Sunday, 28 June 2015

Bugs on drugs ...

Small Skipper (Thymelicus sylvestris)

T. sylvestris typically inhabits rough grassland, where tall grasses can be found, and may occur on roadside verges, beside hedgerows, on overgrown downland, in woodland clearings and along woodland rides. It is often found basking on vegetation, or making its short, fast, buzzing flights amongst tall grass stems.

Despite its vernacular name, four other skipper species found in the British Isles are the same size or smaller than T. sylvestris. The Essex Skipper, Thymelicus lineola, and T. sylvestris are often mistaken for each other. They can be distinguished by the colour of the underside of the tips of the antennae. In T. lineola, this area is black and in T. sylvestris it is brown (as shown above). This holds true for both sexes. Males can also be distinguished by the sex brand found on the upperside of their forewings. The sex brand of a male T. lineola is relatively short when compared with that of a male T. sylvestris. The sex brand of T. lineola also runs parallel with the leading edge of the forewing, but at an angle in the male of T. sylvestris.

The adults are on the wing in June, through July, and into August.

Monday, 22 June 2015

Chlorantha ...

Bee Orchid (Ophrys apifera var. chlorantha)

At least eight varieties and forms of the Bee Orchid have been identified in Britain. The flowers of Ophrys apifera var. chlorantha lack the red-brown pigments, having white sepals and a greenish-yellow lip marked with white. It is recorded from Sussex, Middlesex, Essex and Yorkshire. This specimen, one of around a dozen recorded, from within the South Downs National Park.


Lang, D., 2004. Britain’s Orchids. Old Basing, Hampshire: WILDGuides Ltd., pp. 150-153.

Wednesday, 17 June 2015

Not all bees sting ...

Bee Orchid (Ophrys apifera)

O. apifera is an attractive and perhaps one of our best known and well-loved orchids. It can be found in a varied range of habitats including on chalk, clay and calcareous sand, in grassland, scrub, sand dunes, limestone pavement, roadside verges, abandoned quarries and industrial waste ground, where weathering produces a base-rich substrate. The above specimen, one of around a dozen examples recently located, was photographed in an elevated downland meadow in the South Downs National Park.

Each plant comprises a number of small flowers (typically two to seven), each of which has a lip resembling a bee, along with three large, pink, petal-like outer sepals - the two other inner sepals appearing like an insects antennae. The entire flower mimics an insect feeding on a flower. At least eight varieties and forms of O. apifera have been identified in Britain. The typical form is illustrated.


Lang, D., 2004. Britain’s Orchids. Old Basing, Hampshire: WILDGuides Ltd., pp. 150-153.

Tuesday, 9 June 2015

Shades of blue ...

Common Blue (Polyommatus icarus)

P. icarus, as its vernacular name suggests, is the commonest member of the Polyommatinae found in the British Isles. While the male has bright blue uppersides, the female is primarily brown, with an extremely variable amount of blue. This can be noted even within the same seasonal population. This is the most widespread Lycaenid found in the British Isles and can be found almost anywhere, including Orkney. It is currently absent from Shetland and the mountainous areas of Wales and Scotland. P. icarus forms reasonably discrete colonies measured in tens or hundreds, with individuals occasionally wandering some distance.

P. icarus has two broods in the southern counties of England and one brood further north. Occasionally, in favourable seasons, there may be a third brood. Time of emergence is highly variable. In good years, adults may be seen as early as the middle of May on more southerly sites. These peak at the end of May or early June, giving rise to a second generation that emerges in the second half of July, peaking in the middle of August. Colonies in northern England and Scotland typically have a single brood that emerges in June, reaching its peak in July.

The two images depict the same female from earlier today …

Saturday, 6 June 2015

Sphingidae ...

Privet Hawk-moth (Sphinx ligustri)

S. ligustri (Linnaeus, 1758) is our largest resident hawk-moth, with a wing span of 100-120mm, and can be found across the southern half of Britain. In Sussex it usually occurs singly or sparingly, though occasionally can be fairly common at mercury vapour light in a wide range of habitats. The adult, which has distinctive pink and black barring on the body and correspondingly striped hindwings (which are typically concealed unless the insect is disturbed), usually flies in June and July. The larvae are even more spectacular than the adult, being bright green with lilac and white stripes along the side, and a curved black horn to the rear. It feeds on privet (Ligustrum), lilac (Syringa), holly (Ilex) and ash (Fraxinus).

This specimen, one of two, from the South Downs today ...


Monday, 1 June 2015

Fairy Longhorns ...

Yellow-barred Longhorn (Nemophora degeerella)

Simply gorgeous ...

The beautiful N. degeerella (Linnaeus, 1758) is relatively common over much of England and Wales. It is a resident species in Sussex and can be common in a few places to the west of the county. It tends to favour deciduous woodland, often damp, and around well wooded hedgerows. In May and June, the males, which have extremely long antennae, can often be seen in groups, 'dancing' in the sunshine. The family Adelidae, one of my favourite groups of moths.