Sunday, August 31, 2014

Woe, and thrice Woe!

My first full search for larvae in / around Savernake took place yesterday, accompanied by Ian Shale.  In 4hrs 30 mins searching we found signs of three larvae, only - egg case bases and 1st instar larval feeding leaves + silk seat pads, two of them with 2nd instar feeding leaves too.  But no attendant larvae.  Presumably, these had perished.

The tiny egg case bases can last for weeks - last year I found one in early November.  But the larva eats the bulk of the egg, leaving just the glued-on base behind, like this:-

The larval feeding leaves + seat pads are quite salient by late August, hence why I prefer to look for 2nd or 3rd instar larvae, rather than eggs.  They look like this:-

This is a dismal tally, given that we searched much of the traditional main breeding area.  Last year the same trees produced nearly 50 larvae!  Part of the problem was that frog-hopper nymphs had devastated much of the foliage, and iris females avoid such trees.  Also, the early spring had led to the development of coarse, thick and dark leaves, which are generally avoided.  I realise why I saw just a lone female in that part of the forest this flight season.

The hunt is now on to find where the females laid their eggs...

Watch this space, but at present the prospects for 2015 look distinctly bleak!

Friday, August 29, 2014

Swiss Update

In answer to Dennis, below, it's difficult to give a useful comparison because I have only searched on readily accessible sallows, in places I can easily check on my daily dog-walk. Of 12 eggs originally found, the tally is: 10 hatched (the remaining two are dead), 3 cats gone awol, 1 cat known dead and 6 still in the pink of health (3 1st instar and 3 2nd instar, as of today). I subsequently found another second instar cat, so I am presently keeping tab on 7 cats in total. They are (as photographed this morning):








Poor old Rāma was eaten by something a couple of days ago - so he's the one I know is dead:

The egg that I found eaten on August 10th is still intact on its leaf, nearly three weeks later:
(Aug 10th)

(today, 29th August)

Et voilà! It remains to be seen how many of these I will be able to follow into hibernation!


Thursday, August 28, 2014


It does not get better in Bucks/Oxon: so far, just 5 found in 7 hours intensive searching in five woods.
Guy: how is it in Switzerland?
It will be interesting to hear how Matthew gets on in Savernake.

Purple Battles from 2014 season

Hi all, have put together a selection of shots of Emperors battling over this past 2014 summer season. All taken at the Bookham Common Hill Farm territory. Best wishes - Rob Hill
A selection of males sparring...
A male pursuing a female (the pair slowly moved around the territory canopy for over 15 minutes).  

Male active in the canopy late in season

Male chasing a dragonfly.


Thursday, August 21, 2014

Mixing Up The Medicine

Shocking video of Neil Hulme mixing up his shrimp paste bait bucket.  Fermyn Woods, 8th July 2014.  Not for the faint-hearted.

'I love the smell of shrimp paste on the forest rides in the morning.  It smells of Victory!'


Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Purple Emperor Butterfly at Chedworth Roman Villa

Not sure if Matthew spotted this but Female photographed not far from his home in the Cotswolds on 30 July at the site of an old roman villa - National Trust property by all accounts see
Kind Regards

Monday, August 18, 2014

Honorary Butterfly

By the powers invested in me I hereby declare the Bee-eater an honorary butterfly, and am entering it for Butterfly of the Year 2014.  It is almost as amazing as the Purple Emperor, almost.  It is good to have an insectiverous butterfly.

Here's two of the eight or so currently breeding on the Isle of Wight (photo by courtesy of Andy Butler, IOW naturalist and Servant of the Glanville Fritillary) -