It was when I purchased my first digital camera back in 2005, a Sony Cybershot compact camera, that my love for nature and the side of the natural world, that is not always often seen but is always there to be found, became rekindled. My interest in moths – ‘moth mania’ I call it – began from a young age when I used to stay up a little at night with my older brother Steve, looking out for these nocturnal insects. In those days I used to paint and draw them, especially those with vivid patterns and colours like the Garden Tiger, which has sadly declined over the years since, and I have not yet seen one here to photograph.
So since 2005, I have photographed over 250 (and still counting with lots of past images still to go through and positively identify) species of moth and have uploaded them to this site. 250 is small fraction of the 2,500 or more species of moth to be found throughout Britain. Not all are attracted to light. Some are attracted to feromones or sugar. Some are day-fying moths, and some are rare and localised to different areas of the country.
Oddly enough, in the year 2010 I apparently did not take one single moth photo, but a year later moth mania hit me again and I photographed over 150 different species of moth!
After buying different compact cameras over the years, it was in 2014 I purchased my first DSLR camera the Nikon D3200.
2016 was the year I upgraded my camera to the Nikon D7200 (which I still use to this day) , and in 2017 it was another year the moth mania got to me. It was a very bountiful year for moths.
The thing with moths is that they can be seen all year round, even during the winter months where most other insects are hibernating.
There are two very similar ‘dagger’ species in Britain, the Grey Dagger (Acronicta psi) and the Dark Dagger (Acronicta tridens). The adults cannot be accurately identified visually without genital dissection and microscopic scrutiny – but I don’t like to harm them so this adult would be recorded as an aggregate species Acronicta psi/tridens. The adult is readily attracted to light, and is seen in June and August in most habitats, including woodland, hedgerows and gardens. Sadly its numbers have significantly decreased in recent decades.
The caterpillar is quite an odd thing, and on first discovery I thought it had been parasitised! But the long and prounced ‘hump’ or fleshy projection is one of its defining characteristics and which visually separtes it from the Dark Dagger (Acronicta tridens) which has a shorter ‘hump’. A visually striking moth larva with long hairs and a yellow or white dorsal strip. The orange side patches offer quite a contrast in colouration. It feeds on a large range of broad-leaved trees and shrubs, and overwinters as a pupa amongst bark, in rotten wood or in the ground.
It was a fellow blogger Sconzani who runs a wonderful blog with the lovely tiltleEarthstar ~ a celebration of nature who got me looking much more closely at the leaves on not only the trees, but most anything else which has leaves.
Leafminers can be from different insect groups. Many species of Lepidoptera (moths), Diptera (trues flies), Coleoptera (beetles) and Symphyta (sawflies), have larvae which mine plants. It is the larvae of these insects which produce these mines within the leaves of plants, feeding on the plants’ tissues as part of their development cycle.
Mines tend to be restricted to a certain range of host plants and so the identification of a miner is facilitated by correctly identifying these plants. The shape of the mines (gallery or blotch) and the patterns of the droppings (frass), besides characteristics of the larvae and pupae, can be diagnostic. Even the location of where the egg is layed on a leaf can be diagnostic and can help to separate similar species.
The Holly Leaf Miner (above image) forms quite a wide gallery on Holly (Ilex), and is only one of two holly leaf miners to be found in the wholes of Europe, and the only one to be found in the UK. The adult female Agromyzid fly Phytomyza ilicis lays its eggs in May or June at the base of the petiole of a young leaf (on the underside). The oviposition scars can be seen on the midrib on the underside of the leaf. The larva initially feeds in the mid-rib, later producing the characteristic irregular upper surface linear-blotch.
The fly Phytoliriomyza melampyga mines the leaves of Impatiens species (Balsams). Here it was found on Himalayan Balsam (Impatiens glandulifera), an invasive plant species here.
