July and August 2023

small copperMay and June were one of the driest on record, but July was apparently the third wettest in over 100 years. August though was very changeable. The rain certainly encouraged growth. The rowan, hawthorn, blackberries, guelder rose, spindle and apple trees are all dripping with berries and fruit.

 

Butterflies, particularly the meadow brown, were abundant with more common blues around than normal. The small copper loved theCommon blue ragwort flowers and we saw the comma laying eggs on nettles. Other butterflies seen included tortoiseshell, holly blue, small skipper, speckled wood, small heath, peacock, ringlet and, green veined white.

 

We were given 17 well developed caterpillars of the cinnabar moth from a local site where they are abundant. They were placed on ragwort here on the 2nd August. Ragwort is a valuable late flowering Cinnabarspecies for wildlife but we control it by removing most of the flowers when they are seeding, so it does not spread on to neighbouring farmland as it can be poisonous to livestock.

 

The golden-ringed dragonfly has been a regular sight flying fast among the trees. The female is the UK’s longest dragonfly and is striking with its yellow and black bands. We also saw several common darters.

 

We are starting to see different fungi. Earth balls are abundant. We also found boletes and some of these had been infected with the bolete mould or ‘bolete eater’, as it is sometimes known. ThisBolita with spores fungus eventually kills its host. It is inedible and thought to be toxic. We think the mould on this bolete is Hypomyces chrysospermus, which manifests itself initially as a white mould-like flush that soon turns a lurid yellow in its second phase.

 

We are not sure of the actual identity of the Ichneumonoidea (parasitic wasp) pictured but it could be Ichneumon gracilicornis. In the UK around 10% of insects are in this family. They can be strange looking and colourful but all are stunning creatures. These wasps are often tricky to identify. We posted the photo on the British Ichneumonidae facebook page but it has not yet been formally identified. All these wasps parasitise other insect species by Pasisitic wasplaying their eggs either on the outside of the host or inside it. On hatching, the parasitic larva start to absorb nutrients from fluids of the host.  Later they feed on non-vital organs, such as fat reserves. The host animal stays alive and keeps feeding until the parasitic larva have reached the stage where they are fully fed.  If the host is a caterpillar, this often coincides with the host caterpillar also completing its feeding cycle.  The parasitic larva then finish their feeding by devouring the host’s internal organs before pupating within the carcass of their dead host – or they can emerge and pupate in silk cocoons nearby.

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Alt-y-garreg is a 20-acre nature reserve created in 2010 from four fields that had been improved pasture. There are areas of new woodland (over eighteen thousand trees of eighteen native species), wildflower meadows, scrub and ancient hedgerows. Two of the fields are now a natural burial site. The area is teeming with wildlife. A list of species we have seen on the site can be found here.