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Posts Tagged ‘Lepidoptera’

Between them the past two days have produced a crop of moths almost worth mentioning and one really tremendous find.

The weather has been calmer and warmer, in fact quite humid and the forecast out until the end of the month is good so I might yet extend my list of finds for the year and overall – quite a few moths from previous years still haven’t made their reappearance.

The pugs which were about in large numbers at one point reappeared with a double-striped pug (glymnoscelis rufifasciata) last night and another specimen which I couldn’t be certain about the night before. Unfortunately and as usual such a small moth is too difficult for me to photograph well, but last night’s visitor allowed itself to be potted up so that I could bring it to the field guide and have a good look.

There was a quite distinctively marked and pale micromoth in the bathroom which I also potted up but haven’t been able to ID. As is often the case the flash reflects off their scales, but without the flash the little light from the low energy light bulb simply isn’t enough for good photographs – I still haven’t replaced the tripod.

Unidentified micro

Unidentified micro

And by the way the diameter of the pot in which it is resting is 5cm. This next picture isn’t as clear but gives an indication of the shape of its head and mouth parts which may help me to identify it or at least place it in the correct family/sub-family.

100_3728

On both nights I’ve had what are probably Lesser Common Rustics (mesapamea didyma) which are just about as dull looking as they sound but also the Willow Beauty (peribatodes rhomboidaria) which particularly in the male with its big dark eyes and extravagent feathered antennae is quite lovely.

Willow Beauty (peribatodes rhomboidaria)

Willow Beauty (peribatodes rhomboidaria)

There have been Small Dusty Waves (idaea seriata) about, as well as an unidentifed probable tortrix and a tiny micro with peculiarly curly antennae. The green lacewings are still about but for the most part the flying insects in the bathroom after dark are just midges or micros or other things that will bite and nothing will induce me to develop an interest in them. Our relationships are strictly one way.

And that leaves just the find of the past couple of days, which was spotted making rapid progress in the mid-afternoon yesterday across the back paving. Since I haven’t seen an adult, ever, this was a complete surprise.

Privet Hawkmoth (sphinx ligustri) caterpillar

Privet Hawkmoth (sphinx ligustri) caterpillar

No mistaking however, the species. This creature should it successfully pupate and emerge next year will become a Privet Hawkmoth (sphinx ligustri) with a wingspan of up to 11 cm. The caterpillar is already enormous and so it is hard to imagine that it isn’t close to pupating.

Privet Hawkmoth caterpillar detail

Privet Hawkmoth caterpillar detail

Although I have no privet on the property I do have a large old lilac overhanging the paved area – and that is another prefered foodplant. I can only imagine that something shook it from its perch and it was certainly heading back in the direction of the lilac. I gently helped it on its way and have hopes that next year I might even see an adult, now I’ve had evidence that they are about.

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What a strange month July was. A  mixture of the scarce and notable on the one hand, some nights when I could barely keep up, and a long barren patch at the end. Since about the twentieth of the month the number of species on any day has failed to reach double figures, and there have been nights when not one moth came into the house. Overall this was a good month, in terms of ‘quality’ of species I was able to record.

Of the moths coming into the bathroom (or other parts of the house) the following were identified.

Micro-moths:

  • Bird-cherry Ermine (yponomeuta evonymella)
  • Small Magpie (eurrypara hortulata)
  • Diamond Back Moth (plutella xylostella)
  • paraswammerdamia albicapitalla (yes really, and it’s tiny)
  • Brown House Moth (hofmannophila pseudospretella)
  • agapeta hamana
  • Dark Fruit-tree Tortrix (pandemis heparana)
  • Twenty-plume Moth (alucita hexadactyla)
  • Garden Grass-veneer (chrystoteuchia culmella)
  • crambus perlella
  • agriphia straminella
  • phylctaenia coronata
  • synaphe punctalis [NB]
  • Large Tabby (aglossa pinguinalis)
  • Bee Moth (aphomia sociella)

Macro-moths:

  • Common Emerald (hemithea aestivaria)
  • Small Blood-vein (scopula imitaria)
  • Least Carpet (idaea rusticata atrosignaria)
  • Dwarf Cream Wave (idaea fuscovenosa)
  • Small Dusty Wave (idaea seriata)
  • Riband Wave (idaea aversata) [both variants]
  • Yellow Shell (camptogramma bilineata)
  • Swallow-tailed (ourapteryx sambucaria)
  • Orange (angerona prunaris)
  • Willow Beauty (peribatodes rhomboidaria)
  • Poplar Hawk Moth (iaothoe populi)
  • Buff Ermine (spilosoma luteum)
  • Flame Shoulder (ochropleura plecta)
  • Bright-line Brown-eye (lacanobia oleracea)
  • Broom (melanchra pisi)
  • Small Ranunculus (hecatera dysodea) pRDB
  • Clay (mythimna ferrago)
  • L-album Wainscot (mythimna l-album)
  • Dark Arches (apamea monoglypha)
  • Silver Y (autographa gamma)
  • Spectacle (abrostola tripartita)
  • Snout (hypena proboscidalis)
  • Dotted Fan-foot (machrochilo cribrumalis)

In addition there were upwards of 25 species of moth I was unable to identify.

