Early invertebrates in 2012

Perhaps with the sighting by Tim Harris of a few Red Admiral butterflies on Wanstead Flats on 26th February, Spring could be thought to be near. I was in Bournemouth - so missed the early butterflies locally but had already seen the hoverfly Eristalis tenax as well as a number of Harlequin and some 7-spot Ladybirds all sunbathing on rhododendron in Wanstead Park on the same day, 23rd February. Tim put out a moth trap in his garden near Bush Wood, on the night of 23/24th February and caught an Angle Shades moth and two Small Brindled Beauty moths. The Angle Shades is a particularly attractive moth, and the Small Brindled Beauty is a species which I haven't recorded in the area before. On 26/27th February there was a Satellite moth in the trap and on 28/29th the catch was Pale Mottled Willow, Common Quaker and Small Quaker. I managed to get my trap set up at about midnight on 29th Feb/1st March, but as I missed the evening flight only caught one moth: a Hebrew Character. Tim caught 1 Hebrew Character, 2 Common Quakers, 1 Small Quaker and two new moths for the area - an Oak Beauty and a March Moth.

bee_bombus_terrestris_col_120301_0281artBombus terrestris the beeThe 1st March was a fine day, with temperatures up to around 15.C. A walk to the City of London Cemetery enabled me to spot a Brimstone butterfly by Alexandra Lake - interestingly in the same location as my first Brimstone last Spring. As with that one, this year's made just as rapid an un-photographable getaway, as did the Red Admiral some half hour later in the Cemetery!

insect_beetle_exochomus_quadripustulatus_col_120301_0296artPine Ladybirds on 1st MarchBees, on the other hand, were more obliging, and as usual the heather-beds in the cemetery provided a good feeding ground for Honey Bees Apis mellifera, Red-tailed Bumblebees Bombus lapidarius, Buff-tailed Bumblebee Bombus terrestris and the Tree Bee Bombus hypnorum. The last is interesting because it is only eleven years since this species was first reported in England, and is now becoming so common as to sometimes being called the new garden bumblebee. There were a scattering of 7-spot Ladybirds around the heathers too, and on the smooth bark of a tree a number of very small black ladybirds with red markings which were Pine Ladybirds, Exochomus 4-pustulatus. Spiders  were also evident, including a number of Zebra Spiders and possibly two species of Wolf Spider (Lycosidae) which I have not identified. Earlier in the year - on the 14th February -  a close look at some moss on Wanstead Flats had revealed another spider species new to me. This was the very small (3-6mm) Enoplognatha ovata - sometimes known as the Comb-footed Spider.  (see here)

hebrew_character_gdn_120301_0228artHebrew Character torpid after a night in the trapThe moth trap was set out at dusk on 1st March, and I looked forward to what may have been in it in the morning. It should be noted that these traps catch the moths live, and they can settle quite cosily into supplied egg-boxes, to be examined in the morning and carefully released so as not to get bird-eaten! Overnight temperatures in my garden - which is situated between Wanstead Flats and Manor Park Cemetery - fell to 5.C, and it was mostly cloudy. Only two moths were present in the morning, and both were Hebrew Character, Tim Harris' trap in the Lakehouse area had Pale Brindled Beauty, Small Quaker and the Plume Moth Emmelina monodactyla - a slightly better catch which may have been influenced by the fact that it is a new trap and my trap-light is old. This could mean that it does not have the attractive pull of a younger model.

On 2/3 March the temperature dropped to about 5.C, and the haul was two Hebrew Character and another new species, the Dotted Border (see here). Another cool night on 3/4 March - with temperatures between 7.4 and 9.C. and the the trap not being set until 9pm - accumulated three Hebrew Character and one Small Quaker.

The night of 4/5th March was cold, wet and windy, and I did not set the trap. At least the 5/6th was dry, The temperature during the evening and night was about 5.C., and the fact that the egg-boxes contained - once again - two Hebrew Characters proved that they were using it as a hotel! The 5/6th proved me wrong, as no moths were recorded, nor did I have any on 6/7th, though Tim's Lakehouse garden trap had four Small Quakers.

Ichneumon  fly 12th March 2012Ichneumon fly on 11th MarchThe 8th March was a sunny day with temperatures of about 10.C. at mid-day. A short visit to the City of London Cemetery saw three species of hoverfly - including the Marmalade Hoverfly Episyrphus balteatus and an Eristalis species, a few bees and quite a lot of Pine Ladybirds, most of the preceding on the leaves of rhododendron. In Wanstead Park too, bees were to be seen including an Andrena species, possibly Andrena fulva.

