Thursday, 11 October 2012

Some autumn insects

I found the remains of an old lady the other morning. Actually, to be more specific and somewhat less macabre, I found the wings from an old lady moth. The wings were on the floor of a passageway that runs under part of the house and out onto the street. This sheltered spot is well used by brown long-eared bats, which often bring the larger moths into the passage so they can devour them while clinging to the wall. The boldly marked wings of this large moth are easily recognised and they stood out from the remains of other species, taken more commonly by our local bats. The weather has been such recently that I have seen few moths against the kitchen windows of an evening and this makes me wonder if the bats are beginning to find things a little difficult. They have not had a good year by all accounts, with reports of underweight individuals and others seen on the wing during daylight, stressed by the lack of insect prey. It could be difficult for them going into the winter that lies ahead.

I have not experienced a late summer flush of other insects either, with few migrant moths and hoverflies evident in the garden. Not that there has been much late-summer nectar for them – the sedum and nettle-leaved bellflower only coming into bloom over the last few days. At least the sedum has been available for the small influx of red admiral butterflies that has been on the wing during those days when the sun shows against a bright blue sky. Late September and early October can be a reasonable time for insect immigrants; Camberwell beauty, a very impressive butterfly, tends to occur at this time of the year, although in very small numbers. The Camberwell beauty immigrants originate from Denmark, Poland and Sweden, which is why Norfolk delivers the greatest number of records in most years. It has been a while since the last major influx of this species and it is now very unlikely that we will see any influx this year.

There are invertebrates around if you know where to look though and can get out and about ahead of the first frosts. Bush-crickets can still be found in our hedgerows, along with various flies and smaller wasps, and there are plenty of spiders around at the moment, including some of the Tegenaria species that may be encountered dashing across the living-room carpet during the evening. There is a sense, however, that things are winding down, retreating ahead of the approaching winter and readying themselves for a sustained period of inactivity. Every now and then though you might still stumble across something of interest.

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