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Wildlife sightings 2014:
August & September
❂ August 10th: During the orchard working day, a large green caterpillar was spotted on one of the apple trees (see pic to the right). It was obviously one of the hawk-moths as it had a characteristic horn at its rear end.
Further investigation shows it to be an Eyed Hawk-moth.The larvae feed on willow, sallow, and apple in July and August. The adult moths can be seen in the day time although they usually fly at night in May to June. When disturbed they reveal their hind wings to show two large eye spots, hopefully frightening away predators. The larvae overwinter as shiny brown pupae in the soil. Gill Massey
❂ August 31st: While we were in the orchard on Saturday, a sunny day, looking at the abundance of fruit on the cordon apples, we noticed lots of garden spiders and their webs.
The garden spider, Araneus diadematus, is one of the most common spiders to be seen. It gets its common names of cross spider or diadem spider from the big white spots on its abdomen which are in the form of a cross. I noticed that one of the webs contained a large fly that had been caught and bundled up by the spider. The web looked a little worse for wear and there was no sign of its maker. As we watched a wasp flew in, landed on the fly and started to feed on it. It was obviously happy to find such a convenient meal. I have seen a wasp catch a fly, but this the first time I've noticed one taking advantage of a "ready meal"! No spider appeared to contest for the fly, but a wasp might have been rather a tricky opponent. Gill Massey
❂ September 18th: Yesterday in the Community allotment the warm weather brought out Red Admiral butterflies enjoying the buddleia, and Speckled Woods along the hedge in the wildlife area. A red bodied dragonfly was flying over and near the pond. This didn't settle to enable me to have a good look at it, but was probably a male Common Darter, Sympetrum striolatum, which flies from June to October.
Today, while we were up at Jubilee Green we spotted a colourful caterpillar on the Jubilee oak. It had a pale yellow stripe down its back with black and red stripes on each side, and white ones beside those. There was a black horn just behind the rather whiskery head.
Despite its bright appearance this is the larva of a common and not colourful moth, the Grey Dagger, Apatele psi, which is sufficiently dull to be able to disguise itself when resting on lichen.It flies in May and June and the larvae feed on oak (no significant damage to ours), hawthorn, birch and many other trees and shrubs.
There is also a rarer Dark Dagger, but no way to tell them apart unless you use a powerful magnifier. Gill Massey and Paul Arthur
Eyed Hawk moth caterpillar (see August 10th report)