We arrived at Kiruna around 1 pm and headed straight to the car rental desk where we had reserved a car for our trip. I think I already smelled the birches and the sight of the fjälls and mountains made me smile. This is what I have been waiting for all spring. I guess it’s true what they say, that you can lose your heart to Lapland.
My smile got even bigger when we arrived at Abisko research station and I saw several autumnal moth (Epirrita autumnata) larvae on the mountain birches outside the station. We have apparently chosen a proper time for our studies as it looked like an outbreak of our study species. The rain and cold didn’t stop us the next day as we climbed up the side of the downhill skiing slope to count larval densities of both autumnal and winter moths (Operophtera brumata) and to collect specimens, and the view was definitely worth the frozen fingers.
Still some ice on lake Torneträsk in Abisko
Epirrita autumnata larvae feeding on mountain birch
The rain continued as we drove through to Norway and headed for our next site at Gratangen. There we also found larvae of a third geometrid species, scarce umber moth (Agriopis aurantiaria), that has been spreading along the northern Norwegian coast. The amazing mountain region of Norway took our thoughts away from the wet shoes and socks, but it was still nice to see the sky clear up when we approached the Finnish border at Kilpisjärvi.
A few kilometers before the border we came across an area, where the mountain birches had been defoliated for several years a few years back. Many of the birches had died, but new growth could be seen now. Unfortunately, we also found some larvae already chewing on the regrowth…
Epirrita-larvae were a bit bigger at the Norwegian coast
The defoliation on the Norwegian side was well known also by the local people at Kilpisjärvi. They were very helpful in showing where they had seen dead trees and seemed to be quite concerned when told that we had found larvae near the town. There were actually quite many larvae at Kilpisjärvi, and we had no trouble finding a suitable sampling site. After sampling in a nice weather, for a change, we were free to enjoy the midnight sun and celebrate the midsummer.
The sun was shining and the view was amazing from Saana fjäll at Kilpisjärvi
Lighting a bonfire is part of Finnish tradition on midsummer eve
-Tea & Helena-