Outdoors I found a small colony of Six-spot Burnett near the marina, and on one of the sheds I found a Star-wort which is another nationally scarce moth [NB].

Undoubtedly the best moth of the month was the Small Ranunculus, a very pretty moth which I had seen during past summers and photographed but not identified. This is a moth that has been to the brink of extinction but is now securely re-established in a few parts of the country. Finding a couple of Nationally Scarce (B) moths too, was a bonus.

On the other hand I’m perfectly well aware that this sort of catch is par for the course on an average to good night in fair conditions working outside with a moth trap. This is the catch of a very ordinary bathroom in which nothing special is done beyond leaving the light on.

August has started as July ended (with wet and windy weather) and so far the finds have been few and far between, hence the low level of posting.

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I’m in a far, far sunnier mood this morning. Why? The weather is better, we’re in with a shout in the test match and, after yesterday’s tribulations over three small moths, I do have a couple of triumphs to report.

The first is that the moth which I found on my sleeve the night I came in from seeing Harry Potter has been properly identified for me. I was uncertain and suggested a couple of species but someone with far better knowledge as now IDd it as a moth that for about 50 years had been feared extinct and has only fairly recently begun to reappear in Kent (next county south) here in Essex and also, somewhat strangely over on the other side of the island, in Wales. I not only got the species wrong but had placed it in the wrong noctuid family.

The fact that I’d been visited by such an unlikely moth is compensation. The original post complete with my mis-diagnosis is here, or you can just scroll back a couple of days. It is actually the Small Ranunculus (hecatera dysodea); a member of the hadeninae sub-family of noctuids.

The good news is that for a moth returning from the brink of extinction I have found either the same specimen or another one again this morning, found one on a walk I reported a couple of weeks ago and have found a third/fourth specimen among photos I took a couple of years ago. The food plant is the flowers and seeds of cultivated lettuce so I’m now looking carefully over the cut-and-come-again lettuce on the kitchen window-sill.

Small Ranunculus (hecatera dysodea)

Small Ranunculus (hecatera dysodea) 30 June 2009

Small Ranunculus (hecatera dysodea) Bathroom, 11 September 2006

Small Ranunculus (hecatera dysodea) Bathroom, 11 September 2006

Ben has also confirmed that the moth I found in the past week in the kitchen was another Nationally Scarce B list species and that I’d correctly IDd the very tiny moth which is in yesterday’s post. He’s also (so far) stumped by the other two.

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I’ve had very little to write up, sadly. There were five moth species in the bathroom last night and two of them, the Clay and phylctaenia coronata have been very regular visitors this summer. The other three moths were obviously micro moths and new to me.

One was not actually that small, probably with a wingspan closer to 30mm than 20mm. But it is a remarkably deep and rich brown colour and I’ve found it impossible to capture a good image of it. Despite working my way through everything I could think of, including the UKMoths website one species at a time, I haven’t got to the point where I’m confident in the species. I’m only nearly certain it is a pyralid and possibly a dark variant. Nothing I’ve seen comes close.

Unidentified (pyralid?)

Unidentified (pyralid?)

The second moth seemed the most likely to be identified. Size-wise it was about half the size of the moth above, but several times larger than the smallest of the three, with quite distinct markings. But whereas I’ve been tempted to name the moth above and actually think I might have nailed the really, really tiny moth this one has completely eluded me. I wouldn’t even like to put it in a family. For what it might be worth, and I don’t imagine that’s much, here it is:

No ID

No ID

The last of the three is so small I might easily have missed it as a shadow on the ceiling or a small trail of cobweb I’d missed (I do this, as you may have already noticed in some previous pics). As it clung stubbornly to the ceiling the angles from which I could get pictures were few, yet I think I might have worked out what this is.

paraswammerdamia albicapitella?

paraswammerdamia albicapitella?

In taxonomy there can be few acts more perverse or even grotesque than lumbering such a petite creature with a name like that (assuming I’m correct). This particular species is on the wing at this time of the year and comes to light as this specimen did. The larva is a blackthorn leaf miner (the sort of grub that creates tracery in foliage). There are no contra-indications and in my long almost tedious slog through the entire UK moths database I found nothing fitted better.

All in all a father disheartening and deflating experience.

