Bovingdon (BMT): In spite of the wind, I thought I’d do a little Hairstreak hunting. Purple Hairstreaks to be precise. To my mind, this basically involves hanging around Oak trees, staring up into the canopy for as long as my neck will tolerate it.
I got to the Brickworks mid-morning and headed to the Oaks east of Baker’s Wood. I love this area. It’s wild and warm and sheltered, and full of all sorts of interesting creepy crawlies and plants. The Oaks were devoid of speedy ‘streaks but I carried on along the path, to where the Field Scabious (Knautia arvensis) grows. Suddenly, there, fluttering above the plants, not a Purple Hairstreak, but a small group of Longhorn moths. My pulse quickened. I immediately thought Horehound Longhorn (the fact that there isn’t any Horehound growing in this area was neither here nor there). I waited for one of them to settle, which seemed to take an absolute age. Finally, one came to rest, and was obviously not a Horehound (sense returned). In fact, I wasn’t quite sure what they were so decided I’d better take some decent record shots and look them up once home. By the time I’d finished, I’d convinced myself they were nothing to get excited about although their identity was still a mystery.
|Longhorn on Field Scabious|
I carried on around the rest of the site, spending a good 20 minutes under a large Oak, watching two tiny, speedy, dark butterflies occasionally flit between branches, high up. Purple Hairstreaks? Who knows, I never got a good look at them, unfortunately. Finally, on my return route, a ragged Painted Lady was sunning herself by some brambles.
UK Moths states that “the male has antennae three times the length of the forewings, the female around half this length...Like other members of the genus, the larvae feed at first on seeds and later on leaves or leaf-litter, mainly of Field Scabious (Knautia arvensis). Occurring in the south of England and East Anglia, the moths fly in June and July during the day.” I have since learned that there were a couple of Herts sightings last year.
So, there it is, another rare/scarce moth turns up on Box Moor Trust land. Brassy and beautiful, and it’s got me thinking more about the place of Field Scabious in the landscape. The flower heads were teeming with life: hoverflies, bees, beetles and moths, to name but a few. Definitely a plant that needs greater consideration.
So, to a few photos of the bobby-dazzlers...
|Brassy Longhorn (Nemophora metallica), female. Her scales dull to the light|
|Brassy Longhorn (Nemophora metallica), female. Her scales glistening in the light|
Of course, the male is the one with the long horns…THREE times the length of the forewing
|Brassy Longhorn (Nemophora metallica), male. In dull light|
|Brassy Longhorn (Nemophora metallica), male, looking very brassy and longhorny!|
The last few photographs show the head-on view; a size comparison with a hoverfly; a close up of the light-catching scales, and the predominant colouring.