Southern Wood Ant Formica rufa

Southern Wood Ants are commonly found in the Wyre Forest and in sunny places their large nests can be large and conspicuous. There may be up to 400,000 individual ants in one nest, almost all of which are worker ants. Winged males and new queens emerge between April and August and Kevin McGee has sent this excellent photograph of one of the queens he found in Wyre recently.

Formica rufa queen ant, Wimperhill, 5 June 2016 ©Kevin McGee

Grass Snake, Natrix natrix

This year corrugated iron refugia have been placed around the farm at Uncllys for reptiles to use. Grass Snakes and Slowworms have been recorded taking advantage of these sites, and and John Iles has sent a photograph of one of the sub-adult Grass Snakes found this week. As reptiles are cold-blooded they need to obtain their heat from the environment for all biological processes such as digestion, growth, and reproduction. Metal refugee warm up quickly and also provide protection for reptiles that would otherwise be vulnerable to predation (if basking in the open) by birds such as Buzzards which have increased in numbers around Wyre in recent years.

Grass Snake, Uncllys, June 2016 ©John Iles

Painted Lady Venessa cardui

This strong-flying immigrant butterfly has flown into Britain from further south. The main breeding grounds are along the edges of deserts in North Africa and Arabia. They arrive in the UK when weather conditions are favourable, generally in May and June, when they breed, laying their eggs on thistles. There is a southwards reverse migration to Africa from September onwards. What an amazing journey for a butterfly! Thanks to Mick Farmer for sending his excellent photograph of this Painted Lady feeding on Pyracantha in his garden.

Painted Lady, Bewdley garden, 6 Jun 2016 ©Mick Farmer

Micropterix aureatella

This moth is one of 5 species of primitive Micropterix micromoths which are unusual in having chewing mouth parts with which they eat pollen. We don’t find Micropterix aureatella very often in Wyre, although it is probably overlooked at just 4mm long. This one was found feeding on hawthorn blossom, but we have also found them on Bilberry plants.

Micropterix aureatella, Longdon pipe track, 3 June 2016

The much commoner Micropterix calthella is often seen feeding on the pollen of buttercups in May and June, sometimes several moths to one flower.

Micropteryx calthella, Bell Coppice, 21 May 2016

Cytilus sericeus – a Pill Beetle

Kevin McGee photographed this small Pill Beetle recently in Wyre. There are just 13 members of the Byrrhidae family in the UK, and they have the ability to withdraw their head and appendages into grooves on the underside of their body which helps them to avoid being caught by predators. They are the only group of beetles to feed on mosses both as larvae and adults.

Cytilus sericeus, on Ramsons, nr Dowles Brook, 8 May 2016 ©Kevin McGee

Ephemera danica mayfly larva

Ephemera danica (sometimes called the Green Drake) is a species of mayfly that is seen as a larva in the brooks of Wyre, and as adult in the summer months. Kevin McGee obtained this excellent photograph of a larva from Dowles Brook. The larvae live in tunnels in the stream gravel from which they feed by filtering organic debris.

Ephemera danica larva, Dowles Brook, 8 May 2016 ©Kevin McGee

Mayfly – Ecdyonurus venosus

Kevin McGee photographed this mayfly larva Ecdyonurus venous from Dowles Brook where the closely related Ecdyonurus torrentis is also present. There are 4 species of Ecdyonurus in the UK. These larvae cling to submerged rocks in stream riffles from which they feed. They may be seen as adults between May and October.

Ecdyonurus venosus larva, Dowles Brook, 8 May 2016 ©Kevin McGee