In a classic study, the pioneering Dutch ethologist, Niko Tinbergen, and his students famously studied the courtship behaviour of the Grayling butterfly, Hipparchia (=Satyrus) semele, at Hulshorst – a sandy … Continue Reading Dots in spots: butterfly eyespots II. Tinbergen and the Grayling.
An awful lot of research papers have been published on eyespots, but scientists still differ in their opinions about exactly how they function. They agree that eyespots intimidate or startle predators, … Continue Reading Dots in spots: butterfly eyespots I. Conspicuousness or eye-mimicry?
Females butterflies are usually a lot more choosy than males. They produce eggs, and have more resources invested in each one; compared to the millions of tiny sperms that males … Continue Reading Butterfly love and the perils of mating!
These beautiful dung beetles are relatively common in NW Spain, and can often be seen flying purposefully through the pine forests, like tiny green helicopters, on a mission to find … Continue Reading Beetles taking off!
The Marsh Fritillary butterfly, Euphydryas aurinia, is distributed right across the Palaearctic region – from Ireland to Russia. It is a species complex, divided into mostly distinct taxa or subspecies, with slightly different appearances, … Continue Reading Marsh Fritillaries, moos and meadows in Galicia, Spain
I had the pleasure of coming across two large fly species in Spain this summer, both of which are thought to mimic the European hornet (Vespa crabro). They are both large and … Continue Reading Two hornet mimics and a new model!
Whilst I was taking photographs of these beautiful Brimstone butterflies (Gonepteryx rhamni) nectaring on the little pink flower-pots of Bell heather (Erica cinerea), I noticed that they stopped when a … Continue Reading Brimstones in the sun: thermoregulation
This is the story of a little grasshopper that landed in a spider’s web. I am sad to say, dear readers, that it jumped into the spider’s web to avoid … Continue Reading Grasshopper jumps and lands in a spider’s web!
When I first saw this pair of Wood white butterflies in Spain, I did not realise that they were mating, i.e. in copula, as they were at right angles to each … Continue Reading Courtship and Mating in Wood Whites
Damselflies in the genus Mnais are unusual in having two types of males: i) orange-winged morphs and ii) clear or glassy- winged (hyaline) forms which look like the females. The orange-winged morphs … Continue Reading Mnais damselflies: fighters and sneaks!
Conventional wisdom has it that the ‘tails’ seen at the end of the hindwings of many butterflies, particularly lycaenids (the ‘blues’), are serving to mimic antennae, and together with eyespots … Continue Reading False heads and fluffy tails!
Butterfly wings can serve a variety of different functions, enabling them to fly, hide, startle and fool predators, warm up, identify each other, and last but not least, choose mates. … Continue Reading Small Pearl-bordered Fritillary: What’s in a spot?
Tiger beetles (Cicindelinae) are strikingly beautiful predatory insects which come in a bewildering variety of stunning colours: iridescent, metallic greens, reds, blues and so on. Researchers have speculated about the function of … Continue Reading Tiger beetles: colour for a purpose
The Silver Y moth, Autographa gamma (Linnaeus) is an immigrant to the UK, coming here to feed, breed and fly away again each year. It rarely stays over winter; it’s … Continue Reading EU migrants: Influx of Silver Y moths
Most of us can tell a bee from a fly, can’t we? We all have an idea about what each of them looks like: a fly is small and shiny; … Continue Reading Polymorphic mimics: flies that look like bumblebees
The thick-legged flower beetle, Oedemera nobilis (Family Oedemeridae), is a common pollen-feeding beetle found in flower heads during the spring and summer. They occur throughout western and southern Europe. I took these … Continue Reading Fat-legged beetle