The larva of the micro-moth the Apple Leaf-miner (Lyonetia clerkella) feeds on a variety of Rosaceae (rose family) and Betula (birch) trees in small, long and winding leafmines.
The larva of the sawfly Profenusa pygmaea mine the leaves of various species of oak (Quercus) creating a large blister or blotch mine on the upper surface.
So next time you are out in the woods … or even in the park or garden … take a closer look at those leaves and see what squiggly patterns or blotches have been created within them.
They say when you are out in the wilds and need to drink water from the land you should boil it first … and you can see why. The above image is a mosquito larva from the genus Culex. The larva lives submerged in water and feeds on particles of organic matter, microscopic organisms or plant material. Culicine larvae float with the head low and only the siphon (breathing tube) at the tail held at the surface of the water. After several instars it then develops into a pupa, then eventually into an adult like the one below … a real bloodsucker and potential vector of one or more important diseases of birds, humans, and other animals.
Often found in ponds or pools, puddles, tree hollows where water collects, and in gardens in birdbaths, tubs, gutters, and other places where standing water collects, members of the family of biting-midges Ceratopogonidae can be found.
These are most likely Dasyhelea genus, but the adults of these do not actually bite or feed on vertebrate blood or predate on other invertebrates. The adults take nectar only, an unusual feeding behavior within the family Ceratopogonidae, which includes the Highland Midge (Culicoides impunctatus), which do bite humans and feed on blood, often occuring in many numbers. Some species of Dasyhelea are important pollinators of plants such as cocoa trees and rubber plants.
The larvae are primarily herbivorous, feeding on green algae, diatoms, fungi and detritus.
This is the Rosemary Beetle (Chrysolina americana) which I found on my Lavender. It looks like it has been crafted from soft metals and has been purposefully engraved with rows of tiny circular indents.
As beautiful as it may look, it is considered a pest of Rosemary, Lavender, Sage, Thyme and similar plants, both the adult and the larva feeding on the foliage … although it hasn’t caused me any bother.
The beetle is a native of southern Europe that has become established in Britain since the 1990s especially in the south east of England. It is continuing to extend its range.
It is end of season for the tomato plant my neighbour had kindly given me in a hanging basket. It had been bountiful in fruit, but it was it now in its last days as autumn approaches, and I had the thought to look more closely at it before dropping it in the recyling bin.
I have never seen a member of this family of beetles before. Latridiidae are known as ‘scavanger’ or ‘mould beetles’. This one is very small at 2 mm (5/64 in) long, and is called Cartodere bifasciata. It feeds on spores and moulds found on rotting plant materials.
There were several of these green leafhoppers, adults and possible larvae. Called Empoasca decipiens, one of 3 very similar UK species, they extract sap from the plant on which they feed.
Like a scene from the film Alien, I discovered the dead remains of this wingless aphid. You can’t miss the obvious hole in the abdomen where something … probably a braconid wasp … burst out.
We have a live aphid here … most likely the Peach-potato Aphid (Myzus (Nectarosiphon) persicae). The apterae (lacking wings) are generally yellowish-green but vary from whitish or pale yellowish green to mid-green, rose-pink or red. They are often darker in cold conditions.
Another parasitised aphid all tethered … which goes to show that nature has a way of keeping the equilibrium.
I also spotted several running-crab spiders and money spiders … but all too quick and unwilling to hang around for a photo shoot. So even within its death throws a plant can still support so much life … and just focusing the mind and the eyes on a different plane can open up so much.
This is the 600th insect species I have uploaded on Nature Journeys, and what a bright and beautiful one it is, too.
It is a fly, a hoverfly called Epistrophe grossulariae. It prefers woodland edges, meadows and wetalnd areas where it will feed on the nectar from flowers. The larvae are aphidophagous – feeding on aphids.
There are almost 70 species of Hemiptera (True Bugs) on this site, yet there are almost 2,000 species in Great Britain. Turn over a leaf or having a look amongst them will turn up all kinds of true bugs, adult and nymph stages.
