Before continuing with the weekly article I would like to make a short announcement. I opened my new store. If you are interested in good quality clothing with unique wildlife designs and wildlife conservation go have a look at AnimalEnthusiastStore.
Now let me tell you what this article will be about. In a hot, sunny, summer day I went into a private forest to see what I can find over there and it turned up to be a great decision. Besides spotting two birds of prey, a hare and some songbirds, I have probably seen the most amounts of insects for a single day. I’ve spotted a creeping thistle (Cirsium arvense) full of cabbage white butterflies (Pieris rapae) and while I was photographing them I have noticed other insects visiting the plant also. 20 different species of insects visited this single plant in one or two hours while I was there photographing and it is possible that some may have slipped under my radar. I did not manage to identify all of them at the species level and I will describe here only 7 species, I don’t have good pictures for all and some of them have been in previous articles as well. I will put photos and names with as many as possible at the end of the article.
The first bug that got my attention while photographing the butterflies was also a member of the same order as the butterflies, Lepidoptera, and some will call them night butterflies, a moth. A beautiful moth that apparently is active during the day and that I did not manage to entirely identify,((( just that is part of the Geometer moths (Family Geometridae). The scientific name derives from Ancient Greek, from the words,,geo’’-earth and,,metron’’-measure and it refers to the way their larva moves along in a looping fashion appearing to ‘measure the earth’. There are around 23 000 species described in this family which makes the identification even harder. Being such a big family the variability inside the family is also big so it is composed of members that are considered pests and also very important, very studied members like the Peppered Moth, Biston betularia. )))Edit: It actually turns out to be The Silver Y Moth (Autographa gamma), a migratory moth from the Noctuidae family that is named by the silver Y-shaped mark from each of its forewing. Thank you Davie Rolnick for helping me identify this moth!
To ramain in the same area, in the same Lepidoptera order, I will show you probably the most beautiful butterfly I’ve found in Denmark this summer. It’s a rare sight, a Map butterfly (Araschnia levana), first seen in North Europe, except Denmark, in 1973 in South-eastern Finland and was unsuccessfully introduced in UK many times. Now it is illegal to introduce non-native species in the UK but in the past, there were many people that tried introducing it and some that opposed it and even complotted against it. The Map butterfly is well known by the fact that the two annual broods do not look the same. The spring brood is bright orange marked with black spots while the summer brood (like the one in my picture) is black with white spots and bands and it looks like a small version of a White admiral (Limenitis camilla).
Not as many as butterflies in numbers but maybe more diverse, there were coming to feed all sorts of bumblebees, bees, and wasps. One of them was the White-tailed Bumblebee (Bombus lucorum), a common sight in European gardens and parks. B. lucorum has a shorter tongue than other bumblebee species, therefore, they’ve developed a method of nectar robbing. With sheath around its tongue, the worker makes a hole in through the flower, reaching nectar without entering the flower and without coming in contact with the pollen thereby robbing the plant and also providing other insects that want nectar with a way of getting it without helping the plant with the pollination. They do also tend to forage on flowers with short collars and daisy-type flowers, then contributing to the pollination process as seen in my pictures.
One intriguing wasp that I have photographed is a Weevil Wasp (Genus Cerceris) with beautiful black and yellow patterns. In the pictures that I’ve taken, the wasp is covered in pollen and it looks like it is feeding on nectar but if you look closer, on the other side of the flower, is a small beetle. If I have correctly identified this wasp to be part of Cerceris genus than it means it was probably after the beetle, and now when I think back her frantic movements on the flower make sense. As the spider wasp described before (art.7), the weevil wasp paralyzes it’s pray than moves it to its nest where it is consumed alive by the larvae when it emerges. The usual pray of the wasp are weevils, beetles and sometimes bees. Some species from this genus share nesting sites or nest communally but they are usually solitary.
The flies were another constant presence to the prolific flowers. One of them is a blowfly found in most areas of the world and has a forensic importance, veterinary importance, and even a medical importance. This autumn I have noticed an increased resilience in the Common Greenbottle Fly (Lucilia sericata) when all the other house flies have disappeared and they were the last flying. This blowfly helps forensic entomologists to determine the minimum postmortem interval by knowing it’s life cycle and habits. It is of veterinary importance because it affects farm animal, mainly sheep, by laying eggs in sheep wool. The larva then migrates to the base of the wool and inflicting massive leisure’s and secondary infections causing a huge economic impact. Since 1826 L. sericata became of medical importance when it’s larvae were removed from the eyes and facial cavities of a human patient by the entomologist famous in studying the blowfly Johann Wilhelm Meigen. The larvae has numerous medical applications like removing dead tissue from wounds, reducing bacteria levels in patients infected with MRSA or helping tissue regeneration.
The hoverflies were also present to the feast, one of them is the cute, inoffensive Marmalade Hoverfly (Episyrphus balteatus) which has a cool pattern that appears wasp-like to predators like birds and other insects. It can also appear wasp-like to the untrained eye and when it forms dense migratory swarms it can cause panic. It is capable of crushing pollen grains and feeding on them being among the very few species of flies that can do that. It also has cool dimorphism making me able to tell that in my photos I’ve captured a female marmalade hoverfly because it lacks the male characteristic. Male has the left and right compound eye touching at the top of their heads forming what is called the holoptic eye.
Between all the flies and bees and butterflies, a small Fourteen-spotted Lady Beetle (Propylea quatuordecimpunctata) was wandering around on one of the plants. The lady beetles are best known as predators of aphids and on this plant, I am positive there were aphids present. The Black Garden Ants (Lasius niger) gave away the presence of aphids on which they attend and which they protect in order to feed on the honeydew the aphids excrete. In this case, I was very curious about what happens if the ants find the ladybug or whether the ladybug can pray on the aphids without being detected. I had followed the ladybug for a while but she did not reach any aphids, neither met any ant and to my disappointment, it quickly flew away. It is so exciting to find this kind of situations and being able to document them would be a big plus.
Here are some pictures that I’ve managed to capture with some of the other species: Bees (Epifamily Anthophila), Black Garden Ant (Lasius niger), Brown Hare(Lepus europaeus), Cabbage White(Pieris rapae), Common Carder Bee (Bombus pascuorum), Common pheasant (Phasianus colchicus), Common Red Soldier Beetle(Rhagonycha fulva), European Honey (Buzzard Pernis apivorus), Red Kite(Milvus milvus), Sunfly (Helophilus pendulus), Tribe Halictini A member of Sweat Bees (Family Halictidae), White wagtail(Motacilla alba).
Thank you for reading and please leave a comment below with any suggestion, information, story… anything.
Please follow on social media, share if you enjoyed and support if you really enjoyed. Have a great spotting!
For all species found on my spotting adventures, take a look at INaturalist.
The gear that I’ve used for spotting and book used for identification, here.