Sunday, December 7, 2014

Early Christmas Present!

Delighted to have spotted these two leaves dangling in the breeze on strands of caterpillar silk, outside Savernake Forest -

The person responsible for the silk strands is just visible on the twig in the background.  Here's a close up - 

This is a remarkable find as larvae have been incredibly scarce this autumn. 

Moreover, they are being predated, already.  We urgently need a seriously cold winter - to protect hibernating larvae with frost and snow, and drive the tit flocks out of the forest on to bird tables in Marlborough and Burbage...   

Saturday, December 6, 2014

Seasons Greetings

Early Seasonal Greetings are offered to all of those of the purple persuasion.

Monday, December 1, 2014


For those that might be interested, our Eastern Region Report for 2014 is now available to read

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Y-Tube Olfactometer

Construction of the previously mentioned butterfly Y-Tube Olfactometer is thankfully now complete.

As you will see, I've even got the pastes ready in preparation for positive control testing. All we now need are the specimens. I will be digging out some Aglais urticae from local sheds and garages for testing of the equipment over the winter months, but apart from this, roll on the 2015 A.iris/A.ilia flight season. Where are all the male images just when you need them? I really can't wait to start playing around with this, hopefully we'll get some excellent data. More on this as the results unfold.


Sunday, November 23, 2014

Bookham Territory Videos

Essential Viewing: Three video pieces of male activity at the Hill Farm territory at Bookham Common, Surrey, filmed this season by Philip Wright.  Certificate X (Over 18 only) - 

May contain scenes of gratuitous violence...


Thank You Philip! 

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Compound "X" (SPME-Headspace Analysis of The 'Medicine Mix')

Following on from an earlier post back in August of 2012, much work in this area has continued 'behind the scenes'. The conclusion from this investigative work lead me to believe that a specific (predicted) volatile was expected to be present in Matthew and Neil's magic 'Medicine Mix'. Please see their post on the subject matter, dated 21st August 2014. Today GC-MS SPME-headspace (Solid-Phase MicroExtraction) analysis was performed on a sample of their mix (although prepared by myself, according to their video instructions) and to my surprise I discovered that the predicted volatile was not only present, but also turned out to be the major volatile component (at least within the specific temperature range tested).

The volatile of interest is a major constituent of decomposing carcasses, is emitted from dog (and other predominantly but not exclusively carnivore) faeces, is a considerable component of the volatiles emitted from Limburger cheese [see Friedrich, 1977] and under certain conditions is also often present in human sweat secretions. The compound in question has been identified in the bouquet of fly pollinated plants and as such has been demonstrated to be a major attractant to these other insect species. If this wasn't enough however the volatile in question is also known to be present in the honeydew secreted by Quercus (Oak) aphids. I am currently in the process of constructing a laboratory grade, butterfly sized, Y-tube olfactometer in order to specifically test this and other volatile compounds on A.iris and A.ilia specimens. Assuming that the results obtained from these latter experiments are encouraging, you can expect to find me at Fermyn Woods next season (2015) with a ton of this compound in order to test if it works as an attractant literally out 'in the field'.

What then is this mysterious compound "X"? Sorry, but this you will need to wait until after further confirmation has been obtained in order to find out! More on this is obviously to follow...


Sunday, November 16, 2014

Silked on!

The last Emperor of the year - a pupal case left over from this flight season. 

The leaf is superbly silked on -

It will be interesting to see how long the attachment lasts...