Christmas Bells

Christmas Bells
Christmas Bells - Blandfordia nobilis

Wednesday, February 02, 2011

February - the Month of Insects.

The last few days have seen swarms of Butterflies during the day, and fluttering swarms of Moths at night.

The Cabbage White Butterflies have been in plague proportions around Robertson in the last ten days. There are probably thirty Cabbage White Butterflies (Pieris rapae)  on this one small bush. The numbers of these Butterflies swarming around flowering plants are staggering. The Butterflies appear to love the heat. 
Cabbage White Butterflies on pink Hebe flowers
Following on from the first Hawk Moth, several days ago, this one turned up the next evening. It is much larger, hairier and somewhat duller in colour. However, I find it very attractive.

This Moth was fluttering its wings very quickly (as Hawk Moths can do) - but not flying. It was actually hanging on the wall of my house, on the front porch - but fluttering. You can see the small hind wing, exposed underneath the much larger forewing.
Agrius convolvuli - the Convulvulus Hawk Moth
 This moth apparently has an international distribution, including Europe, Asia and most of Australia.
Agrius convolvuli - Warning pattern displayed when agitated.
How could one not love this Moth?
Click to enlarge the image, to see its details.
Agrius convolvuli - face view. Note the rolled-up haustellum (feeding tube)

There is a striking photo on Don Herbison-Evans's moths site
Its long feeding tube is extended out for several inches.
These moths are famous for their specialised feeding.
They are also important pollinators of certain plants.
But their caterpillars also cause crop damage to Sweet Potatoes
and related plants.

Here is a view of one of the two antennae.
Close-up of antenna of Agrius convolvuli
This photos allows size comparison 
of the two species of Hawk Moths 
which I seen so far, this year.
They are sitting on two separate planks 
on the front verandah of the house.
You can clearly see how much larger the new one is, 
compared to the previous species: Hippotion scrofa.

And now for something completely different.

This is the so-called
Not so "common" around here, 
as it is the first of this species
I have ever seen.
Common Assassin Bug - Pristhesancus plagipennis
I confess to having whacked this "creepy crawlie"
as it was running across the floor of my study, 
while I was composing a previous Blog posting.
I did not recognise its form, or style of moving around the floor.
I was suspicious of it. 
I was also tired, so forgive my short fuse.

Click to enlarge the image to study the anatomy of this bug.
"Common Assassin Bug" - details of head

This is the underneath view of the head of the Assassin Bug.  
Note the sharp spiked feeding tube (rostrum).
It is tucked in, except when the animal pounces on its prey.
Then they "use the long rostrum to inject a lethal saliva 
that liquefies the insides of the prey, which are then sucked out."
(Source: Wikipedia article on Reduviidae - Assassin Bugs)

Looking at the feeding spike, 
and reading about the painful bites these Bugs can inflict
I feel somewhat justified in whacking it.

These images are just the tip of the iceberg 
of the moths, butterflies and other insects 
which are around Robertson at present.


Anonymous said...

Terrific images of the Hawk Moth. Will keep my eyes peeled!

Flabmeister said...

Great shot of the moth.

As well as Cabbage Whites - fortunately not quite as many as you - we have hordes of other butterflies, including Orchard Butterflies Papilio aegeus. These remind me of flying bedsheets!

WRT to biting insects we had a large black sawfly-looking beast in our house a couple of days ago. I failed to photograph it as it wouldn't keep still, but decided to transfer it out doors in my handkerchief. The rotten thing stung me! No more Mr Nice Guy!


Denis Wilson said...

Thanks Anon.
Just leave a front light or back light on for a few hours each night.
Its worth it.

Denis Wilson said...

Hi Martin.
Cautionary tale there. Sorry about your hand.
Your Lemon trees will need careful inspection for shredded leaves. Looks for small brown and white Caterpillars, which become those huge green ones, with bright red antennae.
I would touch them either.

Anonymous said...

Hi Denis,

This moth is also available in Germany. It has beautiful photos and also pictures of the beautiful prey.

"Windenschwärmmer" in German.


Denis Wilson said...

Hi Peter.
Thanks for that link.
Beautiful photos of the moths feeding, with their wonderful long proboscis.
I would love to get a photo like that myself.