Sunday, October 30, 2016

Colouring Up...

The few larvae I'm following this autumn / winter are colouring up and wandering off the leaves. Some have undoubtedly entered hibernation - they're hard to find until all the leaves are off. In mild dry autumns they can travel several metres before conking out for diapause. Oh for a cold, wet and thoroughly miserable late October / early November, so that they only crawl a little way - but every year of my study that period has been mild and dry, and larvae have gone walkabout big time...

Here's Savernake No 10 today -

Here's the two main seat and feeder leaves of Savernake No 1, today, dangling from silk strands. This larva is probably in hibernation as it was on an early leaf fall sallow. Note the first / second instar seat pad & feeding marks on the broadside leaf.

Saturday, October 29, 2016

Early hibernation

Of five eggs I found this summer, just one has (to the best of my knowledge) made it through to the big sleep. This is Kenny:

He left his leaf some time between 22nd and 26th October and moved about 1.5 m to his present spot, not counting any explorations and diversions he might have had along the way. Normally they don't go into hibernation before November in these woods.


Monday, October 24, 2016

2016 Egg Lay & Prospects for 2017

The final tally from my annual 20 hour foliage search for eggs and larvae in and around Savernake Forest is a meagre 16. This is the lowest count in eight years of standardized searches there, and is down from 21 in 2015, itself a low ebb. How the mighty are fallen - I found a staggering 179 there in 2013!

I wasn't able to conduct a thorough search at Knepp Wildlands, my other main study site, as Mrs O has been seriously ill. But the searches I was able to conduct reached a comparable conclusion - I was finding larvae at the rate of one every 75 minutes, which is poor by Knepp standards.

Last autumn I predicted that the 2016 emergence would be poor on this blog.  

However, the good news is that larval survival this late summer and autumn has been better than in other years, and considerably better than last year. So the prospects for 2017 may well be better, though much depends on winter and spring weather - we need a cold winter, then a late spring followed by a pleasant May and June.

There is always hope: the great Emperor season of 2013 came after I'd found a mere 24 larvae in Savernake in 2012.  

The few larvae I'm following are still wearing their Lincoln green, though they should start colouring up now. Here's one from Knepp last Saturday, spinning silk to strengthen the join where his leaf meets the stem - 

Sunday, October 23, 2016

Nicaraguan Emperor

Males of these fantastic South American (Doxocopa) species. Many thanks to my project collaborator in El Salvador"

Saturday, October 22, 2016

ditto Matthew re larvae

After Brother Matthew's experiences, I have given up searching long ago: with the help of the Campbells, only 3 found in about 10 hours searching in our best woods in Upper Thames. Worst season ever.
I have the three in sleeved Sallows outside and they show no signs of being interested in hibernating: still nice and green and munching away, see photo

Monday, October 17, 2016

More appropriate Clothing...

Sue Clarke found this gem in a second hand shop, and has no idea who the manufacturer is..  

Monday, October 10, 2016

Savernake Crashes...

With two or three sessions to go in my annual 20 hour search for autumn larvae in and around Savernake Forest I think I can categorically say that this year's egg lay is going to be the poorest I've recorded, in eight years of diligent recording.  

It all started so promisingly - as chronicled in my post of Sept 9th, but since then I've struggled badly.  The most worrying thing is that most of my alpha trees have drawn blank, and I've only got a scatter of low grade sallows left to search.  

Many of the trees I used to search are now too shaded, or they've grown so much that their searchable lower boughs have died back. That's natural. More worryingly, most of the generation of young sallows that sprung up following FC thinning works in the early 2000s have now been killed by squirrels - and the estate & the FC have given up on squirrel control. I've met with the FC about this and we're trying to work out what to do... We need Pine Martens and Goshawks to crunch the squirrels. I'm taking my cat next time.

So, at this stage I'm agreeing with Brother Dennis - this is a dire year for larvae...

I haven't started at Knepp as Mrs O has been seriously ill and I've been confined to barracks (Savernake).

Thursday, October 6, 2016

Mimathyma schrenckii: Schrenck's Emperor

Adding a little of (predominantly) Indian Spice. L3, pre-diapause Mimathyma schrenckii larvae. Four of only ten such larval specimens currently in the UK. Currently feeding on Wych Elm (Ulmus glabra).