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Insects

Mayfly (Ephemera vulgata), Vipava Valley

The mayfly swarms from May to September. The larva lives for one season and a half, burried in slime or on the bottom of the watercourse. There, it percolates the organic remains and in the time of metamorphosis it appears as a fragile winged being. An important indicator of the condition in the watercourse is benthos. In case the watercourse is polluted with pesticides or is organically overloaded, the benthic animals, like larvae which are burried in slime or in softer sediments, are the first to disappear from the watercourse. After the quality of the watercourses (especially the Vipava river) has improved, the mayfly has started to appear more and more often.

 

Alcon Blue (Maculinea alcon)

Scarce Large Blue (Maculinea teleius), Vipava Valley

The common burnet (Sanguisorba officinalis) is a common meadow plant. But less common is the butterfly, the caterpillar of which eats off the leaves of this plant. The ants that visit the common burnet sooner or later discover these caterpillars. Instead of eating them, they develop a mutualistic relationship and protect them from other predators for a while. In return, the caterpillars secrete a kind of a juice (honeydew) which is very tempting for the ants. After a certain time, the ants are not in the mood for visiting the caterpillar anymore and they carry it in the ant-hill. At that point the caterpillar transforms into a predator and starts to prey on ant brood. Then it changes into a chrysalis and at the end of July and in August, magnificent “dancing” blues appear on extensive meadows. Although more common and less endangered in Europe, the alcon blue is less common in the Vipavsko region than scarce large blue. In the Vipava Valley there is only one known population of alcon blue as for its development the butterfly needs the marsh gentian (also autumn bell), a plant which is quite rare in the Vipavsko region and has become even more rare because of the extensive drainage systems and excessive manuring of meadows. The caterpillar of the scarce large blue as well as that of the alcon blue is being sought by a specific species of ants which carry the caterpillar into the ant-hill, where it becomes an ant-eater and finally transforms into a butterfly.

 

Large Copper (Lycaena dispar), Vipava Valley

The large copper is very rare and is classified as an endangered species in most European countries. The caterpillars eats off the leaves of the sorrel. A certain species of ant protects the caterpillar and later carries it in the ant-hill. There, the caterpillar lives as the blues from the same family of butterflies do. The butterfly has two generations per year in central Europe and Slovenia, but three in the Vipavsko region. The specimens of this species of butterfly usually appear individually because the male protects its territory from the males of the same species. A smaller swampy meadow or a ditch of 100 meters can be sufficient only for one pair of coppers. In the Vipavsko region, this species is also endangered because we can only find it by the outlet ditches (a bitter memory of land reclamation), where we can still find the remains of the marsh flora and fauna that was until recently present in the area subjected to floods of the Vipava river.

 

Southern Festoon (Zerynthia polyxena), Vipava Valley

In Europe, the southern festoon is a rare butterfly, whereas large populations are present in Mediterranean and sub-Mediterranean locations. Once a frequent species of butterfly, whose caterpillar feeds itself on the plant Aristolohia sp., is becoming more and more rare. The reasons for the decreasing of the population number can be found in great interest for this species among collectors, in the introduction of chemicals in viticulture and in the decline of structured nature of the semi-intensive viticultural region. In those parts of the region which managed to escape this modern “plague” we can still find populations of these butterfly, numbering over 50 specimens.

 

Large Emperor Moth (Saturnia pyri), Vipava Valley

It is the largest autochtonous species in the European group of night butterflies. The evolution from the egg to the mature animal (imago or butterfly) lasts for two seasons. The length of this period is more an exception than a rule for most butterfly species. The caterpillars feed on leaves of the genus Prunus but they ignore the wild species of this genus and prefer the wild species of the plum tree. There are two main reasons why this butterfly is very rare: overhunting by collectors who use lights to attract imagoes which stand still while they capture them; the use of pesticides in extensive orchards.

 

Small Emperor Moth (Eudia (Saturnia) pavonia), Vipava Valley

As the name itself suggests it is smaller than the large emperor moth but none the less attractive and rich in colours, shapes and wing patterns, the only disadvantage being its evolutionary cycle which is less susceptible to anthropogenic changes. That is why this butterfly is quite frequent and can be found on certain locations in such numbers that enable a normal survival of the population in the Vipava Valley. Males begin to fly already in the early-spring warm afternoons. Their sensitive feelers perceive the pheromones of the females, waiting hidden in their shelters. Sometimes we can observe how a group of males flies every few minutes in the same direction from where the odorous substances are coming. If it happens that the wind moves the scent zone the males quickly catch up with the new “airline”.

 

European Stag Beetle - also Pinching Bug (Lucanus cervus), Vipava Valley

The perfect environment for the European stag beetle is the old oak forest, where we can also find trees with dying branches. In the rottening oak wood the larva of the stag beetle needs 3-7 years of “peace and prosperity”. The smaller the number of rotten branches, the less time the larva stays in the wood and the mandibles (jaws) of the male consequently grow smaller. Bad conditions for the development in the early stage of the larva are generally the reason for smaller specimens. The reason why we can still find a lot of large specimens is the moderate exploitation of the sub-Mediterranean old oak, ash and European hop-hornbeam forests which surround the Vipava Valley.

 

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