NATURE / Insects

Very specific climate conditions determine unique vegetation cover in the Curonian Spit that is critical for the diversity of insects and their population size.

The Curonian Spit is the only place in Lithuania where sphecid wasps Podalonia luffii and Crossocerus imitansare found. These two are included on the Red List as well as the dragonfly Ischnura pumillo, which becomes extinct on the entire extension area. This dragonfly is still common in the spit. The striped earwig (Labidura riparia) -another species included on the Red List - can be found on the dunes in the Parnidis Landscape Reserve, in Nagliai and Grobstas Strict Nature Reserves.

Many ground beetles (Carabidae) species reside in the Spit. These prey beetles are very useful. The most common are Carabus hortensis and Carabus violaceus.Carabus convexus is very rare in Lithuania, but it is very abundant in Smiltyne. Another rare species, theWeterhall ground beetle (Masoreus wetterhali) was found on the Kopgalis Dunes. The ground beetle Blethisa multipunctata appears occasionally. Cymidid maculariscan be found in the thin pine stands. The coastal tiger beetle (Cicindela maritima) belongs to the group of insects, which become extinct very rapidly. This tiger-beetle species is included on the Lithuanian Red List. The scant population of coastal tiger beetles lives in the Grobstas Strict Nature Reserve. Its relative Cicindela hybrida is common in the entire area of the Spit.

The predaceous diving beetles Hydroporus planus andHydroporus incognitus are rather rare elsewhere except in the scarce inland water pools of the Curonian Spit. Water beetle Copelatus ruficollis lives there as well asAgabus sturmi and Agabus subtilis, which are rare in this latitude. Together with these water beetle species, thegreat silver water beetle (Hydrous piceus) can be found in the still water pools.

Eleven of eighteen carrion beetle (Silphidae) species were observed in the Curonian Spit. These beetles are nature's aides. One of them, Nicrophorus humator, was found in Nida, though it is rare in Lithuania.

The pine chafer (Polyphylla fullo) is an adornment of the Curonian Spit. This great June beetle lives only on the very southeastern edge of Lithuania and in the spit. It appears abundant year to year, but usually the single specimens are found only. Another inhabitant of the dunes is a dung beetle - the aegialian scarab (Aegialia arenaria). The golden beetle Netocia lugubris was found on Kopgalis. This species become extinct very rapidly. Therefore it is included on the Red List of Lithuania.
 
The most common longhorn beetles (Cerambycidae) in the pine stands of the spit are: Monochamus galloprovincialis pistor, Spondylis buprestoides, Callidium violaceum and the Timberman beetle (Acanthocinus aedilis). Lamia textor is rather common in the dune willow groves. Rare in Lithuania, longhorn beetle speciesRhamnusium virgo was found in the national park also.

Visitors of the Kursiu Nerija National Park enjoy colourful butterflies. A wonderful picture appears in May, on the openings, which are overgrown with cuckooflowers - hundreds of white butterflies with orange wing edges flitting in the air. This is the orange tip (Anthocharis cardamines). Females have no orange dots and they are much fewer than males. In midsummer, graylings (Hipparchia semele) pour out of the thin pinewoods. An interesting thing is that these butterflies in the Curonian Spit are larger than their relatives from other places in Lithuania. The most colourful butterflies in the country:red admirals (Vanessa atalanta), painted ladies(Vanessa cardui), peacock butterflies (Inachis io) andCamberwell beauties (Nyphalis antiopa) - are very abundant during their autumn migrations. The latter are especially common in August when fallen ripe fruits attract these butterflies. Painted ladies (Cynthia cardui), can be seen crowding around the last autumn flowers during sunny days in October. The swallowtail (Papiliomachaon) and the purple emperor (Apatura iris) sometimes can be observed also. However, these butterflies are temporary in the spit, because there are not enough plants of certain species that are needed for their caterpillars. The scarce large blue (Maculinateleius), which is included on the International Red List, was observed near Nida once. Caterpillars of this butterfly at first feed on burnet plants and later live in the anthills feeding on ant larvas.


 
At night, the light of lamps attracts about one hundred moth species such as hawk moths (Sphingidae), tiger moths (Arctiidae), various owlet moths (Noctuidae),geometrid moths (Geometridae) and lappet moths(Lasiocampidae). There are several unique species among them.

The distinction of the Curonian dwarf pine stands isTheumetopoea pinivora. It has been found only in the spit near Nida. Caterpillars of this lappet moth live all together on pines. At night they creep in one line almost touching each other and looking for food. These caterpillars are poisonous. There is a poison gland at the base of each bristle. If the bristle breaks, poison gets out and can cause skin burns. But it is much more dangerous for eyes.
The increase in the number of the pine lappet moth(Dendrolimus pini) can cause much harm to the pine stands in the spit. But the most harmful to the forests in the park is the gypsy moth (Limantria dsipar), especially after several mild light winters. Caterpillars of the gypsy moth are very voracious. The fact that just hatched grubs can be blown far away by the wind makes the danger increase.

A very rare moth Lemonia dumi was observed in the Curonian Spit for the very first time in Lithuania.

Eleven species of sphinx or hawk moths were caught in the Curonian Spit. Very intensive migrations of thebedstrow hawk (Celerio galii) can be observed in autumn. This is a very rare sphinx, which should be protected.

The richest is the owlet moths' (Noctuidae) family. About 200 of 400 species, which were registered in Lithuania, are observed in the spit. On dunes, not deep in the sand, hide caterpillars of Scotia ripae. They gnaw roots of dune grasses. Other characteristic dune moth species are Conisania leineri and Photedes elymi. The hooded owlet moth (Cucullia balsamitae) was found only on the seaside. It lives on dunes, which has sparse vegetation. Only two specimens of the hooded owlet moth have been caught.

From 18 to 20 tiger moth (Arctiidae) species live in the spit. Very rare in the country, the scarce tiger moth(Arctinia caesarea) was observed in Smiltyne.

Quite a few new species of geometers (Geometridae) were found in Lithuania during the last ten years. Several of them live only in the spit. Caterpillars ofSterrha fuscovenosa feed on mosses. The lyme-grass is indispensable for caterpillars of Mesoligia literosa.


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