Posted by: scrubmuncher | June 21, 2011

The most marvellous mimic…

Now is a good time to look for the fantastic hornet clearwing moth (Sesia apiformis), well it is if you live in NW Europe. These amazing vespid mimics have to be seen to be believed. Even the vespid’s big eyes have been faithfully reproduced as shiny patches of setae above the real eye of the moth. They even move like wasps and hornets.

The pair in the photos below were doing what insects do best on a poplar in the middle of Bishop’s Stortford. Once they’ve mated the female trundles up to the top of the poplar and the rest is a bit of a mystery since the larvae develop at the very bottom of the poplar just below the bark. This was the first time I’ve seen this fantastic insect after a tip-off from a local moth meddler.

If you’re out and about in the next week have a good look at any poplars where one side is exposed to the sun. The adults must be pretty short lived and during the couple of weeks when they emerge you may be lucky enough to see an adult or two low down on the poplar trunk. The best time to look for adults is between 7 and 10 in the morning when the females emerge and emit pheromones to attract a mate. The female’s chunky abdomen must make flying almost impossible hence the need to sit quietly on a tree trunk and attract a mate.

Even if there are no adults, host trees are riddled with holes at ground level and you can sometimes see the remnants of pupal cases poking from these holes.

Hornets or moths?

In the flesh the mimicry of these moths is incredible. Look at the fake eyes above the real eyes. These exotic-looking insects are probably more common than we realise.

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