Friday, 29 March 2019

Pine-cone Mothing!

Exciting day yesterday..
Exciting if you're the kind of person who gets satisfaction from searching 8 billion Pine-cones before eventually finding the target you were after - a 2mm hole in one of the seeds!

It's better than it sounds, honestly. These emergence holes belong to the 'Nationally Scarce B' Moth: Cydia conicolana, an unassuming Micro that spends its time around the tops of various Pine trees. Subtle in appearance but like most of these smaller Moths, a thing of beauty in their own right when viewed up close.

Inspired by fellow nature-nerd Antony Wren, who has found 3 new sites for this species in neighbouring Suffolk, I've been looking to put my own dot on the map for a couple of weeks now. It's funny how things happen though - I was out with my Dad, Mick and was telling him about the species and the up-until-now fruitless searches. I pointed out a few trees that I'd already checked and suggested we might as well have a look at the last one, as we were there..
Blind as a bat, without his glasses, he picks up the first cone he sees, passes it to me with a wry smile and says "I can't see it properly but is that one?" ....Yes Dad. It is. You b*****d. We went on to find another half a dozen emergence holes in different cones from the same tree, so definitely signs of a decent population, definitely a new record for the 10kmsq and in fact the only record for the surrounding 30km squares - result!

Ridiculously easy to overlook but once you get searching, it's almost a habit to look at as many as possible until you find one. Or four, or five:






A couple of close-ups:




I delved a bit deeper and cut into one of the cones and found a load of frass (caterpillar poo) and more surprisingly, the remains of a long-dead larva! Getting the tiny speck under the microscope shows what's left of it:



I'm sure, like a hell of a lot of the Micros, this species is under-recorded due to size. It really is easy to look for though and I'd urge you to just inspect a few Pine-cones when you pass them next. Antony told me that all the new sites he's found are from individual Pine trees in the open and not actually part of a big, covered forest. That certainly seems to fit the bill, as we found these ones on this tree here:



So get checking those cones, good luck!

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