They are a very diverse group of insects, and here is but a small selection of some of them which I discovered in my small back garden.
For more species and more detailed information please visit below:
This year seems to have been a good year for the emergence of the Large Red Damselfly (Pyrrhosoma nymphula) from the garden pond. I observed quite a few in the garden, and this one was resting on my garage wall.
This extraordinary insect was discovered in the house, of all places. It is called the Small Snakefly Xanthostigma xanthostigma. This is a female with her long needle-like ovipositor.
There are only 4 species of snakefly in Great Britain under the insect order called Raphidioptera, and in 1 family Raphidiidae. There are 75 species in the whole of Europe, with around 225 worldwide. They are considered ‘living fossils’, as species from the early Jurassic period (140 millions years ago) resemble modern-day species.
The female has a long pointed ovipositor which she uses to lay eggs between cracks in bark. Once hatched, the larvae take around 2 years to become fully grown and are largely predatory on beetle larvae. Adults and larvae feed on other invertebrates like aphids or beetle larvae.
I have a Hawthorn bush growing in the back garden, and I discovered these strange things stuck to the branches. They are around 5-7 mm (1/4 inch) long.
As you can see they are brown and wrinkly with what looks like a cotton wool ball tucked at the back of them. They were something I had never come across before.
I had my suspisions they were some kind of scale insect. Scale insects belong to the order of insects called Hemiptera – the true bugs, which include the shieldbugs and the likes. I discovered these belong to a family called Coccidae – the soft scales.
These strange insects are called the Woolly Vine Scale Insect (Pulvinaria vitis). They have a a soft shell of protection attached to the body which helps prevents them from dying out and gives them protection from potential predators like parasites. A cottony wax coating is produced that is used to conceal the eggs. Once these insects are attached to a tree they become immobile, feeding on the sap of the host plant. The images show females with cottony ovisacs. The smaller males (1.5 mm long), which possess wings, are rarely seen.
Green Shieldbug (Palomena prasina) showing its autumn colours. It will go darker, turning to a deep bronze as winter takes hold and then will hibernate during the coldest period. In spring it will gradually turn back to full green.
I have now recorded 999 species on this website, from plants to animals, fungi and even a cyanobacterium. I have stopped short of making this post ‘1000’ as the 999th species convinced me to use it as a marker milestone. Not surprising it happens to be an invertebrate, an arthropod, and an insect at that.
Attactagenus plumbeus is a member of the Curculionidae family which make up the weevils. What is so special about this species apart from its own uniqueness is is scarcity. Data gleamed from the NBN Atlas shows only 96 records between 1990 and 2020, and 151 records in total from 1890. The British nature conservation status is Nationally Notable B (species found in between 31 and 100 hectads – 10 km x 10 km square), making it nationally scarce. There are only 4 records for 2020, and 1 of these is mine. Native to Britain, not surprisingly it is very localised with a few scattered records across England and Wales, except the south-east of England, and is absent from Scotland and Ireland. It feeds on plants from the Fabaceae family, including species of vetch and broom, and is found in fields and meadows where the host plants can be found.
This attractive beetle is from a family called Chrysomelidae the leaf beetles. It is a fairly recent newomer to Britain, introduced in the 1990s and now established in most of England and Wales, and still expanding its range. It is considered a pest of Rosemary, Lavender, Sage, Thyme and similar plants, both the adult and the larva feeding on the foliage. It is the first time I have seen it here, and will have to see if it is a ‘pest’ as such. It is 6.7-8 mm long. The adults can be seen throughout the year, even during winter.
