Wednesday, April 9, 2014

Friday, April 4, 2014

Sequence Complete: Predicted Structure

Yet another Purple Empire world exclusive. With sequence now complete, I present the predicted structure of the Pheromone Binding Protein (PBP) of Apatura iris.


We're off!

Iris larvae have started to feed in the wild.  The first probably started on April 1st, maybe at the end of March.  Either way, this is by far the earliest I've recorded them starting to feed in the wild, though in the early spring of 2011 a couple started around April 7th.  The other start dates in my five year study sequence are 18th April 2010, and circa 23rd April in 2012 and 2013. 

Here is some proof, photographed today -


Most are in this poise, below, waiting for their leaf bud to open (I'm particularly proud of this photo) -


A lot of breeding trees are now coming into leaf - unusually early.

If things carry on at this rate the butterfly will be out very early this year.  Watch this space: you may have to bring your holidays forward... 

Sunday, March 16, 2014

Ridiculously Early!

Visited Savernake today.  During the last two weeks half the surviving larvae there moved out of hibernation to take up positions next to swelling leaf buds - they normally do this at the start of April.  Only a few are still in deep midwinter mode.  Two larvae may well start feeding later this week, as they are aligned next to opening leaf buds, notably this one -


This next one will start nibbling the sepals which unfurl as the flower fades, probably in a week's time -



Basically, they are about three weeks ahead of the norm and six weeks ahead of where they were this time last year - and if this goes on the butterfly will be out at the end of May...  Fortunately, cooler cloudier weather is forecast for this week, for things need slowing down. 

Also, here is a 4th instar Pearl-bordered Fritillary larva, photoed near Cirencester yesterday.  They are feeding up fast in this weather, as is the Marsh Fritillary -

  

Friday, March 14, 2014

This Summer's Dress Code

This summer the well-dressed lady, and some well-dressed gentlemen, will be wearing this in Emperor woods during The Season (with a splat of fish paste over the Swallowtai image) - http://www.oasis-stores.com/oriental-butterfly-print-skater-dress/all-about-you/oasis/fcp-product/5550079868

Monday, March 10, 2014

The Emperor Awakes!

With spring springing, and a work schedule that required me to travel from Swindon to Winchester, I decided to pop into the Wiltshire wood that is home to a number of Purple Emperor larvae. As Matthew says, most are now changing colour and "greening up" but, unfortunately, many have been predated with over 50% of the larvae I've been following now "missing in action". I'm sure some will simply have wandered off but many more will have become food for the abundant tit population. I just hope I'm able to follow some through to adulthood. Of the 15 that I tried to relocate, I only managed to find 5 and all are shown below.







Saturday, March 1, 2014

Nightmare!

Regret to have to report very high losses of hibernating iris larvae in the wild this winter.  To date well over half the large sample I've been following has been lost, to assumed predation (though one or two lost souls may have moved and may yet reappear).  It looks as though this winter's losses will be the heaviest recorded in five winters of close monitoring. 

We must smash every tit nest box in Britain and set my cat on to them...  Survival is better in cold winters: This winter has been far too mild.

Most of the survivors seen today are greening up, ridiculously early.  One is in late April green already. 

Here are some brave survivors, though they're not supposed to be so bright and green on March 1st -