July Macro Matters

Summer is the peak time in the macro photographer’s diary. Insects are at their best with many species emerging during this time. It is also a good time to observe dragonflies. The Emperor Dragonfly Anax imperator is one of the largest resident species in Britain and Ireland. It was first recorded in Ireland in July 2000 and occurs in richly vegetated lakes and ponds. Adults are seen from late June onwards but more frequently encountered in early July. The Common Hawker Aeshna juncea is a bog and moorland species inhabiting small acid pools and small water bodies that contain sphagnum. It flies usually from late June until early October. It is frequently seen hawking around breeding pools and along the marginal edges of woodland. The Brown Hawker Aeshna grandis is another summer species more commonly encountered in lowland lakes and fens. It often overlaps with the Common Hawker in some habitats. It’s easily recognised with its brown colouring and amber-tinted wings.  


Emperor Dragonfly Anax imperator

Adult male in the immature stage or teneral phase. It takes time for the blue colouration to develop.


Common Blue Hawker Aeshna juncea

One of the most commonly encountered species in moorlands and bogs. Immature male that is not fully mature.


Brown Hawker Aeshna grandis

A distinctive species easily recognised by the amber tint in their wings. 

Another species worth looking out for is the Emerald Damselfly Lestes sponsa which can be seen often in large numbers in bogs and small acid ponds and lakes. It is not easily confused with other damselfly species except the Scarce Emerald Damselfly Lestes dryas. Mature insects are metallic green in colour with a powder blue pruinescence that develops on segments one and two and nine and ten. 


Emerald Damselfly Lestes sponsa

A typical male not completely mature and still lacking the powder blue pruinescence.  

Butterflies are also very much in evidence during July. Unfortunately, there are fewer of them than there used to be but this is sadly the pattern for most species these days. Peacocks, Small Tortoiseshells, Painted Lady’s Red Admiral’s, Meadow Browns and Skippers are worth looking out for. Parks, woodland margins, meadows, and gardens are the best places to look. The Peacock is perhaps one of the most iconic species with its bright blue and yellow eyespot markings. The eyespots are meant to confuse protentional predators.


Peacock Aglais io

An iconic butterfly and one of the most colourful species that flies during the summer months.

Moths often received less attention than their flamboyant cousins are at their best. Species like the Clouded Magpie Abraxs sylvata is not a commonly encountered species, but a great find if you are fortunate to see it by day. It resembles a bird dropping and will often rest on the upper surface of leaves during the daytime. Another colourful moth and one of my favourites is the Cream-spot Tiger. It is a large, colourful species with bold markings. It has a preference for sand dunes and salt marshes. The larvae feed on herbaceous plants such as dead-nettle and dandelions. The Common Marbled Carpet is another geometrid species that is widespread with a number of different colour forms. It’s a frequent visitor to gardens at this time.


Clouded Magpie Abraxas sylvata

An attractive species that mimics a bird dropping and will often rest on the upper surface of leaves.

I was extremely fortunate to find these pair early in the morning.


Cream-spot Tiger Arctia villica

A highly colourful species when disturbed displays its hindwings and its orange and red abdomen to avoid capture by potential predators.


Common Marbled Carpet Dysstroma truncata

A boldly pattern species that can be easily overlooked when at rest on the trucks of trees and stones. Geometrid moths are by nature skittish and easily spooked.

Summer is also the best time to see orchids in all of their colourful diversity. They are conspicuous now in many grassland meadows woodland margins, disused quarries and coastal sand dune systems. Common Spotted Dactylorhiza fuchsii, Pyramidal Orchid Anacamptis pyramidalis are just some of the most commonly encountered species at this time. I have spent many years travelling throughout Europe, running photographic workshops and studying these exceptional plants. Ireland has fewer species than Britain, but the islands still share many common ones.


Pyramidal Orchid Anacamptis pyramidalis 

The colour of this species can vary considerably between plants. One of the most conspicuous orchids  in summer.


Pyramidal Orchid Anacamptis pyramidalis

A close up of the individual flowers.

Comments are closed.