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Around here, everybody earns their keep.  This freeloader came in with me last night, attaching itself to my sleeve somewhere between the road and the kitchen door and only being noticed when I tried to take my jacket off. After flying about for a short while it landed in a shallow spot of water left at the bottom of the kitchen sink. It let me fish it out and then stayed put for me to take these pics (fortunately the camera was in my jacket pocket).

100_3487

100_3488

100_3494

Even after looking at these pictures a second time this morning I’m not sure what I’ve got here, I’m veering between the Poplar Grey (acronicta megacephala) and Marbled Beauty (cryphia domestica). These are from the same noctuid sub-family; the markings are more akin to those of the Marbled Beauty but I thought last night’s visitor considerably larger than the guideline given in each source I’ve looked at (though by the same token smaller than the size suggested for a Poplar Grey). Species do vary in size, wingspans quoted are only an indicator. I’ll have to wait for someone with better knowledge to come along and help.

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It is still windy and I wouldn’t dare try to fix the great hole in the roof of the back shed in this so weather. I’m wondering who I can flutter my eyelashes at. The best I can do at the moment is jury rig something from the inside, move stuff out of the way, put down buckets and cross all my fingers and toes that I’ve done enough. At least it wasn’t hit by lightning and set on fire!

Having confidently predicted that it would be (another) poor night for moths I was relatively pleased with any at all. One Riband Wave (idaea aversata) and a mystery tortrix that only came as far as the inside of the window and didn’t photograph very well.

I got another pyralid which I think is a new one for me:

agriphila straminella?

agriphila straminella?

Agriphila straminella is common and widespread enough, so no contra-indications there, but I’m not always getting these similar shaped pyralids right (at least at first) hence the question against this ID.

There was another Clay (mythimna ferrago) in last night. I have recognised now that where this moth was a light orange-buff colour when I first started to see it, perhaps a month ago, the specimens I’m seeing now are much darker. The dark ‘dart’ down the wing couldn’t be seen in earlier visitors, and what before had been a white dot now looks more like a pale piece of ribbon:

The Clay (mythimna ferrago)

The Clay (mythimna ferrago)

This is precisely the sort of behaviour that is going to trip me up while I am at this point on what is after all just another learning curve.

There was another moth in last night that I’m not prepared even to suggest an ID for. One minute I think it this, the next I think it that. I’m hoping that someone with more experience and with greater knowledge of the marking variation of certain species will take a look at it and give me a hand.

Unidentified macro

Unidentified macro

Unidentified macro

Unidentified macro

The final moth of the day, and I’ve been unable to take a good picture of it because of the corner into which it has jammed itself is, I think, synaphe punctalis, a pyralid that if I’m correct is another Nationally Scarce B moth. It is not only scarce but restricted to coastal counties. No contra-indications and I can find nothing else to fit in terms of size and markings.

synaphe punctalis?

synaphe punctalis?

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Not all moths are dark, heavy-bodied night flyers.

Yesterday I went out to have lunch with a friend with whom I am plotting something that will keep me out of mischief for a short while later in the year. She’s not well so I didn’t stay long and as the cloud cover had cleared I went over to the marina at Burnham to see what I might see.

Though not as sunny or warm as it might have been there were Common Blue Damselflies on the water and one darter dragonfly, the Broad-bodied Libellula (libellula depressa) I think: sadly they would not let me get close enough for good pictures. I found Gate-keepers, Essex Skippers and Meadow Browns in the grass above the marina as well as plenty of Large Whites and my first definite Red Admiral of the year; but the Adder warning signs have gone up and all the training I had as a child often going bush with my parents kicked in.

Gate-keeper (Pyronia tithonus)
Gate-keeper (Pyronia tithonus)

The Gatekeeper (also known as the Hedge Brown) is readily recognised – the twin white dots in the eye are the signature. They were about in large numbers. I spotted my first Green Shieldbug of the year, too:

Greeen Shieldbug
Greeen Shieldbug

The find of the day, though, was something else. I’ve never spotted a Six-spot Burnet before and wasn’t looking for them specifically but walking back along one of the paths above the marina I stumbled upon what I suspect is a colony.

First one, then another a couple of steps further on and then, perhaps a metre or so further still a pair engaged in ensuring the future of the species. This is a magnificent and unmissible moth. All four were in beautiful shape with brilliant red marks against a metallic black background.

Six-spot Burnet (zygaena filipendulae)
Six-spot Burnet (zygaena filipendulae)
Six-spot Burnet (zygaena filipendulae)

Six-spot Burnet (zygaena filipendulae)

I saved this over from yesterday because I rightly suspected that there would be absolutely nothing in the bathroom last night. The weather is, if anything less promising today. What happened to summer?

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