Common Earwig (Forficula auricularia) – The title is not a misspelling, but it is from Old English meaning ‘one that wiggles in your ear’. These slender insects do love to crawl into small dark crevices, so somebody sleeping on the ground may indeed have the unpleasant occasion to have one wiggle in one’s ear, but it is surely a myth that they burrow through the ear drum to lay their eggs in your brain! Those pincers at the rear look rather nasty, but they are mainly used in courtship and defence. Earwigs appear to be virtually wingless, but the hind wings are partly concealed beneath the outer, modified forewings. They in fact rarely fly. They feed on almost anything, from various plant material to aphids and other small insects, and scavenge from dead matter. Best keep your ears plugged when lying on the ground, if you happen to do so.
If you check your roses now you might find these gregariously chomping away on the leaves. It is possibly one of 2 species of sawfly Arge pagana or Arge ochropus, and it is hard to tell which in the early instar stage. But if you can find the original egg scar on the stem you will know what species it is for sure. If it has a double row of cells it is Arge pagana, and a single row determines Arge ochropus. From my own past experience, unless you get a whole army of these chomping larvae they won’t seriously damage your rose. Sometimes the birds will grab them for protein.
Wood-carving Leafcutter Bee (Megachile ligniseca) – I adapted an old bird box into a bee hotel about a year ago, and I am quite pleased we are now taking in guests. And I am very pleased to see this species, which is fairly uncommon, with only 2 sightings recorded in South Staffordshire. It typically nests in dead wood, including old fence posts, and sometimes in cavities of man-made items including bee hotels. In the last 2 images one of them shows the final finished stopping of the cavity, where one egg has been planted towards the back, stocked with pollen and nectar for the larva to feed on when it hatches. It will spend winter in there all snug with a full larder. The last image shows crabapple leaves where the female bee has been harvesting the leaves. Look how perfectly she cuts them. Today she was working on a 3rd tube. How busy and industrious is she? And all in 30 degree+ heat!
I have now photographed and uploaded 500 different species of insect to this site. Try to take in these facts about insects, they are quite astounding to comprehend:
There are more than 200 million insects for every human being living on the planet.
There are between 1 and 10 quintillion (can you imagine that number? I can’t) insects which are surrounding us in almost every environment on Earth.
Insects account for well over half of all of all multicellular species.
Insects come in around a million different variants.
Around 479 million years ago insects appeared on the planet, long before the dinosaurs, and long before us.
Insects developed flight 400 million years ago, which means they had total air dominance for more than 150 million years.
Insects have survived 5 mass extinction events.
So there we have it: The Earth belongs to the insects. And they will be around long after we have gone on our way. So enough text … and now for some photos I have taken of these amazing and most fascinating six-legged creatures:
For those that may be interested you can visit my Insects page ‘here’.
Meconema thalassinum – This is a male with long curved cerci. It is around 12-17 mm (5/8 in) long, excluding the long antennae. It is fully winged, but this cricket is a silent one and has no song. It was attracted to the light of my moth trap and the 2nd I have seen in the past 3 years.
I have just uploaded the 200th species of moth to A Nature Journey, and when you consider there are around 2,500 species in Great Britain that is but a drop in the ocean. Anyway, here are selection of moths, some you have seen before, and some perhaps you have not.
If you wish to visit the moths page you can journey from ‘here’
Ringlet (Aphantopus hyperantus) – I have noticed when I have been out in the field this summer that some butterflies are directly reacting to the sound of my camera shutter and quickly taking flight, and so instantly I get a blur of wings on occasion. I thought it perhaps coincidence, but then asked myself this question: Can butterflies hear?
I discovered that one group of butterflies called the Satyrines, also called the ‘browns’, hear with their wings of all things. They have odd swollen veins on their wings, and ears at the base of them which consist of membranes that are stretched taut over oval holes, and that vibrate when incoming sounds hit them. Acoustic research shows they are tuned to low frequencies like the human voice, so if you do talk to the butterflies, you now they are listening to you 🙂
Gorytes laticinctus – This was another one of those odd encounters in the garden. I spotted this bright striped wasp, which is the rarest of its genus in the UK, walking in circles, going under and over and between leaves of a plant, almost like it was looking for something. Even when I shoved my big macros lens virtually in its face it did not deviate from its intent. In fact it had spent most of the day there, and the day after. It appeared to be focused on one particular leaf. This is a male. The females gather up bugs like froghoppers to feed its young.
