Southern Marsh Orchids

Southern Marsh Orchids

Thursday 26 June 2014

Old Castle Down is alive with larger fritillaries at the moment, with estimates of 100 to 500 seen in our Members' Day afternoon on Sunday. Most at present are at the southern end of Old Castle Down, just above Coed y Bwl reserve. They are starting to nectar more now, but on Sunday were on constant activity a few inches above the habitat, in and out of the bracken. Both Dark Green & High Brown Fritillary occur together here but the proportion of High Browns is already high and will probably increase as season progresses. First Silver-washed Fritillary of the year was also encountered on Sunday.
After visiting Ben Williams in Tonteg on Monday, he, Gareth Tonks and I had a quick look at Ben's favourite Wych Elm tree by the river at Upper Boat, where you come out of the Industrial Estate to join A470. After just a few minutes viewing the crown of this fairly short & stout tree, a couple of very fresh looking White letter Hairstreaks displayed themselves briefly.

None seen yet in Alun valley, but worth a "stop & stare" for a few minutes at canopy of any elms which appear alive. If there is thistle or bramble in flower nearby, you might get nectaring shots as their flight season continues for probably 4 to 6 weeks yet.

Friday 20 June 2014

Cocoons and beetles

I saw lots of these little round cocoons today with something moving around inside them. They were on dock in a field of marshy flower-rich grassland near Margam but I've never noticed them before - can anyone enlighten me as to what they are please?
I also saw these 3 beetles having a little quality time in the same field - they were fairly small (about 9mm or so) - garden chafers? Any suggestions gratefully received.

Thursday 19 June 2014


Mike Powell and myself had a nice stand of Marsh Helleborine at Aberthaw this afternoon. Also Pyramidal, Common Spotted-orchid & Southern Marsh-orchid.

Wednesday 18 June 2014

Thistle Tortoise beetle

While I was keying out a leaf beetle a few days ago I stumbled through the section in the key on Tortoise Beetles, and thought 'that's funny, I've never seen one of those before!'.  Last night though as fate would have it this little chap was sitting on the front door.

It's a Thistle Tortoise beetle, quite common and not one of the more attractive Tortoise beetles, granted, but nonetheless showing the key features: oval, flattened body profile, pronotum entirely covering the head, and a flattening or slight upturn on the edges of the elytra.

Thistle Tortoise beetle Cassida rubiginosa
The larvae are armoured with spikes that they liberally plaster with their own faeces (see here:  Nice!

Monday 16 June 2014

Ground Beetle

Ophonus ardosiacus
Just ocassionally on still, warm muggy summer nights, beetles take to the wing in some numbers and are attracted to light.  Saturday was one of those evenings and a number of beetles landed in my moth trap.  One of them was Ophonus ardosiacus, pictured above.  None of the Ophonus ground beetles are common, and O ardosiacus is extremely uncommon in a Wales context.  This is my third record of this species from Rhoose Point which suggests that there may be a self-sustaining population here.

This group of beetles have declined dramatically in recent decades due to the loss of the flower rich habitat they require to provide their food source, seeds. 

Rhoose Pool yesterday

A few pictures from yesterday
Fairy Flax

Marsh Helleborine flower

Red-veined Darter

Chimney sweeper moth?

Chimney Sweeper Moth? taken at Tonyrefail a couple of years ago - Found whilst looking for Marsh Frits
- Unidentified until recent picture sort out!

Monday 9 June 2014

Another beetle

This rather handsome beetle was collected by one of the folk who attended the Glam Botany Group visit to Rhoose Point.  It is a Chrysomelid (or leaf) beetle called Cryptocephalus hypochaeridis. The adults feed on Pollen usually from members of the Hawkweed/Hawkbit group of compositae.  As well as being a very striking beetle, it is also fairly uncommon.  The distribution map from the NBN Gateway shows very few records from Wales. 

Cryptocephalus hypochaeridis NBN Gateway

Sunday 8 June 2014


While moth trapping in a conifer plantation, at 420m ASL on the mountain between Aberdare and Maerdy, Friday night, I was delighted, after many years since my last sightings, to see two Eyed Ladybirds (Anatis ocellata), one with and one without the pale rings around the black spots.

After moving the one without the rings from the moth trap and putting it on some logs to photograph it, a peculiar thing happened that I wasn't aware of at the time and only noticed while processing the photos on the computer. Between the photo of it on the cable of the moth trap and placing it on the log, two yellow blobs have appeared, one each side of the pronotum.

What are these? are they something exuded by the ladybird as part of a defence strategy, or are they something more sinister? Also, what are those two winged insects doing: could they be attracted to the yellow substance? I wondered for a while whether I was seeing both ends of the yellow larva of the ladybird parasitic wasp Dinocampus coccinella, but I think they are just two blobs of yellow liquid.

Also attracted to the light was a burying beetle Necrodes littoralis, with its attendant mites, and also a small beetle with long antennae, which I haven't been able to identify, but may belong to the genus Luperus.

Finally, as I was packing up, I found this always impressive Carabus problematicus, which is the upland counterpart to the more familiar Violet Ground Beetle (Carabus violaceus).

Friday 6 June 2014

In the Vale

A single spike of Greater Butterfly-orchid near St. Nicolas in the Vale of Glamorgan. This orchid is scarce in VC41 with its stronghold in the Vale of Glamorgan. Thanks to Mike Powell for the info.