Monday, March 28, 2016

Late Winter Losses

A very disappointing and worrying end to the winter.  Mortality rates were high during the mid to late autumn period in Savernake Forest, my main study site - i.e. before and shortly after larvae entered diapause.  I don't know why.

Then all was relatively good for a long while, with wild larvae surviving well.  I was cheered to read the BTO announcement that Blue Tit and Great Tit numbers were low this winter, due to poor breeding success last year, as tits are major predators of hibernating Emperor larvae.  However, tit numbers seemed high in Savernake all winter, probably because it was mild enough for them to winter out in the forest (in severe winter weather they seem to desert the forest, presumably to visit gardens).  

The bad news is that Purple Emperor larvae have been hit hard this last month, by assumed (tit) predation.  Also, one wild larva has shrivelled up and died, along with one of my two captive larvae. This is a familiar problem to breeders (I've forgotten what this desiccation is called - can someone please remind me, I've got it written down somewhere...  it's associated with wet weather).  I think I've only recorded three hibernating larvae shrivelling up and dying in the wild, out of some 200 I've followed.  

So, at this stage the prospects for the 2016 Purple Emperor season do not look good...