Thursday, 30 August 2018

Heliozela sericiella for the hat-trick!

Today I joined the Skye Nature Group on a fungus foray into Dunvegan Woods. It was ever so slightly farcical inasmuch as no-one present was even slightly proficient in fungi recognition, but we weren't about let a small thing like that stop us from having fun! The midges were ferocious around the car park but thankfully, and somewhat surprisingly, they left us alone once we entered the woods. Perhaps spruce plantations aren't to their liking? 

The start of the walk was through a dense, dark Sitka plantation yet within just a few metres of entering tree cover we started finding many fruiting fungi. We had no idea what most of them were, mind you - "nice patch of chestnut ones over here", "these look different", "small white ones here", "these are covered in tiny spikes" etc etc echoed through the trees. All to a backdrop of "hmmm" and "aaaah" noises... I think we sussed a few though. 

Amethyst Deceiver Laccaria amethystina - one of a few that even I can identify
I think this is Lactarius detterimus - the green bruising and spruce association is distinctive
Possibly Helminthosphaeria clavariarum parasitising a Clavulina sp
Clavulina coralloides I think
Clavulina rugosa. Maybe....
Back on safe ground with Plums and Custard Tricholomopsis rutilans
What with this being a fungus foray, I obviously helped out by looking at leafmines, turning rocks and watching Buzzards flying around with dead rats (or beavers, as was suggested). 

Speckled Wood ssp oblita 
Everyone knows that insects have six legs, at least in their adult stage. So check this butterfly and tell me what's gone wrong (or just Google 'brush-footed butterflies'). 

We checked out the Chinese Lantern Tree growing alongside the path. Last time I was here I thought it was something like a Willow-leaved Cotoneaster. Thankfully, Stephen came back during the flowering season and has now correctly identified it. Unfortunately, it's an untickable tick for me, seeing as it's presumably planted with no sign of it self-seeding nearby. Arse.  

Then I spied a small oak tree. Oak! Hell yeah, within moments I was all over it like a rash. Less than one minute later and....

Holy crap!!!
Damn right!
Sometimes (far too often, in fact) I find something and think, "oh right, yeah - I've seen this online somewhere. What was it again?" But not this time, as soon as I saw this I knew exactly what I was looking at. This is the larval feeding signs of Heliozela sericiella, something I've been desperately keen to find for the past couple of weeks. And then, scant moments later, it got even better.

I'd just finished passing the leaf around, explaining how the caterpillar had excised a piece of leaf tissue, folded it around itself like a sleeping bag and lowered itself to the ground far below to pupate within when I spotted this on an adjacent leaf....  

Holy shite! Y'know that caterpillar and its sleeping bag I was just going on about....
I could scarcely believe my luck, first finding the cut outs, then finding a larva still within it's pupal case! There are just three species of Heliozela in Britain. As of last month only one had been recorded on Skye, Heliozela hammoniella on Downy Birch. I refound (and life-ticked) that at Orbost a couple of weeks ago. Then I found Heliozella resplendella on Alder at Kilmarie last week which was completely 'new' to Skye (I life-ticked that too) and now, to complete the hat-trick, Heliozela sericiella on oak, also a life-tick and also 'new' to Skye! Phew, there's small chance of me ever completing a family of moths new to myself (with two also being new to Skye) in just over a week ever again. It's been intensely satisfying to find them through proper fieldwork as opposed  to just slapping out a light trap and waiting. 

Quick set of images required, methinks! 

Heliozela hammoniella mine on Downy Birch - Orbost 21st August 2018
Heliozela resplendella mines on Alder - Kilmarie Woods, 22nd August 2018
Heliozela sericiella mine on Pedunculate Oak - Dunvegan Woods, 30th August 2018
So that's Heliozela done and dusted, now there's a hole in my bucket(list), Delilah, Delilah...

From Pantera's sublime album Vulgar Display of Moths* which could only ever lead on to this monster of a track

And then this (RIP Dimebag. Ace guitar solos, but could you ID a moth by its mine, I wonder?) 

* not the real name of the album, before you inundate me with comments and cries of outrage....


  1. Nice work Seth, one of these days I hope to make it to Skye.

  2. Hiya Neil, how are you doing buddy? I'll happily show you a few of the sites and a truckload of species when (that's when, not if!) you get yourself up here. Would love to stay and chat, but I gotta go check out some sweetcorn for a smut I've just heard of... :)

  3. Nice work. I found some chewed alder but no such luck on pupae, although I did find a new to county Heterarthrus vagans, which had pupated so thanks! Hopefully it will emerge intact, although do you get parasitic wasps in sawflies? Seems like you might...

  4. I'm certain you do, seems to me that if you leave your dinner lying for long enough there's a wasp will lay eggs in it....