Thursday 25 March 2021

Dotty about Bee-flies.

 It's amazing how suddenly things spring to life. Out for a stroll one suddenly realises that there are insects out and about and one of the more commonly seen insects are the Bee-flies in the early Spring.

Most of them are the Dark-edged Bee-fly, but in the area around here we also have the more unusual Dotted Bee-fly.

For some time now I have been trying to get a half decent shot of the Dotted Bee-fly but have failed consistently. Yesterday I was photographing an Oak Beauty moth when I spotted a Bee-fly on the lawn. As it was starting to get cool I thought I should move it to keep it safely away from the Magpies that patrol the lawn looking for food when no-one is about. Although I saw several Dotted Bee-flies last year on the lawn I did expect it to be the Dark-edged so it was a great surprise to see it was a Dotted. It was also a little drowsy with the cool temperature which gave me the opportunity to spend time with it taking several photos.

Bee-flies certainly are strange but wonderful insects and their Latin names are also good.

For the Dark-edged Bee-fly please see my previous post.

Dotted Bee-fly  Bombylius discolour.

Sunday 21 March 2021

Eggar Surprise.

 Perhaps it was just a little too cool on the night of the 17th March as there was only one moth in the trap the following morning. However, what a moth it was.

A Small Eggar in very good condition, and strangely much better condition than the ones that I had reared through as well as it being a lovely calm day to photograph it.

There is a question as to why it appeared in the trap with the possibility of it being the escaped larva from last Summer, I brought 7 larvae home to rear through and one that I called Houdini somehow escaped. I assumed it would have perished as there was no food plant within easy reach and as the remaining 6 larvae continued to feed for another 2-3 weeks I thought it would have starved. There is also the fact that had it managed to pupate, most outside Small Eggar pupa don't generally emerge for 2 years although of course if it found a sheltered spot it may emerge after just the one year.

The other answers would be that it either flew from the colony which is just under a mile away, well within easy reach for a strong flying moth, although why it would leave the area with plenty of prospective mates and food as the colony is quite close knit is another question, or maybe there is a closer colony that I'm yet to find. Whatever the answer is we will probably never know but it certainly was a great moth to find in the trap.

I could almost delete the photos I took of the other male as these were so much better.

Male Small Eggar.

Also this week a search of my Wall Brown creche resulted in 35 larvae found. This was over a larger area than my record count of 50 a few weeks ago with the main area where I normally find good numbers I struggled and only found 3. Fortunately good numbers were found in other areas of the site. Many of the tussocks do seem very sparse this year, especially in the area I only found the 3 so I hope they are not struggling to find enough food. However, although 35 is down on the 50 it is still very close to my previous best counts of 40 from 2 years ago.

Further on I was pleased to see my first Bee-flies of the year with several Dark-edged Bee-fly taking advantage of a warm sunny spot. It is also an excuse to re-post one of my all time favourite photos that I took of a Dark-edged Bee-fly back in 2019.

Dark-edged Bee-fly from April 2019.

Wednesday 17 March 2021


 At last a calmer and warmer night has produced a few nice moths.

Very appropriately the first moths that appeared were a couple of male March Moths, this is one of those species that are easy to sex as it's only the male that has wings!! The female is flightless and simply waits on a tree near where she hatched for a passing male to find her.

Another Spring favourite is the Oak Beauty and a species that I usually get the odd one or two most years. On the other hand though, the Satellite is a moth that I had never caught until last Autumn when 3 appeared throughout the season. Another, very smart one was caught with this trapping.

The more common Spring moths are now beginning to increase in number with my first Early Grey, Common Plume and 3 Common Quaker.

Hopefully a few more evenings will be suitable over the next few weeks.

March Moth.

March Moth typical pose.

Early Grey.

Oak Beauty.


Monday 8 March 2021

Small Eggar Emergence.

 Since first finding a new colony of Small Eggar on my patch back in 2017 I have been hoping to finally see an adult moth. Finding the colony was a very significant find as the species is thought to be extinct in West Sussex and not far off that in East Sussex. 

The larval webs are large and obvious, a bit of a problem for them if any Cuckoos are about I guess as each larva would be a tasty snack. Each web can hold large numbers of the larva and as last year I found 58 webs I decided that there were so many larvae I could try and rear a few through to adult moths, which could well be the only way I would ever see an adult as the colony is almost certainly too far away for one to make it to the garden trap.

In the end I brought 7 near fully grown larvae home to rear. One that I called Houdini somehow managed to escape, but the other 6 all eventually pupated and then it was a waiting game hoping they would hatch in the following Spring. This species have been known to stay as a pupa for several years and it is thought that most take 2 years to hatch in the wild.

Of the 6 pupa I have now had 3 emerge as adult moths, 2 male and 1 female. I was hoping that the female would be mated by one of the males but unfortunately neither male seemed interested??

I have been holding back posting this in case the others hatch, but with it being 2 weeks since the 3 hatched it looks as though either they are not going to hatch at all or it will be another year before they do. I was also hoping to find an egg mass on the bushes where the webs were last year.

22nd May 2020. 2 groups basking in the sun.

4th June 2020. 

A Fully Grown Small Eggar Larva.

6 Small Eggar Pupa. (Note the small holes which are needed so the insect can breathe).
Female pupa slightly larger.

Female Small Eggar.

Male Small Eggar.

Thursday 4 March 2021

More Good Signs.

 Several warmer, sunny days have accelerated that feeling of Spring.

On a longish walk a few days ago the local dew pond produced a smart pair of Toads mating in the weed and although they didn't come up for air whilst I was there they were near enough to the surface for a few grab shots.

Mating Toads.

After a couple of recent attempts at the moth trap I have at last caught with 3 moths in or around the trap. Nothing spectacular, although I did catch my first Pale Brindled Beauty which was found sitting on the fence, where its camouflage was making it almost invisible.

Pale Brindled Beauty.