Sunday, January 24, 2010

Brindled straw flat-body & common wasp

One of my traps in the garden here at Sedlescombe contained a small, lively moth when I visited on this mild January afternoon.

It was a brindled straw flat-body (Agonopterix arenella), a common and widespread Oecophorid moth in Britain with larvae that feed on thistles and related plants.

20100124 Vespa Agonopterix South View 016

The adults hibernate over winter, but are clearly quite active in mild weather.

Perhaps another consequence of the mild weather was the discovery of a very active worker common wasp (Vespula vulgaris) in the kitchen this morning.

20100124 Vespa Agonopterix South View 002

I know wasp colonies do sometimes survive the winter, but I am not aware of any attic nests this year and it has been extremely cold for some weeks until the last few days.

20100124 Vespa Agonopterix South View 001

Sunday, January 17, 2010

Winter hoppers

Several species of plant hopper (Homoptera: Cicadellidae) are quite common in the winter as they hibernate in evergreen conifers and similar, but always seem to be quite active, however cold the weather.

Two common species are shown below, Zygina angusta  on the left and Z. flammigera on the right.  Both of these were found in our garden this afternoon.

20100117 South View 024

Saturday, January 16, 2010

After the cold and snow

20081121 Gymnometriocnemus brumalis 1

In our garden I have a tower of logs from which I can catch saproxylic invertebrates in a sleeve net (see here.) emerging from or attracted to the decaying wood and its flora of fungi and other plants.

Since 2 January 2010 the trap has been covered in snow and the netting frozen to the top of the top log.

By today it had thawed enough for me to be able to remove it and to see if any insects had gathered inside.

There was a surprisingly large number of species:  Gymnometriocnemus brumalis (see picture above of a mating pair on the roof of a new dormouse box) and Limnophyes minimus , both Diptera: Chironomidae; Bolitophila saundersii (Dipt: Bolitophilidae); Issus coleoptratus, Zygina angusta and Trioza urticae all various kinds of plant hopper (Homoptera); a springtail (Entomobrya nivalis) and a small unidentified spider.

It is remarkable how much invertebrate life there is on the move, even after very cold weather, for those who take the trouble to look.

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Snow helps young trees

The heavy snow has flattened many of our local bramble patches with its sheer weight.

In one place I noticed a birch sapling that had been separated out from of the surrounding brambles by this weight of snow, the birch having a stronger, more upright stem (see centre of the picture below).

20100112 Metre snow birch sapling

Later in the year it will, no doubt, grow away quite quickly surrounded by a low collar of brambles.  These may also grow, but perhaps will not be able to catch up with the tree again, a tree that last summer they were overtopping.

I suppose this must happen whenever there is a heavy snowfall, quite an unusual event in East Sussex.  But our long-stay indigenous flora and fauna has to be able to survive the once in fifty (or five thousand) year events and to some extent may benefit from them.

Saturday, January 09, 2010

Greater tussock-sedge in snow

On New Year's Day I walked with a friend through the Powdermill Nature Reserve at Catsfield in East Sussex.

There had been a light fall of snow which powdered the wigs of the small army of greater tussock-sedge plants (Carex paniculata) that flourish in one of the swampy areas.20100101 Powdermill Reserve, Catsfield tussock sedge in snow

I used to know many places locally where this splendid plant grew, but most have become over-shaded and the sedge plants have died.

Inside the tussocks is a large compacted rhizome, like a tree fern trunk and I am sure that both in life and in death this must attract a wealth of smaller organisms - fungi and invertebrates. One day I might try to devise a method of finding out what they are.