech Walk, High Elms Country Park, 2 January 2016.
Beech Walk, High Elms Country Park, 2 January 2016.
The tone of winter walks is often dictated by the weather, and I have been on a few around High Elms in the rain.  On this, day, though, the few members of the Orpington Field Club who braved the weather forecast (heavy rain) were rewarded with just occasional light drizzle.  Still not all that cheerful, though!  It was very muddy, mostly more so than this photo suggests.

Here's another shot of the Beech Walk, this time from the top, looking more imposing and, deceptively, even less muddy.

Beech Walk, High Elms Country Park, 2 January 2016.
Beech Walk, High Elms Country Park, 2 January 2016.
There are two trackways because one is for pedestrians, and the other is a bridleway, for horses and bicycles.   They are about the same quality underfoot. The reason for keeping to the pedestrian side is exactly the same as the reason for keeping to the pavement in urban streets.

High speed downhill cycling is discouraged by those half-barriers.

Burnt Gorse from the low end, High Elms Country Park, 2 January 2016.
Burnt Gorse from the low end, High Elms Country Park, 2 January 2016.
This field is called Burnt Gorse, from a name found on an old tithe map.  It is cut well back in autumn to maintain its open character.  As you can see, a series of electricity power pylons reach above it; the same series that I photographed on the far side of the hill in September.  Most of the High Elms estate is woodland surrounding a golf course, but there are also a few open areas like this.

The wires make a loud hissing or buzzing noise.  As we entered at the low end of the field, it sounded very like a stream rushing along nearby - but this is a dry valley.

Hazel shrub, Corylus avellana, with catkins.  Burnt Gorse, High Elms Country Park, 2 January 2016.
Hazel shrub, Corylus avellana, with catkins.  Burnt Gorse, High Elms Country Park, 2 January 2016. 
Hazels are already full of their catkins and some are shedding pollen.  They are normally early starters, but this winter's warm weather may have brought them on too soon.

There are still a few fungi around.

Unidentified fungus on felled Scots Pine.  High Elms Country Park, 2 January 2016.
Unidentified fungus on felled Scots Pine.  High Elms Country Park, 2 January 2016. 
This one, which looks almost like part of a honeycomb, has proved to be hard to identify.  It might be something rare, or it might be something quite common growing in an unusual form.