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Posts Tagged ‘butterflies’

If you’re out and about on a nice sunny day and notice what you think is a pretty red and black butterfly it is actually the Cinnabar moth (Tyria Jacobaeae).

The Cinnabar moth (Tyria Jacobaeae) was originally named after the bright red mineral ‘cinnabar’ once used by artists as a red pigment for painting.

The adult moth has two bright red spots and red stripes on its forewings and scarlet hind wings with charcoal edging. Moths are split into 2 broad groups – the macro moths (large) and the micro moths (small). The Cinnabar is a macro moth and has a body length of 20mm and a wingspan of between 32mm – 42mm. Although this is a predominantly nocturnal moth it can also be seen during the day.

Cinnabar moth (Tyria Jacobaeae) © Clare Dinham

Life cycle

Females can lay up to 300 eggs, usually in batches of 30 or 60 on the underside of ragwort leaves. When the caterpillars (larvae) hatch they feed on the around the area of the hatched eggs but as they get bigger and moult (instars) they mainly feed on the leaves and flowers of the plant, and can be seen out in the open during the day.

Caterpillar

Caterpillars are feeding from July – early September and are initially pale yellow but soon develop bright yellow and black stripes to deter predators.

Cinnabar moth caterpillar (Tyria Jacobaeae) © Roger Key

The caterpillars feed on poisonous ragwort leaves. The poision from the leaves is stored in the caterpillars body (and even remains when they are an adult moth). Any birds or other predators that ignore the caterpillars bright warning sign will be repulsed by how foul they taste.

Numerous caterpillars on one ragwort plant can reduced it to a bare stem very quickly. They are also known to be cannibalistic.

The caterpillars overwinter as pupa in a cocoon under the ground. The adult moths emerge around mid May and are on the wing up until early August, during which time males and females will mate and eggs are laid.

Distribution and Habitat

The Cinnabar moth is a common species, well distributed throughout the UK and has a coastal distribution in the northern most counties of England and Scotland. Due to its toxicity to livestock Ragwort is being controlled in many areas across the UK. A study carried out by Butterfly Conservation and Rothamstead research in 2003 showed that although the distribution of the Cinnabar moth has remained roughly the same between the study period of 1968 – 2002 their numbers have dropped dramatically due to the persecution of their food plant Ragwort.

Cinnabar moths are found in typically well drained rabbit grazed (short sward) grassland including sand dunes and heathland and lots of other open habitats such as gardens and woodland rides.

Moth trapping

Cinnabar moths are attracted to moth traps which is the main way of recording moths. A moth trap is essentially a light trap which is set in the evening just before dusk and left on throughout the night. Any moths found within the trap can be studied the following morning and released without harming.

Moth trapping using a light trap © Clare Dinham

National Moth Night

Moth night is an annual event carried out across the country aimed at raising the awareness of moths among the public. This year it was carried out from the 21st – 23rd of June. Click on this link to find out more about National Moth Night

With thanks to Buglife for their contribution. To find out more about Buglife visit them at;

 www.buglife.org.uk

www.facebook.com/pages/Buglife-The-Invertebrate-Conservation-Trust

www.twitter.com/Buzz_dont_tweet

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A stirring thought from Hugh during his talk at Wilderness Festival: one of our Meet the Species feature events

To see more of Hugh, please visit his website or follow him on Twitter

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Rebecca Nesbit (Butterfly Becky): Conservation and the environment have been my passion from when I was far too young to know what it all meant. So I studied biology at University of Durham and in 2010 I was awarded an ecology PhD. I did my research at Rothamsted Research in Hertfordshire and spent my time chasing migrant butterflies. I now work as a PR consultant, and represent small companies with bright ideas in science and technology.

A few weeks ago my friend was surprised to find a small green caterpillar in her peas from Mozambique. Curious to see what species had made it all the way from Africa we kept it in a pot and were delighted when it turned into a pupa. Sure enough, two weeks later it emerged as a beautiful moth, which turned out to be the scarce bordered straw, Helicoverpa armigera, a species that arrives in small numbers in the UK as a migrant.

Scarce Bordered Straw, Helicoverpa Armigera

Our pet moth had come to the UK the easy way, thanks to people. But its wild counterparts can get here without us, and it’s not alone. Many insects travel thousands of kilometres and move between continents without the help of humans. Take the silver Y moth, which is very common in the UK. It never spends the winter here, but uses wind currents hundreds of metres above our heads to reach the UK from Africa.  Don’t be fooled by its tiny size though – it is by no means at the mercy of the wind, as this research shows.

You may also have spotted the painted lady, a beautiful butterfly with winter breeding grounds in north Africa. When weather conditions get too dry in Africa butterflies make the journey north, and lay their eggs in Europe where the weather is better for the caterpillars’ food plants. In the autumn they fly south to escape the cold. If you see any, Butterfly Conservation would love your records.

Insect migration can be very different to bird migration. Many birds migrate each year between summer breeding grounds and winter feeding grounds. But lots of insects don’t show this distinct pattern and are simply moving to a new area so they lay their eggs somewhere with a plentiful supply of food.

Also, most insects don’t live that long. In many insect species, such as the painted lady or silver Y, no individual makes a northwards and southwards migration – instead it is the next generation which completes the round trip. That makes it even more mind boggling to think about how they find their way without anyone to follow or any prior knowledge of the route. You can read about my research into how butterflies know which way to fly  The more I learn about the world of insects the more amazing their world seems!

