Clump close to the ford by the River Rib. Clump now lost due to verge cutting. In flower early May
Common British name: Green Carpet Moth
Common British name: Muslin moth. This specimen was a male due to darker brown wings
From close inspection of the pattern, shape and position of the dots, I think this is a female
I found this caterpillar on our climbing rose on Saturday. It's bold markings and four yellow tufts were striking but I didn't know what species of moth or butterfly it was. A twitpic on twitter and a posting on the Amateur Wildlife Film-makers Network didn't take long to produce an answer - Jan Atkinson (@kittiwake70) and Stewart Canham came to my aid with it's identification as the caterpillar of a Vapourer Moth. Stewart added another fact - that the female moth was wingless, so with my interest piqued I did a little more research.
The Vapourer Moth, Orgyia antiqua from the family Lymantriidae, can be found in most of the UK with higher numbers in the south. Male Vapourer's are daylight flying moths, easily confused with a small brown butterfly. The caterpillars emerge in April and May and feed on deciduous trees and shrubs - my guess is it is making a good meal of my climbing rose, eating below the bud in the picture above.
After pupation, the Vapourer's lifecycle differs dramatically depending on its sex. The female is flightless and remains close to its silk enclosed glossy black and hairy cocoon for its short life, releasing a pheromone to attract the flying males. Fertilised eggs are laid on the pupal cocoon and overwinter before emerging the next spring.
The males have dark, orange brown wings with a white, comma shaped spot on each wing and are predated by dragon and damselflies. As Stewart suggested, it is tempting to capture it and watch it pupate as the female (if it was one) would make an interesting photograph. Instead I think I will let nature run it's course and have a nose around for a cocoon site in the wild - you never know, I might get lucky!
References - with some great additional photos of all the lifestages
Wikipedia - Vapourer Moth
UK Moths - Vapourer Moth
Natural England/The Plant Press - Vapourer Moth
From the Badger's Eye, Saturday 11th July, 2009
Roesel's Bush Cricket - Metrioptera roeselii
It's quite muggy in Barwick today, though none of the threatened heavy showers have hit us yet. From the look of this shot though I think Standon and Buntingford have received a soaking!
In the strip of set aside land surrounding the crop a constant high frequency chirping could be heard and a bit gentle creeping around discovered the culprit. The wonderful tool that is the internet has helped me identify it as a Roesel's Bush Cricket Metrioptera roeselii which seems to be a species that is extending its range in recent times. The UK population is predominantly located in the South East of England with another population in West Wales/Pembrokeshire. They are also found in the Low Countries, parts of France, Germany and across Switzerland and Austria.
The long grass seemed to be teeming with them. A first for me and a pleasure to identify.
Freshwater Shrimp Gammarus pulex grow to 20mm in length and are a member of the Gammaridae, a large family of crustaceans in the order Amphipoda. The body is laterally compressed and at rest it curls into a C-shape. They invariable wriggle about on their sides. The upper antennae is longer than the lower pair and has a small branch part way along. The freshwater Gammarus lives in streams and rivers from lowland areas up into faster flowing hill country. If the current is fast it will shelter in weed or under stones. It also occurs in large ponds.
They are detrital feeders, which means they feed on any organic matter that is fine and decaying. There are a variety of ciliates which attach to their bodies as epizooites. (an animal living on another living thing but not as a parasite is called an epizooites). The sex of the offspring is determined by temperature, for example, in the estuarine species G. duebeni below 5Â°C it becomes a male, above this, a female.
Males are larger than the females and carry the eggs after laying. Often the amle can be seen carrying the female prior to mating. A very important food source for predators, especially fish.
A garden first for me. Thought it was a Marsh tit until I studied the photographs later. Also known as the 'northern nightingale' for its beautiful fluted song.