Wednesday, September 20, 2017

Bilateral Gynandromorph

Equally rare, if not even more so than the elusive iole, a recently eclosed A.ilia bilateral gynandromorph. I thought I would share some pictures for you all to see and enjoy. A fantastic and interesting beast.


Some interesting and unexpected findings. Firstly looking at the pupal case, the male opening is clustered to one side (section IX), while the female genital opening is still contiguios through section VIII.


Although generally considered to be equally split down the middle, when looking close up at the business end of the actual specimen, we see that the male does actually have a complete pair of claspers, but both of these are clustered on one side of the abdomen and I fail to find any sign of a female opening.


Looking close up at the vestigial front brushes (which can be used to sex non-sexually dimorphic Nymphalidae species), it is excellent to see the presence of the extra tarsal segment (with claw) on the female side.





Thursday, September 7, 2017

NORFOLK EMPERORS

FROM FRANCIS FARROW

Around mid-July there was some exciting news for Norfolk Naturalists with two sightings of Purple Emperor butterflies in Sheringham Park. These impressive butterflies have not been seen in Norfolk since they were resident in the early 1970s (apart from some recent infrequent sightings). Further to the Sheringham Park sightings a third sighting was made on Beeston Common, near Sheringham on 31st July. This site, which lies within a mile of the coast, is a mixture of habitats including heathland where the butterfly was seen.

Your dedicated website for the Purple Emperor states in its introduction ‘This is not an insect you will stumble upon, unless you are blessed with extraordinary luck.’ I believe I was extremely lucky as I literally stumbled upon a Purple Emperor on the ground.

This was a female, not the impressive iridescent purple male. The butterfly was on a path less than two metres ahead of me imbibing mineral salts from the soil. This was my first ever sighting and as I had missed out on an earlier Butterfly Conservation excursion to Fermyn Wood in Northamptonshire I was particularly happy to have found one on my local patch. Apart from moving around slightly while still imbibing the butterfly remained with its wings closed for about 20 minutes. Then there were a few tentative movements of its wings before finally the butterfly spread its wings, revealing its ‘eye-spots’, before taking off and ascending to around 10 metres after which, it glided some eight metres down to around three metres before flying off strongly to the south-west (the direction in which Sheringham Park lies). This last act was a great thrill – such an impressive insect.


One theory is that the recent Norfolk sightings are casual migrants, individuals from re-introduced Suffolk colonies that have done well in the last 10 years rather than deliberate releases of captive-bred stock.  Hopefully enough of these large and beautiful butterflies will arrive and start their own colonies in Norfolk woodlands.


Sunday, August 20, 2017

The 2017 Egg Lay

So you thought this was a good Purple Emperor season? Certainly, the Emperors were blessed with much fine weather, which might mean that activity levels were very high. 

However, that doesn't necessarily mean that actual adult numbers were unusually high. In fact, numbers of the Knepp Wildlands transect (established in 2014) were comparable to 2015, which seems to have been a  'reasonably good' year... Peak day counts in 2015 and 2017 were around 36 (36, on a single transect, you ask! Yes, 36, along a two hour route). 

I've been carrying out standardized counts of eggs and late summer / autumn larvae in and around Savernake Forest since 2009, by ground searching with a shepherd's crook. The methodology doesn't keep to the same route, but tracks new breeding grounds as they develop and abandons old ones as they degenerate, and involves 40 hours of searching annually. It is based on the assumption that the females lay the same percentage of eggs low down each year (there's no evidence either way).   

I am about two-thirds of the way through this year's monitoring, and think the final tally will be in the region of 26-28. That's an improvement on last year's nadir but is certainly not a bumper year - and iris does have bumper years. Here's the data -

          2009          141
          2010            59
          2011            21
          2012            22
          2013          190
          2014            24
          2015            20
          2016            17
          2017            ??

The only other person I know of who counts / monitors / surveys eggs &larvae is Brother Dennis (who likes to be known as The Setaceous Hebrew Character - being hirsute, Jewish and characterful. The original Setaceous Hebrew Character was, of course, the Baron de Worms, Heslop's great friend). 

Dennis is struggling to find any this year in 'Bucks Best Wood' - a privately owned wood which the enlightened owner manages with iris strongly in mind, and is choked with sallow.  

I am also struggling to find larvae at Knepp...

Any other information?




Wednesday, July 26, 2017

Purple Emperor on Test Match Special

Delighted to have orchestrated a mention of the Monarch of all the Butterflies into the celebratory TMS@60 programme. It's around 54.00 minutes into the programme, and introduces the infamous Lords streaker of 1975 (who, incredibly, was called Michael Angelo).

Here's the BBC Radio Iplayer link  http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b08ynqhd 

The point of this, is that it's important that the Emperor continues to race ahead of other butterflies in media and public standing, especially the unmentionable members of the Entomological Riff-Raff Club (like the effete mothy thing which flaps around in the Norfolk Broads and that Blue which is so stupid it became extinct).  

Tuesday, July 25, 2017

Iris broods – a question for the ‘Empire fraternity!


Hi folks,

I have a quick question for the 'Empire's experts as I think it is unlikely I'll bump into Neil or Matthew for a year or so! Is a second iris brood a total impossibility? Does this happen elsewhere in the world where there may be longer periods of warmth and light? Or do the larvae universally require sustained periods of low light and cold to develop properly and pupate? Thank you.


Monday, July 24, 2017

Norfolk Emperors

Interesting news from BC Norfolk, male & female Iris reported on consecutive days from Sheringham Park NT.  No dates or details given.  I had heard rumours of sightings last year but it's a large site and 'needle in haystack' spring to mind.  Wonder how they got there?

Sunday, July 23, 2017

Hampstead Heath


FROM ROY PREM


I have also emailed the Herts and Middlesex Branch about a possible sighting of Apatura iris in Hampstead Heath.
I note that there have been a few sightings since 2015.
On 21st July I am reasonably sure I saw one maybe two iris near the Leg of Mutton Pond/Deer enclosure/Childrens play area of Golders Hill Park/Hampstead Heath.
They were clearly large Nymphalids and I have seen iris numerous times, they could have been escapees of a tropical nymphalid (eg Parthenos Sylvia) from the nearby Butterfly Green house in Golders Hill Park.
They flew between large Oaks at 25m.
I cannot be completely sure but it is possible that they could be.
There are possible breeding areas nearby, I know the area very well as I grew up in Golders Green
Let us hope that this magnificent butterfly is extending its range, the good warm weather recently I believe is ideal weather for species extending their ranges