I was late for moth week

I’m late for moth week and then got rained out but here are a few intrepid creatures that ventured out shortly after a very heavy thunderstorm.

Moth week was two weeks ago but I wasn’t able to stay up late enough to do much photography, especially as many days were raining heavily.

I finally got some time last weekend but as soon as I got all the equipment set up, the heavens opened and we got a really heavy thunderstorm.  By the time it dried up enough for the bravest moths to venture forth, I was ready to go to sleep again.  And then it took me almost another week to post these pictures.  Better late than never, eh?

Plume moth
Plume moth

You can see the scale – this is a fairly standard mesh screen door: 7 squares to the cm.

The next three I haven’t identified yet – if I take the time I’ll never get this posted.  Let me know if you know what they are – I’ll try later if I get time and update the post.

Unknown moth 1
Unknown moth 1
Unknown moth 2
Unknown moth 2

I took a lot more but they didn’t turn out as well as these.  This other night-flier was much more clear than many of the moths.

 

Ichneumon wasp
Ichneumon wasp

It looks like a broad-winged dragonfly but I’m fairly sure it is a wasp. The “stinger” is for laying eggs –  most of the ichneumons can’t sting with their ovipositor though a few have some venom.

Final moth: this leaf miner is a moth caterpillar.  Imagine your entire world contained between the upper and lower surface of a leaf and then you transform and break into three dimensions.

Leaf miner
Leaf miner

It is quite difficult to photograph some moths. It is dark and they tend to scatter under lights so that doesn’t help.  To make it worse, some are very small so you need a lot of magnification, which tends to need more light that you don’t have.  I use a ring-light that attaches to the end of the lens.  And finally they are usually intended to be camouflaged which also makes for some dull pictures.

But now I’ve figured it out, I’ll have another go on a night with better weather.  Other nights we have had ten times the quantity and variety of moths but the need to work the next day means staying up late is a problem.

The way I did it was to hang a sheet outside the window and put a lot of lights inside to attract the moths.  Then my ring light was relatively feeble and didn’t disturb them much.  Then I set up a scaffold outside to shoot from.  Memo: move about the scaffold first, focus on the moth after; do not walk about while looking through the viewfinder.

Mothing equipment outside
Mothing equipment outside
Mothing equipment inside
Mothing equipment inside

For good luck, the orchid in the window is a moth orchid (Phalaenopsis).  The wooden square hanging from the ceiling on a chain has a couple of daylight floodlights screwed to it.

For some reason, Laurie suggested that all this meant that I was “bizarre”.  Thanks to Lynn for suggesting an alternative word: “unique”.  Although the fact that there is a moth week means that others do this too, so I think : “exceptional” is a good alternative.

 

Queen Anne’s Lace

Queen Anne’s Lace dissolves my skin but is interesting to compare the umbel architecture with the single-flower of the rose and the fully composite flowers of dandelion and daisy.

A fairly humble carrot-relative, these plants impress me with their architecture, but they attacked me.  While looking them up on Wikipedia, I found they can cause Phytophotodermatitis, which is Latin for “plants make your skin fall off when enabled by light”.  My skin erupted in blisters like poison ivy.  The picture on Wikipedia in the link above will show you.  Fortunately mine isn’t quite as bad as poison ivy and is now almost gone, but it was nasty for a few days.  I blamed it on the poison ivy but wondered how I had stumbled on it when I was fairly sure I knew exactly where all the “ivy” was.  So now I know. Another painful lesson.  But now I know to avoid it, or, vampire like, avoid all light after handling QAL (aka, but less attractive-sounding, cow parsley).

This area was mowed regularly until last year when the snow plough dumped lots of gravel there, which made mowing impossible. So the Queen Anne’s Lace took over because it grows low on the ground until ready to flower at which point it shoots up a metre (3′).

Queen Anne's Lace
Queen Anne’s Lace
Queen Anne's Lace flower
Queen Anne’s Lace flower

I like the cascading architecture.  The whole structure – what you might call the flower – is called an umbel (like umbrella), which is made of sub-umbels, each with its own stalk, with the tiny individual flowers, which are complete flowers themselves (in the botanical sense) with anthers and stamens and petals.

Here is the back view:

Queen Anne's Lace back

Queen Anne’s Lace back

It would be interesting to know what the purpose of the other “branches” are, along the back, the green stalks that do not carry umbels.  Do they discourage insects?

They also have brown male flowers in one little clump in the middle:

Queen Anne's Lace close up
Queen Anne’s Lace close up

Meet the garden staff at Cedar Sands

Meet the garden staff: head gardener, weeding assistant and pest controller.

Here is the head gardener, taking away another barrow-load of weeds:

Me, weeding
Me, weeding

I spotted this rabbit among my marigolds and was going to chase it away or make it a nice bed between two layers of pastry when I noticed it was ignoring the marigolds and eating the weeds, so it instantly got promoted to assistant gardener.

Rabbit, weeding
Rabbit, weeding

Another important task is getting rid of caterpillars that are eating the plants.  This pair of Thread-waisted wasps was taking a break from caterpillar hunting to make more wasps.

Thread-waisted Wasps
Thread-waisted Wasps

Once the eggs are fertilised, the female wasp will sting a caterpillar so it is alive but paralyzed. It will then stick it in a hole and lay an egg.  The wasp larva will eat the caterpillar alive, from the inside.  It would take a quirky sense of humour to invent one of these.