Monday, 14 April 2008

April Tips on Sallow

If you have a garage or outside shed, etc, now is the time to start collecting Sallow catkins which have fallen on to the ground from the Sallow trees. Many of these fallen catkins will often contain various Tortricidae, Geometridae and Pug larvae. The way to check the catkins for larvae is very easy. Simply spread them out on white kitchen roll in some seed trays or similar, no need for any sort of lid at this stage. If you keep checking the catkins you will see signs of frass appearing on the white kitchen roll under the occupied catkins. Once you find these move them to a lidded container and keep an eye on the situation. The larvae may need fresh catkins adding and then as soon as the sallow leaves are out pop some leaves in the tub with the occupied catkins. Some catkins will have only one species and some will have more than one species on/in them. Most of these are fine kept together until they are large enough to ID. The only exception to this are Pug larvae which I find are mostly cannibalistic even when enough food is present, if you want more than one survivor its pays to house pug larvae in solitary confinement ! Its great fun with catkins at this time of the year as you never know what you might find and rear through.

We are now getting close to the one of the best times of the year to find moths on natural food sources. Any night now when its cloudy and reasonably mild its the time to go "Sallowing". This is one of the great classic tecniques used before the advent of MV lights to collect large numbers of moths in one place. Cromwell Bottom is an ideal place to try this out but any area with large numbers of Sallow in bloom is fine. You simply stick a few pots in your pocket, pack a decent torch and a butterfly net. In practice one simply walks around shining the torch on Sallow catkins until you pick out a moth feeding, they can usually be spotted by the light reflecting off their eyes. One a good night there can be hundreds of moths on each Sallow bush, but often around here one is lucky to get a few dozen per bush. If its moth sp you wish to confirm or look through a hand lens its usually dead easy to simply pop the net over them and tap them off the catkins. They are mainly Orthosia spp, but also Chestnut, Satellite, perhaps some Thorns and Pugs. The only other time of year when one can get the same effect with natural sources is in autumn when you search Ivy Blossom in the same manner.

Assuming that at various points over May I will still be around Calderdale during the week is anyone intersted in some daytime larval beating sessions at this time ?


drepana said...

Paul, Informative as ever. Yes, if I'm free (which I am on several forthcoming daytimes) I would be up for that. didnt know about the reflective eyes of moths until recently. (Guess the overpowering MV bulb prevents us seeing this) Have a read of this great snippet from one of my old moth books -

"As is the case with many of the larger moths, it's [Death's Head moth]eyes shine in the dark like two balls of fire, the effect of which is very remarkable when the insect is confined to a room dimly lighted by a single candle"
Rev. J. G. Wood, M.A. F.L.S.


charly streets said...

Paul, if you post here when you'll be out and about in May I'll give you a ring to sort out a time and place, cheers.

Found a couple of larva on plantain yesterday. One looked like diptera(maggoty)but one I think is lepidopterous - I'll try and breed it through- it looks quite well grown.

All my Broom larvae are still alive and feeding, but still not certain as to what they might be - hopefully NOT postvittana.

AndyC said...

Nice one Paul,looking forward to some daytime hunting,also would like to have a good look for Beautiful Snout at Copley.

Paul Talbot..aka Moffman said...

Charly.....a good tip to recognise micro larvae is that they can move rapidly both forward and backwards.One gets the larvae in safe place and then applies the "tickle test", this in prectice means gently touching the larvae with a small paint brush or grass stem and see if they wiggle backwards at an amazing speed, if they do they are almost certainly micro larvae.

Trips out;
I suggest a moorland trip, a woodland trip as starters in late April early May. It will have to be during the week for me as I will be in most weekends