Jersey’s cliff tops and heaths host a large variety of insect species throughout the year. During the warmer months there are often large numbers of butterflies and day-flying moths all along the north coast. Dragonflies regularly hunt over the heaths and along the paths, grasshoppers and crickets are often abundant. The North Coast Cliff Path may at times be one of the best sites on the Islandfor seeing large numbers of butterflies including migrant species passing through. Restoration of degraded areas of coastland, particularly those covered in bracken, will undoubtedly increase the available habitat for many species of insect. Among the many insect species the following are of note:
Grey bush-cricket Platycleis albopunctata
The 20-28 mm grey bush-cricket is variable in colour but usually greyish brown. Females have a long and obvious, upturned, ovipositor. Grey bush-crickets in Jersey are a coastal species preferring coarse grass and rough vegetation on sand dunes, shingle banks and south-facing cliffs. They are found all along the north coast. Nymphs hatch in May and adults appear in July to autumn. This species is represented in the Channel Islands by the local sub-species P. albopunctata jerseyana.
Heath grasshopper Chorthippus vagans
The heath grasshopper is relatively common in Jersey’s heathland and has been recorded at several north coast sites including Bonne Nuit, Giffard Bay, Les Platons, BouleyBay, Le Jardin d’Olivet, Les Landes, La Tête de Plémont and Sorel. It prefers areas of heath vegetation such as heather communities interspersed with grassy patches especially the margin between the heather and grass areas. This grasshopper is not found in areas where bracken and gorse have become established and loss of habitat would be the main cause of decline. Fire is a considerable risk to grasshopper populations each year on heathlands.
Emperor moth Saturnia pavonia
Emperor moths are unmistakeable, with big peacock-like eyespots on all four wings and pink marks at the wingtips. It is the only large moth with eyespots on all four wings. Emperor males fly during the day from mid-April to late-June, the larger females being rather sluggish may be nocturnal. This species may occupy a range of habitats but is most often associated with heathland and in Jersey is often seen on the cliff tops, particularly at Les Landes. Emperor moths feed on a large variety of plants but are particularly fond of heather and bramble. The caterpillar is black and orange at first, later becoming green with black rings and yellow and red spots.
Grayling Hipparchia semele
This attractive butterfly with cryptic markings is widespread on the coasts and heaths in north-west Europe, but is declining in many areas. It occurs on a wide range of soil types, but particularly well-drained sites, with sparse vegetation and plenty of bare ground in open positions. Graylings are localised in Jersey but, never far from the coast, there are populations in the south-west and at Les Landes where individuals often land on the observer! The caterpillars feed on many plant species but particularly grasses including marram grass Ammophila arenaria.
Red-tailed bumblebee Bombus lapidarius
The red-tailed bumblebee is probably the most easily recognised bumblebee with its black body and bright orange tail. These bees prefer to nest underground often at the base of rocks and walls and nests can vary from over 200 bees to fewer than 100. They have comparatively short tongues and prefer flowers that form a distinct landing platform, such as daisies, dandelions and thistles. The red-tailed bumblebee is rare in Jersey but can occur almost anywhere, particularly in the east. There were records in 2011 and 2012 but none for several years before this. There have been recent sightings, on the coast, at Le Pulec and Beauport.
One of the most obvious and spectacular animals of our coasts is the large (up to 15cm) slug that, predominantly coming out at night, can be found all along paths such as the North Coast Cliff Path early in the morning. Although these slugs seen may be of different colours and with a bright but variable fringe, they are all the same species – the black slug Arion ater.