Tuesday, 15 September 2015

Eggs-travaganza …

Long-tailed Blue (Lampides boeticus)

The search continues ...

A recent visit to a coastal site in Sussex, in search of adult L. boeticus, produced a single, brief, though welcome glimpse of a migrant male, on the last day of good weather.

Not to be beaten, Dan Danahar and I revisited the site the following day, Saturday, 12th September, in order to undertake a detailed and systematic search for L. boeticus ova. It was cold, windy and very overcast, with the threat of rain ever pending - ideal conditions for egg hunting as we would not be distracted from potential adult insects on the wing. Searching all the Lathyrus we could find and access, we ended up with an impressive grand total of 82 eggs. This included both freshly laid ova, as pictured above, and ova showing signs of larval emergence. One can only hazard a guess as to how many eggs had originally been laid and how many had been grazed away by the numerous snails that were present.

L. boeticus will lay its eggs both singly and in multiples on their selected foodplant. I have personally found as many as 5 ova on a single raceme, though have received reports from good authority of up to 9. Eggs can be found laid on the sepals (their apparent preference) and also on the petals and flowering stems of each inflorescence.

It's only a matter of time before freshly emerged Sussex born individuals take their first flight ...

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Saturday, 12 September 2015

Déjà vu …

Long-tailed Blue (Lampides boeticus)

The Long-tailed Blue, Lampides boeticus, (Linnaeus, 1767) is one of the most widespread butterflies in the world, being found throughout southern Europe, Africa, southern Asia, India and Australia, extending eastwards to parts of Oceania including Hawaii; however, it has historically been one of the rarest migrants to the British Isles.

2013 was an extremely exciting year for many migrant species, particularly in the southern counties. L. boeticus was once again recorded, with the first Sussex record coming on Thursday, 8th August, when a single female was observed and photographed in a garden in Arundel, West Sussex. 2015 has already seen records of L. boeticus. These range from as far west as Devon, on the 5th July 2015, through the southern coastal counties of Dorset, Hampshire, Sussex and Kent, and along the east coast as far north as Suffolk. Although two eggs, showing signs of larval emergence, were discovered in a West Sussex location on Friday, 21st August, suggesting a mid August primary migration, the first Sussex record of an adult came on Friday, 28th August, when a female was recorded in a private garden in Worthing, West Sussex.

I have been very fortunate in observing eggs, larvae and adults, including a mating pair, in Sussex. With our warming climate, I can’t help wondering if we may experience more frequent immigration of this beautiful little insect. Find a warm coastal location and, with at least some Broad-leaved Everlasting Pea (Lathyrus latifolius) present, you stand an increasing chance of finding the Pea Blue. A small selection of images from this season, depicting a female and ovum showing signs of larval emergence, are shown above.

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Saturday, 5 September 2015

gorganus ...

Swallowtail (Papilio machaon ssp. gorganus)

Simply stunning ...

The British race of P. machaon, subspecies britannicus, is confined to the fens of the Norfolk Broads in east Norfolk. This is partly due to the distribution of its principal larval foodplant, Milk-parsley (Peucedanum palustre). The morphologically similar continental subspecies, gorganus, is less specific in its requirements and will use many kinds of umbellifer, for example Wild Carrot (Daucus carota) and Fennel (Foeniculum vulgare).

Following on from 2013 and 2014, both of which transpired to be exceptional periods for continental Swallowtail sightings in Sussex, with overwintered pupae from the 2013 breeding season emerging during May and June 2014, sightings of at least three plausible ‘migrant’ specimens have been recorded to date in 2015.

Pete Wong recorded the first, photographed in the meadow at Kithurst Hill on Saturday, 16th May. This sighting was not published at the time due to the vulnerable nature of this important site - the location already being under stress from footfall with the Duke of Burgundy season being well underway. However, there were no further sightings of this transient and slightly worn specimen. At the end of May an unsubstantiated report of more than one individual was noted from a location in East Sussex. Despite a published image, there is debate as to the authenticity and provenance of this report. Consequently, this is disregarded in this account. The next sighting came on Thursday, 30th July, when D Buck observed a worn individual near to the windmill in Rottingdean. The third report, of a specimen photographed by Helen Kalkbrenner near Nymans in Handcross, occurred on Sunday, 9th August.

Let’s hope this starts to trend, as it’s not out of the question with our climate continuing to become warmer, for this magnificent butterfly to take hold in the foreseeable future …