Marvellous Moths

It’s often been said that the insects will inherit the earth if we humans should disappear. And you could be forgiven for thinking it’s happening in this week’s blog- there are lots of insect (or arachnid) pictures! Probably one of the most spectacular is the garden tiger moth.

Garden tiger moth

Garden tiger moth

These moths usually hide their bright red colour under their black-and-white upper wings. But should a predator approach, they flash the red colour- back off, I taste bad!

Garden tiger moth

Garden tiger moth

Garden tiger moth

Garden tiger moth

We have lots of insect pictures this week as we ran a “Moths in the Morning” event along with Aberdeenshire Council and Butterfly Conservation. We set up the moth trap the night before to catch any nocturnal visitors. It’s always great fun opening the trap but a bit nerve-racking in front of people….what if the light hasn’t come on? What if there’s nothing there? But, in spite of a rather cool night, we had a good haul of moths. The commonest were the lovely map-winged swifts but there were plenty of other too. Here is a small sample of them.

Poplar hawkmoth

Poplar hawkmoth

Riband wave

Riband wave

Burnished brass moth

Burnished brass moth

Map-winged swift

Map-winged swift

Gold swift

Gold swift

Brimstone

Brimstone

It’s always gobsmacking that these lovely creatures are flying around and we never see them. Other creatures which have been flying around unseen are the local bats. We’re lucky enough to have a roost of pipistrelles in the roof, though we rarely see them. But there is plenty of evidence on the wall just outside their roost entrance- all the dark specks are bat poo.

Bat droppings

Bat droppings

After we’d emptied the moth trap, we went on a hunt for other insects. This turned up a nice selection of spiders and some amazing looking caterpillars. The emperor moth caterpillars were huge and as thick as my index finger.

Emperor moth caterpillars

Emperor moth caterpillars

While the vapourer moth caterpillar was fairly small and a very good spot by one of our visitors.

Vapourer moth caterpilla

Vapourer moth caterpilla

We also found a birch sawfly caterpillar, dangling from a silk thread. A few years back, the population of these exploded and they stripped the new leaves from the trees for two years in a row. Some of the dead trees you see around the reserve date from this, as they never recovered from the damage.

Birch sawfly larva

Birch sawfly larva

A spider with babies on her back was making the rather hazardous journey across the path.

Spider with hatchlings

Spider with hatchlings

While the bright green of the cucumber spider helps camouflage it among the leaves.

Cucumber spider

Cucumber spider

Cucumber spider

Cucumber spider

This gorse shield bug seemed quite happy on broom rather than it’s more prickly namesake….but was easier to photograph on the bracken.

Gorse shield bug

Gorse shield bug

And everyone gave the wasp a wide berth! Wasps aren’t well loved- I confess to not liking them much myself-but they are important pollinators and eat a lot of caterpillars. Good news if you’re a gardener!

Wasp

Wasp

Some flies often pretend to be wasps or bees. They can’t sting, but give the impression they can, by mimicking the colours found on wasps and bees.

Volucella pellucens or Pellucid fly

Volucella pellucens or Pellucid fly

We send all our insect records to NESBReC, the North East Scotland Biological Records Centre. Recording what we see is hugely important- without knowing what we have, we can’t look after it, or tell if it’s doing well or badly. And things like insects can be indicators if our environment is healthy too- rather important as we have to live on this planet, too. It’s always worth recording things, as you never know if it might be new or unusual—turns out one of the hoverflies Paul photographed (below) hadn’t been recorded here before. It’s a nice feeling if you find something new!

Hoverfly - Chrysotoxum bicinctum

Hoverfly – Chrysotoxum bicinctum

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