Amourobius ferox

Amourobius ferox
By Peter Byles

Saturday, 7 July 2018

Basking Sharks

2 seen south of Skokholm today, feeding on the algae that has been stimulated by the extended hot weather. One was a relatively small individual, around 6ft long. It had 6-7 lampreys attached to its underside, mainly between the pectoral fins.

Thursday, 21 June 2018

Bizarre dispersal mechanism

It is amazing how, when one finds out something about wild things, the answer leads to more questions. Like Kipling's Elephant child some of us have ' satiable curtiosity', but we no longer risk corporal punishment with all our annoying questions. We simply turn to Google. This is how things happened.

 A local lady, Wendy, asked me to identify this beautiful caterpillar she had photographed in her recently planted woodland. It turned out to be a Mottled Umber. I've only ever caught one adult moth in my moth trap. It is a woodland species and flies in mid-winter. Only the males have wings (as with the Winter Moth). What the female adult does, when she emerges from the pupa, is to climb up the trunk of a tree and perch on a twig looking far from pretty, but releasing pheromones which the males find attractive. Mating takes place and the eggs are laid. Next summer the caterpillars hatch and eat the new leaves on the tree.

 This is fine, but how, I asked myself, did the species get to Wendy's Wood? It would take years for a female to crawl there from the nearest woodland. Nothing helpful in my books. The Internet came up painlessly with what the crocodile has for breakfast. Richard Fox, a big name in the moth-ing world, describes a bizarre strategy that wingless moth species have evolved for dispersal. Some eggs are laid on the tree where she mated.  But then to seek woodlands new for her species she offers herself to be eaten by birds such as Tits. She wriggles like a mealworm to make sure she is seen. The fertilised eggs in her body pass through the guts of the bird. The bird flies off, perhaps to another wood  and disperses the species.

 I haven't got a photo of a female Mottled Umber moth, but this Winter Moth looks very similar. Melvin Grey found it by watching male Winter Moths and searching twigs by torchlight.

Peter Byles.

Sunday, 10 June 2018

Beautiful Eyes

On my way home along the cliffs a horsefly came and showed great interest in me (as the only meal around). I’ve always wanted to get a good close-up shot of a horsefly’s incredible eyes. It homed in on the paper-thin senile skin of my right hand.  While it sucked my blood I clumsily  lined the camera up with my left hand and repeatedly pressed the shutter button hoping for at least one good shot. Then I realised that the lens cap was on!  I blew on it till it went. Back it came and tried to bite me through my shirt. Then it got onto my left arm and I was able to have a few shots at it. I still haven’t got the perfect shot, but while I still have some blood in my body…..


Peter Byles.

Thursday, 7 June 2018

Common Blues

The other day I followed a pair of Common Blues hoping they would mate. The female led the male a merry dance. Whenever she settled the male would join her and examine her rear end, then she would be off again. I shot a lot of photos as my eyesight is poor. It is clear that the tip of her abdomen is raised vertically. No mating took place.
This morning Dave Redhead, our Pembs. Butterfly recorder, came past. He told me that this female was already impregnated and was just wanting to lay her eggs and that the raised tip of her abdomen is a rejection sign. I hope the male eventually left her in peace and found a more suitable and willing partner.
I’ve added a photo of a successful mating. Another couple.
Peter Byles.

Spider crabs fighting

Spider crabs are now in Welsh coastal waters along the Pembrokeshire coastline. The males have been fighting for the right to mate with the smaller females.

Red prawn Palaemon serratus

This large red prawn surprised me by swimming up into mid-water away from the protection of the kelp reef.

Fan-bristled Robberfly

I saw this buzzing brown blob labouring through the air over Poppit dunes. It crashed to the ground, so I crept up and snapped it before it took off again. I couldn’t see what it was until I got the shot on the computer. Melvin Grey then did some magic with Photoshop.

Well, one can see how it got its name. I looked it up and found that it is a sand dune habitat specialist. It is obviously a voracious predator, tackling and carrying insect prey heavier than itself. What it is going to do with this fly is what I’d like to find out. Is it going to suck out all its juices or is it going to bury it and lay eggs in or on it? And what is the purpose of these amazing fan-shaped bristles?

Peter Byles.

Monday, 4 June 2018

Swollen-thighed Beetle

This is the first one I've come across this year. There is nothing
secretive about these handsome males. No scuttling away like some wretched
beetles. They sit there on a flower displaying their magnificent thighs,
waiting to be photographed, or rather for a female to come along. The thighs of the female are nothing to get excited about! Apparently 'pulling' a female  is mathematically related to the males' thigh measurements. What fascinating research someone must have done.

Peter Byles

Monday, 14 May 2018

Tree Wasp nest Dolichovespula sylvestris 12 5 2018 near Witch's Cauldron

Today a friend who lives near The Witch's Cauldron brought me this
exquisite little wasp's nest. It was hanging like a bell from the lintel of
a garden shed door frame.

 It is incredibly light and fragile and only about an inch across. As you
can see the outer casing is made up of three concentric 'bells' with an air
space between them. Excellent insulation design. It seems that the first
three hexagonal cells in the centre were constructed first. This left each
cell with three outer walls which were shared by the next ring of nine
hexagonal cells.

  From what I've looked up about Tree Wasps they have a short life cycle
which is all over by early summer except for queens hibernating and starting
a new nest the following year. I think this nest was only half built and
would have become more round in shape with a little hole in the base.

   Peter Byles.

Monday, 7 May 2018

A 'Lek' of Speckled Woods.

 A 'Lek' of Speckled Woods.
 Between the showers I found a woodland clearing sheltered from the wind.
There were 5 Speckled Woods. A nice pristine female stayed in one spot while
4 males tumbled about in the air fighting it out. They mobbed a Meadow Brown
that appeared. One of them settled beside the female, but she obviously
wasn't impressd. She just sat there. I hoped she would lead him up to the
top of this little oak tree and mate. I waited and waited. Then my dog came
sniffing along and put them both up. Oh well.
   Peter Byles.