My overnight 8/9th moth catch was nil - not helped by setting the trap late at 10.30. The temperature was higher: down to 7.C. Tim's trap did better, with 2 March Moth, 2 Common Quaker, 1 Small Quaker, 1 Twin-spotted Quaker and 2 Hebrew Character. 9/10th saw temperatures down to 9.C., with a fairly calm night. The result was one Hebrew Character and one Common Quaker. Tim's catch was 9 Common Quaker, 3 Small Quaker, 1 Twin-spotted Quaker, 1 Early Grey, 1 Light Brown Apple Moth, Epiphyas postvittana.

10/11th was warmer still and in the evening darkness when most of the moths would have been flying was about 11.C. Four Hebrew Characters, a Light Brown Apple Moth Epiphyas postvittana and two March Dagger moths Diurnea fagella (see here). There were also two Ichneuman flies of the same species in the trap. These are parasitic insects related to wasps. In the Lakehouse trap were 5 Common Quaker, 3 Small Quaker, 2 Hebrew Character, 1 Oak Beauty. A Red Admiral butterfly was reported from Wanstead Flats on 11th.

Angle ShadesAngle ShadesThe next night was cooler again with temperatures down to 6.C. and the catch at Capel Road was a meagre Hebrew Character and a single March Dagger Moth. The latter is well known for its tendency towards melanism - that is sometimes occurring in a darker form than is normal. This is said to be due to the moth being a trunk-rester (it rests on tree-trunks!) and the darker forms have less chance of being seen by predators and thus tend to survive to pass on the genes that lead to the darker colouring. That said, my examples were of a somewhat in-between colour. Only one moth in the trap on 12/13th: an Angle Shades. The next night - 13/14th - hovered around 7.C. from dusk to dawn, and I wasn't surprised at a single cold Hebrew Character being my catch. However, in the Lakehouse garden the catch was quite impressive : 1 Common Quaker, 3 Small Quaker, 2 Twin-spotted Quaker, 1 Hebrew Character, 2 Early Grey and 1 Small Brindled Beauty (dark form). The last few days had been dull and cool, and there were few insects to be seen generally, although I did notice the first Pond Skater (Gerris sp.) in my small garden pond. The Lakehouse catch on 14/16th was: 6 Common Quaker, 3 Small Quaker, 1 Twin-spotted Quaker, 1 Hebrew Character, plus a hoverfly Epistrophe eligans. The Capel Road catch was 2 Common Quaker and 2 Hebrew Character. Temperatures the day before (15th) reached 18/19.C. and bees and a Red Admiral Butterfly were much in evidence in the C. of L. Cemetery, and overnight temperatures were >9.C.,  slightly warmer than of late and perhaps reflecting the slightly more numerous catches. On 16/17th temperatures dropped from 10.C. in the evening to 8.C lowest overnight. Tthe Capel Road catch was 5 Hebrew Character and 1 Common Quaker. and a Plume Moth Amblyptilia acanthadactyla. The Lakehouse catch was 4 Common Quaker, 2 Small Quaker, 1 Twin-spotted Quaker, 3 Hebrew Character and 1 Common Plume. On the 19/20, Tim's catch was as follows: 5 Common Quaker, 2 Small Quaker, 2 Twin-spotted Quaker, 1 Light-brown Apple Moth, 1 Tawny Pinion. On 20/21st: 2 Common Quaker, 3 Small Quaker, 2 Twin-spotted Quaker, 1 Early Grey, 1 Common Plume, 1 Beautiful Plume, Amblyptilia acanthadactyla, and a male March Dagger (Diurnea fagella). On 21st the first Small White butterfly was reported, close to Angell Pond on Wanstead Flats. The Lakehouse catch on 22/23rd was: 13 Common Quaker, 1 Early Grey, 1 dark-form Chestnut. Butterflies were reported on the warm Saturday of the 24th : Peacock and Red Admiral in the Aldersbrook Exchange Lands and Small Tortoiseshell and Speckled Wood near the Cat and Dog Pond on Wanstead Flats. Overnight on 24/25th a  moth trap was set in Richard Oakman's garden in Grosvenor Road, Wanstead and produced  2 Common Quaker, 2 Hebrew Character and 1 Early Grey. At Lakehouse on 26/27th the catch produced 12 individuals of 4 species: 7 Common Quaker, 3 Twin-spotted Quaker, 1 Hebrew Character, 1 Early Grey. There were also additional reports of Small Tortoiseshell, Red Admiral, Peacock and Speckled Wood at the weekend from the Park and the Flats. My catch in Capel Road on 27/28th was just two Hebrew Character, and on 28th there was the first Holly Blue butterfly of the season. Muslin MothMuslin MothOvernight (28/29th) in Capel Road produced 2 Hebrew Character, 2 Common Plume and one Muslin Moth - early for this species. In Lakehouse Road were just 3 Small Quaker. The Capel Road catch on 29/30 was 4 Hebrew Character, 1 Muslin Moth, 1 Common Plume, 1 Clouded Drab (male). The last is a new species for the area, and because it was somewhat lacking in distinct patterning, took a while to identify. It was easier when it woke up and spread itself a bit!

