More about Insects and other Invertebrates in Mid Wales
Of the 59 resident species of butterfly in Great Britain, less than 30 are found in Mid Wales. This is due to the poor, rather acid soils of the area that do not support such a rich vegetation as the more lime rich soils of southern England.
Of these 30 species those you are most likely to see include the Small Tortoiseshell, Peacock and Red Admiral whose caterpillars all feed on nettles. Two similar species also to be seen throughout the summer are the Painted Lady which is a migrant butterfly and the Comma which lives along wood margins and hedgerows.
Also quite common throughout the summer are the Large White, Small White and Green-veined White, while the closely related Orange Tip butterfly (it is only the male that has orange tips to its wings) usually flies only in May and June, associated with damp meadows and woodland margins.
In areas of rough grassland, along verges and woodland rides in the months of June to August you may come across Small Skipper, Large Skipper, Meadow Brown, Wall and Ringlet butterflies and possibly the Gatekeeper and Common Blue.
Butterflies to be found in open habitats with fine, short grasses are the Small Copper and Small Heath.
Only to be found in areas of open woodland and damp pastures where violets grow, are the Small Pearl Bordered, Dark Green and Silver Washed Fritillary butterflies – all a beautiful bright orange-brown colour with various black and silver markings.
There are many, many more moths than butterflies with 2,500 species to be found in the UK and many moths are even more beautiful than our butterflies. There are moths to be found flying through out the year though most are on the wing in the summer months. The best way to observe moths is to set a trap that uses light to attract them, without harming them, and there are regular moth trapping events for people to go to and learn about these amazing insects.
Our local specialities are the Welsh Clearwing, a moth associated with old birch trees, and the Welsh Wave a moth of woodland.
Those moths you are most likely to encounter on a visit to Mid Wales are the day flying Drinker and Oak Eggar moths and the hairy and brightly coloured caterpillars of the Fox Moth and Emperor Moth which all live in moorland habitats. In some wet pastures in June Scarlet Tiger moths can be seen “dancing in the air”.
Dragonflies and Damselflies
Dragonflies and Damselflies depend on water for their life cycles. The adult insects lay eggs on vegetation and in ponds, lakes and along streams and riversides, their larvae, or nymphs, develop underwater, crawling up stems out of the water when ready to emerge as the beautiful brightly coloured flying insects we see.
Those to be seen associated with still waters of ponds, lakes and slow rivers are the Emerald, Large Red, Common Blue, Azure and Banded Demoiselle Damselflies and the Brown Hawker, Southern Hawker, Common Hawker, Emperor, Club-tailed, Black tailed Skimmer and Ruddy Darter Dragonflies.
Associated with bogs, pools and ditches are the Blue-tailed and Scarce Blue-tailed damselflies and the Broad Bodied Chaser, Four Spotted Chaser, Black Darter, Common Darter, Keeled Skimmer and Hairy Dragonflies.
Two species that live along fast flowing streams and rivers are the Beautiful Demoiselle and Golden Ringed Dragonfly.
Other Insects and Invertebrates
The world of insects and other invertebrates - bees, wasps, ants, flies, beetles, slugs and snails, bugs, worms and springtails, woodlice, centipedes, spiders and many more - is overwhelming in variety and number! It is such a vast subject that we cannot hope to enter into it here, but look out for events and activities on offer to introduce people to the fascinating world of “creepy crawlies”.
While on a visit to Mid Wales look out for
- fields with ant hills – these are a sign that the land has never been ploughed so the pasture will be rich in plant life too.
- slugs – with little calcium in the soils snails cannot easily grow their shells and tend to be found where man has introduced lime to the land and buildings. Slugs on the other hand are unaffected, as they do not have shells, and thrive in the damp climate.
- heather moorland in late summer hums with bees collecting pollen from bilberry and heather
- spiders webs – on autumn mornings the countryside sparkles with their dew drenched gossamer
- beetles – with all the sheep there is plenty of food for dung beetles to collect and bury and the rotten wood of old oak trees is favoured by species of long horn beetles