Battle of the Bastard-toadflax

Posted by Graeme Lyons , Wednesday, 29 May 2019 11:58

Now Game of Thrones has all finished, you might need a new hobby. I suggest natural history as it's just as brutal, even more complicated and never ends with a disappointing conclusion. The chalk this year is feeling the spring drought, late and shy flowering. After a hard winter graze, the area we affectionately call the 'Bastard-toadflax area' has sprung to life. There is more Bastard-toadflax there than I have ever seen and masses of Chalk Milkwort too. It just goes to show that there are always winners and losers. I have for example, never had the fortune to photograph them both together like this.

But it doesn't have it easy. There were more Bastard-toadflax Shieldbugs Canthophorus impressus there than I have ever seen before, I saw five adults crawling around on the plants. You are lucky to see one! 
Bugs have been doing reusable straws forever. Look at this video of one cleaning its rostrum after feasting on some Bastard-toadflax juice. They also drop very quickly once they have seen you and disappear, burrowing unto lose chalky-soil very quickly. 

You shouldn't feel too sorry for the Bastard-toadflax, it's also hemiparisitic on other plants in the sward, It's a dog eat dog world out there! Or it's a Bastard-toadflax Bug eat Bastard-toadflax eat Chalk Milkwort world out there.

And like busses. On Saturday night I sucked up the first Small Plume in Sussex from a site in Eastbourne (I was looking for a spider with the suction sampler - you would be surprised how many moths you get in them). Yesterday I walked right up to one on a bank full of the foodplant, Mouse-ear Hawkweed. This a Nb species that until this week I had only ever seen in the Burren in Ireland. I wonder if it is having a good year? Has anyone else seen this moth this year?

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