On Wanstead Flats on 30th March, many of the "volcanos" produced by mining-bees Andrena sp. were evident along the dry track on the Flats adjacent to Capel Road and by Alexandra Lake. Also by the Sandhills were the first Bee-flys (Bombylius major). In the Capel Road moth-trap on 30/31st were 2 Hebrew Character, 1 Muslin Moth and the first Double-striped Pug of the year. At Lakehouse Road the catch was 5 Common Quaker, 3 Hebrew Character, 2 Early Grey, 1 Brindled Pug, 2 White-shouldered House Moth (648) and one micro which could be Agonopterix heracliana? For the last night of March, in Capel Road were just 3 Hebrew Character. The day had been warm enough but the night-time tempereatures remained at about 6.C.

List of Invertebrates recorded in February and March in order of appearance:

Comb-footed Spider Enoplognatha ovata - I4 February, Wanstead Flats

hoverfly Eristalis tenax - 23 February, Wanstead Park

Harlequin Ladybird - 23 February, Wanstead Park

7-spot Ladybirds - 23 February, Wanstead Park

Angle Shades moth - 23/24 February, Lakehouse Estate

Small Brindled Beauty - 23/24 February, Lakehouse Estate

Red Admiral - 26th February, Wanstead Flats

Satellite moth - 26/27 February, Lakehouse Estate

Pale Mottled Willow - 28/29 February, Lakehouse Estate

Common Quaker - 28/29 February, Lakehouse Estate

Small Quaker - 28/29 February, Lakehouse Estate

Hebrew Character - 29/1March, Capel Road

Oak Beauty - 29/1March, Lakehouse Estate

March Moth - 29/1March, Lakehouse Estate

Brimstone butterfly - I March, Wanstead Flats

Honey Bees Apis mellifera - I March, City of London Cemetery

Red-tailed Bumblebees Bombus lapidarius - I March, City of London Cemetery

Buff-tailed Bumblebee Bombus terrestris - I March, City of London Cemetery

Tree Bee Bombus hypnorum - I March, City of London Cemetery

Pine Ladybirds, Exochomus 4-pustulatus - I March, City of London Cemetery

Zebra Spiders - I March, City of London Cemetery

Wolf Spider (Lycosidae) - I March, City of London Cemetery

Pale Brindled Beauty - 1/2 March, Lakehouse Estate

Common Plume Moth Emmelina monodactyla - 1/2 March, Lakehouse Estate

Dotted Border (see here) - 2/3 March, Lakehouse Estate

Marmalade Hoverfly Episyrphus balteatus - 8 March, City of London Cemetery

Eristalis species - 8 March, City of London Cemetery

Andrena species, possibly Andrena fulva - 8 March, City of London Cemetery

Twin-spotted Quaker - 8/9 March, Lakehouse Estate

Early Grey - 9/10 March, Lakehouse Estate

Light Brown Apple Moth, Epiphyas postvittana - 9/10 March, Lakehouse Estate

March Dagger moths Diurnea fagella (see here) - 10/11 March, Capel Road

Ichneuman fly - 10/11 March, Capel Road

Oak Beauty - 10/11 March, Lakehouse Estate

hoverfly Epistrophe eligans - 13/14 March, Lakehouse Estate

Beautiful Plume Amblyptilia acanthadactyla - 16/17 March, Lakehouse Estate

Tawny Pinion - 19/20 March, Lakehouse Estate

Beautiful Plume, Amblyptilia acanthadactyla - 20/21 March, Lakehouse Estate

Small White butterfly - 21 March, Wanstead Flats

Peacock - 21 March, Aldersbrook Exchange Lands

Small Tortoiseshell - 24 March, Wanstead Flats

Speckled Wood - 24 March, Wanstead Flats

Holly Blue - 28 March, Wanstead Park

Muslin Moth - 28/29 March, Capel Road

Clouded Drab - 29/30 March, Capel Road

Double-striped Pug - 30/31 March, Capel Road

Brindled Pug - 30/31 March, Lakehouse Estate

White-shouldered House Moth (648) - 30/31 March, Lakehouse Estate

Agonopterix heracliana? - 30/31 March, Lakehouse Estate


for invertebrates in May, click here

for invertebrates in June, click here

Paul Ferris, March