Friday, October 30, 2015

Monday, October 26, 2015

Final Savernake Tally

This year's tally of autumn larvae found in/ around Savernake Forest is 21.  This is the same as last year's (poor) tally, but is better than I'd feared as the survey season ended relatively strongly yesterday.  My sincere thanks to Mark Tutton for helping.

Most larvae were found in two hot spot areas. Several favoured breeding areas were unsuitable this year because of severe tree hopper damage to foliage during June and / or serious squirrel damage to bark.  

Yesterday we found that two larvae had probably gone into hibernation (their feeding sprays had yellowed or fallen), though we couldn't actually find them - they may have travelled >3m.  I'll look again when all the leaves are off.

Two of the six larvae we saw yesterday were about 50% coloured up, prior to hibernation, three of the other four were starting to colour up, but one was still in full Lincoln green. 

Here's a green one hiding in a leaf tip drip - 

And here's one who will have to go off into hibernation very soon (though it will have sealed its leaf on to the twig stem with silk) - 

Saturday, October 24, 2015

Towards Hibernation

My two captive larvae coloured up ridiculously early this year. This one was photographed on 14th Oct and went into hibernation on or around the 20th - 

That's early, very early...  And they are on a bush which stays suitably green well into November.

I checked six in the wild last Sunday (the 19th), and found that they were colouring up fast.  

Looks like they're going into hibernation early, which is odd as they changed into the 3rd instar rather late.  

All this begs the question of what do they know which we don't?????

Sunday, October 11, 2015


Purple Emperor larva No 1001 was found yesterday at Marwell Zoo, by the leopard enclosure.  I'm particularly proud of this find, though the Marwell car park and woods has long been a good site for iris - I worked it during the late 1980s.  

There's a wooden walkway which skirts the leopard enclosure, running along the edge of a stand of old caprea-type sallows - at just the right height for sallow searching...  This is what was going on in the leopard enclosure -

Greater violence takes place over the nearby oaks in July...

What we really need at Marwell is a Violent Butterfly Inclosure: a massive netted flight area, containing tall oaks and aerial walkways, planted up with sallows and strawberry tree, and well stocked with Purple Emperor and the Two-tailed Pasha Charaxes jasius, only.  Male Emperors would have a fantastic time kicking the living daylights out of Two-tailed Pashas...  If Marwell wont do it, Knepp certainly will...  Bring it on!

Sunday, October 4, 2015

Oates's Marathon Innings

Today I at last reached the 1000 landmark - i.e. 1000 Purple Emperor eggs and larvae in the wild, with a pair of 3rd instar larvae close by on the same spray, on the edge of Savernake Forest. 

Unusual to find two together as, surprise surprise, they hate each other and squabble like mad - if one invades the other's leaf they lock horns and try to wrestle each other off...  

Also found a deceased larva (which counts in the 1000) - 

Note the shiny egg case base at 2 o'clock from the head.

It would be nice to think I could retire now, but I can't, so I took a fresh guard, uttered a profanity against the Two-tailed Pasha and batted on.  For those who like statistics, the innings took 40 years, lasted over 1000 hours, and included one nine, two sevens, three sixes and 24 fours...  Over half were found in four glorious seasons.

Can someone please certify me...