Moth Night and National Insect Week

1 07 2012

Last week saw the occurrence of two important entomological events in the UK; Moth Night and National Insect Week.  Both are aimed at raising awareness of each group of animals and also to encourage recording of species around the country.  To find out more have a look at these websites: http://www.mothnight.info/www/ and http://nationalinsectweek.co.uk/

FSC Orielton tried to do its bit for our 6-legged brethren and after a still and humid day we set-out our moth trap last Monday night (25/06/12).  There was a bit of trepidation come Tuesday morning, however, as rain was pelting down and it looked as though we’d be finding swimming moths rather than the usual flying ones.  The fear dissipated as soon as the first egg box was lifted though as there were over 44 individuals and 20 separate macro-moth species!  Now, I’m not certain what the collective noun for moths is but I’ve heard of a group of them being described as a ‘universe’ as well as a ‘collection’ or ‘whisper’.  However, in relation to our catch on Monday I’m going to lean towards the more stellar of nouns for what we found.

Some of the stars of this universe are provided for your viewing pleasure.  I hope you all enjoy them.

The famous moth used to illustrate natural selection.

Named for the larvae’s apparent tendency for dew.

Some of the most interesting species we found were those with subtle and clever camouflage or with behavioural adaptations to prevent predation.  The Small Angle Shades (Euplexia lucipara) and White Ermine (Spilosoma lubricipeda) are two prime examples:

Notice the colouration and the unusual way the wings are held when resting that combine to make the moth look a little like a dead leaf.

Playing dead (thanatosis) and displaying bright colours as a warning (aposematism).

If you’d like to see more of the moth and other insect species we’ve found around the Orielton grounds (as well as updates on what’s going on over here) then ‘like’ our Facebook page and check out the photos section:

http://www.facebook.com/pages/Orielton-Field-Centre/

Hopefully we’ll soon have photographs of all the species that can be found in our neck of the woods to keep you all interested.

Cameron





Manorbier

7 06 2012

It’s that time of year again!  Time for our quarterly survey of the exposed rocky shore at Manorbier .

Now, Manorbier isn’t just a confusingly pronounced part of Pembrokeshire’s coastline (don’t try and say it with a French accent) but a wonderful shoreline showcasing fascinating geology and biological zonation of organisms.

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A panorama of the rocky shore at Manorbier.

So what do we survey?  We look at the changes in abundance and occurrence of organisms (animals, algae and lichens) as we move from the lower shore to the upper.  This information is recorded and filed with a view to monitoring any changes over time at the site.  The education staff at Orielton always go down during spring tides which allow us to survey the entire shore – from kelp beds to splash zone – and this quarter it was Sarah, Martha and myself (Cameron).

What we found this quarter wasn’t particularly surprising as Manorbier conforms to the very general model of zonation of biota on a rocky shore – more animals at the bottom than the top, algae more predominant in mid/lower-shore and lichens dominating the further up you go.  This extremely generalised statement is dealt with in more detail, as well as many other aspects of rocky shore ecology, on the Field Studies Council’s rocky shore resource.  You can study it here: http://www.theseashore.org.uk/theseashore/rocky%20shores.html

Aside from the surveying we also explored the area; turning over rocks and looking in nooks and crannies.  To keep you all entertained then have a look at some of our photos:

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Five-bearded rockling (Ciliata mustela)

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Snakelocks anemone (Anemonia viridis)

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A Brittlestar – possibly Common Brittlestar (Ophiothrix fragilis)

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Common limpet (Patella vulgata) with scars on the rock showing past activity.

These photographs, plus others, will eventually be uploaded to our Facebook page (http://www.facebook.com/pages/Orielton-Field-Centre/151014648265988) so ‘Like’ us and keep checking for updates!





Of Moths and Men

31 05 2012

After a period of dormancy (is pupation a more appropriate term?) moth trapping has returned to Orielton!  Thanks to the construction skills of Rich ‘The Toolman’ Edwards we have our own fully functional and, it must be said, stylish Skinner light trap.

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The Official FSC Orielton Moth Trap

As you all will know, many moths can be seen flying around lights at night, an aspect of their biology that the Skinner trap takes advantage of.  The bulb you can see in the middle is a mercury vapour bulb which emits an extremely bright light that can be seen from a fair distance – as anybody in and around the centre would be able to attest.  This attracts the moths who then circle the light and eventually land on the sloping perspex sheets before crawling down through a long opening and settling at the bottom of the trap.  Very kindly, we provide egg boxes for them under the perspex.  It’s not that they are fans of cardboard or anything (more fool them) but rather that the cartons give small, dark spaces for them to settle and hide underneath.

Enough of the mundane stuff, what did we find?  Here are some of my favourites.  Have a go at identifying them yourself and if you’re unsure, hover your mouse over the photos to discover the names.

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Clue: Its larvae are known for being ‘crabby’.

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Clue: One of the umbers.

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Clue: Look at the position of the hindwings for identification.

All in all we recorded 14 species across 7 separate Lepidopteran families: Geometridae, Sphingidae, Notodontidae, Lymantriidae, Arctiidae, Nolidae and Noctuidae.  An alright haul for our first time.

Keep checking the blog to find out about any new species appearing here and, hopefully, see some cool photos illustrating the amazing diversity of the Lepidopteran order.