With many thanks to Dr Rebecca Nesbit ( rebeccanesbit@societyofbiology.org )  for her great contribution!

To find out more about Minibeasts visit www.thesciencesays.southernfriedscience.com/who-we-are

Or visit them on Twitter @thesciencesays or @RebeccaNesbit

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With great thanks to The Wildlife Garden Project for this video! For more videos and information on how you can help wildlife in your garden, visit www.wildlifegardenproject.com

Film made by Laura Turner

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Why did the hedgehog cross the road? Well, sorry to ruin the fun but for many reasons, and we want to make sure they’re safe doing so. We talk to Richard Wembridge from People’s Trust for Endangered Species about what we can do to help hedgehogs and more about PTES’s project, Hedgehog Street!

The hedgehog is one of our most charismatic and popular native mammals, but in 2007 it was assigned the status of a ‘priority species’ for conservation in the UK and there is strong evidence that its numbers are declining alarmingly.

The first real indication of a decline came from our Mammals on Roads survey, an annual count of hedgehogs and other species along road journeys. This, together with records from other surveys, such as our Living with Mammals and the British Trust for Ornithology’s Garden BirdWatch and Breeding Bird Survey, suggest hedgehog numbers may have fallen by a quarter in only the last ten years.

In response, PTES and the British Hedgehog Preservation Society (BHPS) set up Hedgehog Street, a nationwide campaign to get people involved in hedgehog conservation. Since last spring, over 20,500 volunteers have signed up to become ‘Hedgehog Champions’ and received or downloaded an information pack to inspire and recruit people in their neighbourhood.

In urban and suburban areas, changes in the way gardens are managed can affect how well hedgehog populations fare. Where garden boundaries are impermeable to wandering hedgehogs, and roads become busier, populations can become isolated and unsustainable. Gardeners who are too tidy or who tarmac their land deplete foraging, nesting and hibernation opportunities.

Stephen Heliczer (c) 2012

More widely, the causes of the hedgehog’s problems are complex and not fully understood. More research is needed, particularly in rural settings. PTES and BHPS are funding work at WildCRU, University of Oxford, in which radio-tracking will help show how hedgehogs use arable farmland in Oxfordshire. The findings will be invaluable in guiding future conservation.

So, what has Hedgehog Street achieved? Over 2,500 Hedgehog Champions told us what they’ve been up to. Over 50 per cent have involved at least one neighbour in the project, making a total of 4,699 neighbours in 3,677 households attached to about 293 hectares of land – 33 times the infield area of the London 2012 Olympic stadium. So far our Champions have created 2660 new hibernation sites, 5064 natural feeding areas, removed 3,404 hazards and linked 4,823 gardens.

These figures represent tangible benefits for hedgehogs, and for other species, and might just ensure that hedgehogs remain a wild denizen of our gardens and urban spaces.

Nigel Kingwill (c) 2012

To take part in Mammals on Roads survey or for information about Hedgehog Street champion, visit the PTES website (www.ptes.org) or email enquires@ptes.org.

About PTES

In the UK, 90 per cent of water voles and 75 per cent of hazel dormice have been lost in recent years. Overseas, turtles are regularly caught and killed in fishing gear, lions are illegally shot and the seahorse population in south East Asia has halved. People’s Trust for Endangered Species has been working tirelessly to save endangered species within their habitats for 35 years. We support practical conservation work and research worldwide with a special focus on British wildlife. This is made possible by donations from our supporters and grants from charitable organisations, as we receive no core funding from the government. For more information about our charity, please visit our website www.ptes.org.

 With many thanks to David Wembridge & PTES for their great contribution!

Click here to follow PTES on Facebook & Twitter.

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Some beautiful warm weather (for once) had us basking in the sun today but we certainly weren’t lounging like lizards as we continue to search for our remaining wildlife species! The tally ended on 289 to go today with some more results still to assess on iSpot so keep em coming! Rhys Jones told us how a chance encounter inspired his lifetime reptile obsession, we had a lesson in non-native ‘herps’ from the Amphibian and Reptile Groups of the UK and profiles on some of our most beautiful and mysterious wildlife – not to mention heavy metal nature with The Blowfish!

What’s on tomorrow

For our penultimate day of the Final Lap we will be taking a look at the super furry mammals! The group to which our own species belongs and those that we often have the closest emotional connection with. We’ll be searching for squirrels and hunting for hedgehogs with a special guest appearance from mammal expert and Hedgehog enthusiast Hugh Warwick!

3 things you need to know about hedgehogs:

4 legs… 6,000 spines… carefully. – Hugh Warwick

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We’ve had a truely ssssssspectacular day! We hope you had luck on your ssssearch for our Guess the Ssssspecies of the day…..Did you guess right? It was the….

GREAT CRESTED NEWT!

Guess the Species- Great Crested Newt

  • We in Britain have the largest population of great crested newts in Europe, although they are becoming rare in many areas around Europe.
  • Male newts develop a crest along their back during the breeding season and this is why they are called ‘great crested newts’!
  • Sometimes, they are called ‘warty newt’! This is because they have a dark brown warty body. They also have amazing yellowish-orange bellies with black blotches.

To find out more, visit www.cumbriawildlifetrust.org.uk/great-crested-newts

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