Sunday, August 25, 2013

Three in a Row

For the third day in a row I've visited the Wiltshire Wood - this time in the wonderful company of Matthew Oates. What a superb day - definitely one of my "top" butterflying days of the year, despite failing to see a single adult butterfly (immature stages are equally, if not more, fascinating)! Matthew is clearly very experienced in finding the immature stages of iris, and turned up quite a few larvae (and an egg) that I'd completely missed the previous two days - sometimes found based on feeding damage or, believe it or not, the remnants of the egg base! But the highlight was definitely picking up so many tips from Matthew - who explained the importance of tree species, tree position, shade, shelter, leaf size, leaf colour, leaf "thwackiness" (the sound a leaf makes when you flick it), the significance of mildew and so on. I feel a lot more knowledgeable than I did at the start of the day for sure!

After 3 hours of searching, the "stats" are that we found 22 larvae and 1 egg, with an incredible 11 larvae (and the egg) on the same tree. Aside from the egg, approximately half of the larvae found are in their 1st instar, and the others in their 2nd. Matthew also found a larva that had only just changed into its 2nd instar and had yet to devour its old skin (photo below). Given the number of larvae, I've stopped naming them after Blackadder characters with the intention of following them through to adulthood, and will stick with Egbert, Baldrick and Blackadder for the time being! And my thanks to Matthew for being so generous with his time and knowledge.

1st instar larva
2nd instar larva surviving the drizzle
2nd instar larva in its own private water droplet
2nd instar larva
2nd instar larva found on a discoloured leaf that looked totally unsuitable!
Larva that has just changed into its 2nd instar
The master at work!

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