Rearing Orange Tip butterflies

– quite a challenge!

Rearing Orange Tip butterflies. This week, I have started rearing four Orange Tip caterpillars, found on the seed pods of the Garlic Mustard plants in my garden.

The caterpillars are now indoors, in the gauze cage that I had used originally to rear my Painted Ladies a few years ago. They are still on the same plants (in a small vase) and they are munching away, day and night, at the long seed pods and are hopefully free from parasitic flies, birds etc.

Currently about 12mm long, they will develop (hopefully) to about 3.5cm.

Difficult to see and photograph because of their very small size (short and thin). They are well camouflaged, mimicking the seed pods along which they are resting.

You might notice the presence of small clear beads of liquid topping the black hairs on each caterpillar’s back. No one really knows their purpose, perhaps a guard against predators?

The caterpillars will eventually pupate at the 5th (and final) Instar into a Gondola boat-shaped Chrysalis, fastened to a stem with a silken girdle around its waist and a silk pad at its tail end.

Then it’s a long wait until next Spring when they will metamorphose into beautiful adult (Imago) butterflies.

These caterpillars are cannibalistic and the female Orange Tip usually only lays one egg per plant.

I’m hoping to photo-document their progress if I can, that is if they don’t eat each other! Lots of fun! Alwyn.

An unusual mayfly visitor

The unusual record was a mayfly called Ecdyonurus torrentis, this individual was trying to lay eggs on our wet patio (see photo BUT this is not the actual insect I saw, this one is a male of the species).

Male Brook Dun Spinner – Ecdyonurus torrentis

How it got to our garden I can only guess, the river is only about half a mile away as the mayfly flies but it is certainly not in line of sight and mayflies are not the strongest of flyers. Having said that who am I to try and second guess one the most successful types of flying insect that this planet has ever seen, having been around for over 300 million years. Bye for now, Lynn and Stuart

Barnsley Butterfly Atlas

A request for help with the Barnsley Butterfly Atlas … 

Following a suggestion from Alwyn, a trustee of the Barnsley Biodiversity Trust, the Barnsley Butterfly Atlas project was launched in May 2017 by Sorby Natural History Society and Barnsley Biological Record Centre, with support from the Dearne Valley Landscape Partnership. The project aims to map the distribution of all the butterfly species found across the area of the borough of Barnsley in the 20 year period from 2000 to 2020. [Perhaps with the lockdown we need an extra year?]

So now we are asked to contribute our records of butterfly sightings … from our usual patch or perhaps somewhere different that has not been recorded so much before.

How far have we got: There are distribution maps from data held by BBRC at 07 January 2020 on this Sorby NHS webpage; they show where more recording is needed. http://www.sorby.org.uk/groups/sorby-invertebrate-group/barnsley-butterfly-atlas/

For further information from the start of the project:  https://discoverdearne.org.uk/barnsley-butterfly-atlas/
For information about local butterflies: http://www.barnsleybiodiversity.org.uk/butterflies.html
For tips on identifying butterflies: http://butterfly-conservation.org/50/identify-a-butterfly.html

To get the ball rolling, here are some butterfly records from Peter and Annefie’s walk on Saturday …
Date: Saturday 2 May 2020
Location: Falthwaite & Lowe Wood LWS
Comment: On Wild Garlic and other flowering plants near Stainborough Dike
Grid Reference: 4-figure /1km square: SE3103 [Six-figure reference: from SE318039 to SE314039]
Observer: Peter and Annefie Roberts
Species: Brimstone (2), Comma (1), Holly Blue (1), Orange-tip (Males & Females, numerous), Small White (numerous), Speckled wood (1).

We will send them to Barnsley Biological Record Centre (BBRC): barnsleybrc@btinternet.com.
[Note the change of email address during the lockdown]

Social media …

Barnsley Nats posts on both twitter [and more occasionally facebook]. You can see what we post, ‘retweet’ and ‘like’ on our social media page.

A twitter post tagged @Barnsley_Nats with an image to identify recently had us thinking. Kent and Doug agreed it was a type of ichneumon wasp. However these are notoriously difficult to id at species level without using a microscope …