Lycaena phlaeas – One of my favourite of the small butterflies, but one I see much too infrequently here. But thankfully, according to Butterfly Conservation, its priority is low and it is not threatened here in Britain or across Europe as a whole. I came across this one in a local field settled on Oxeye Daisy.
Long Hoverfly (Sphaerophoria scripta) – This is a male, and the abdomen is longer than the length of the forewing which helps readily identify this species. It was feeding on Oxeye Daisy (Leucanthemum vulgare) in a local field. I was actually photographing the daisy to begin with when this beauty came along.
Maniola jurtina – This was a bit of an odd one. Firstly, it’s very rare I see a Meadow Brown butterfly in the garden. I usually see them by the dozen in the local fields. Secondly, it behaved quite docile. Usually they fly off when you get near them, yet this one only flew a short distance, and it even stepped on my finger and allowed me to tour the garden with it. Maybe it is the thunderstorms in the air. One breaking now as I type this.
Orthosia cruda – This is a common spring species here, so its flight time has now come and gone. This small moth has a plain appearance with light colouration, but has fairly distinct kidney-shaped markings on the forewings.
Craniophora ligustri – This is the first time I have seen this beautifully coloured and patterned moth. It appears to be a nice fresh specimen expressing olive hues, which I intially found resting on my garage wall. It is widely distributed across most of Britain, but it is not a common species.
Tiger Cranefly (Nephrotoma flavescens) – We have had zebras and now we have tigers. This is a female with a pointed tail end. Another ferocious looking insect but it does not bite or sting. Craneflies in general play an environmentally important role. Their larvae help enrich the soil, turning dead organic litter into nutrient-rich material. This colourful adult was attracted to my shed light.
Interesting fact: Craneflies can loose their legs very easily as a way of escaping predators. Unfortunately I don’t think they grow back, so it is a good job they have 6 to start off with!
To add: Craneflies belong to the insect order called Diptera, which are the true flies. So they are related to bluebottles, greenbottles and houseflies.
Roeseliana roeselii – There are a few of these about now, and yes, active in the day, they are quite a challenge to photograph in the long grass. They do not generally fly, but they can leap a fair ways.
Calameuta filiformis – This is one of the sawflies, which are a fascinating group of insects and are related to the bees, wasps and ants of the order Hymenoptera. They are of a suborder called Symphyta. Sawflies do not sting, despite how ferocious some of them may look, and can sometimes be easily overlooked as wasps. The larva of this species feeds on various grasses and reeds.
Merodon equestris – Despite the poor June weather here, this hoverfly decided to pay a visit. A very sprightly darter about the place fly it was, too. It is a bumblebee mimic, and comes in many varied forms which allows it to mimic different species of bee.
Rose Aphid (Macrosiphum rosae) – Again, looking through the rose cuttings I came across what I initially thought was just an aphid, until I looked closer and noticed it appeared to be fixed to the leaf by a silken pad of sorts. I discovered that the aphid had been parasitised by a braconid wasp, possibly Praon sp. The wasp grub would have fed on the inside of the aphid killing it, and now it has formed the cocoon from which it will eventually emerge as an adult. Some of these parasitoid wasps have been used in biocontrol to help keep down aphid pestilence in farming.
Peacock (Aglais io) – I know, a Mr. Mister song from the mid 1980s which I remember well, but it sums up the sorry state of this butterfly who stayed for a long, long time in my back garden feeding on this flower.
Aglais urticae – I have seen a couple of these fluttering around the backyard for a few days now. They appear very determined to feed and are hardly bothered by my passing by them or when I am observing them. They do fly off on occasion, circle the garden, and come back again to feed.