Feeds:
Posts
Comments

Posts Tagged ‘Moths’

Although the weather here has been reasonable – not actually warm let alone hot but fairly bright and with light winds, the moth visitation level has dropped right away. In terms of number of individuals and variety of species things are way down on the halcyon days of June and July.

That said the occasionally new species is turning up to stretch the list of this summer’s visitors – and as I am up to my ears in ‘real’ work I’ve been able to fill time amply without swatting up on moths half the morning.

One of the moths I’ve been seeing in numbers this week is a new one for me – and though I’m going to name it as the Lesser Broad-bordered Yellow Underwing (noctua janthe) that species is practically indistinguishable from Langmaid’s Yellow Underwing. I’ve gone with the common moth rather than the migrant.

Lesser Broad-bordered Yellow Underwing (noctua janthe)

Lesser Broad-bordered Yellow Underwing (noctua janthe)

Which brings me to a musing on the word migrant in entomology. Given the inflammatory connotations perhaps entomologists should abandon it in favour of ‘tourist’? Moths have enough bad press without the BNP getting on their case too…

I thought I had a Turnip moth but I was mistaken. It  has been identified for me as a Dark Sword-grass (agrotis ipsilon), a member of the same noctuid sub-family but a migrant species. This is a quite large and imposing moth, but it is still astonishing to think of anything so small and fragile making the hop across the channel.

Dark Sword-grass (agrotis ipsilon)

Dark Sword-grass (agrotis ipsilon)

Among the macro moths, the Willow Beauty, Cloaked Minor, Setaceous Hebrew Character, Silver Y, Dusty Small Wave, Brimstone Moth and Bright-line Brown-eye are also still making occasional appearances. So too the Double-striped Pug.

Of the micros, most are as yet and probably will remain unidentified – I regret not picking up the book on pyralids when I had the chance a few weeks ago.

The main exception is the Mother of Pearl which has made its first appearance this year. It is a very large micro moth, far larger than for example the Small Dusty Wave or any of the innumerable and tiresomely difficult to distinguish Pug moths. The name is a bit of oversell in my opinion; the moth isn’t nearly as attractive as might be suggested. Nevertheless it is a species I’ve seen before and it is good to know that it is still around:

Mother of Pearl (pleuroptya ruralis)

Mother of Pearl (pleuroptya ruralis)

Two other readily identifiable micro moths: phylctaenia coronata is about again (or still about, but it seemed there was a bit of a lull) as is pyrausta aurata. The latter posed a particular problem as the specimen in the bathroom was a particularly faded individual no longer purple and gold but brown and yellow. [See previous post – for an idea of the colour when fairly fresh, and note the difference even a few days makes.]

pyrausta aurata

pyrausta aurata

The other notable micro moth is the returning Small China-mark (cataclysta lemnata). I had an almost pure white (male) specimen in the house earlier this year. A couple of females have been about this week, so much darker I debated whether they were in fact Brown China-mark specimens instead. The underwing is quite beautiful and the giveaway only given a glimpse of:

Small China-mark (cataclysta lemnata)

Small China-mark (cataclysta lemnata)

And so to the great out doors. I shall be digging out my recipe for green tomato chutney, I fear. Yet again the bulk of the crop won’t ripen, and this is said to be one of the five driest parts of the UK.

Sadly, though the fruit harvest this year has been extraordinary (though I haven’t lost a branch from a Victoria Plum – others are reporting this) there has been no great upsurge in the butterfly population. Just one drunken Red Admiral flopping about from windfall plum to windfall plum. The hoverflies are enjoying one prolonged drunken orgy out there. In the meantime the lack of really hot and sunny weather probably spells doom for the fruit on the olive trees. They are there, alright and some of the getting quite large. But without prolonged warm sunny weather they cannot ripen and the likelihood is that in the next fortnight the weather will turn appreciably autumnal.

 The pinot blanc grapes are possibly in a better position – more advanced, quite swollen in fact and almost at the point of needing just to ripen.

The other grand accomplishment of the week is a cranberry bed. In a moment of inspiration I co-opted the old disused pond, filled with rubble and several years garden waste. Soil testing has suggested this will be a good spot and I’ve cut back overhanging trees to improve the light. Now I just need cranberry plants to go in it. If I’m here in spring next year…

Advertisements

Read Full Post »

Actually, a couple of evenings; the pickings are too lean to justify frenetic blogging each morning. But last night, though the numbers were not high I had a disproportionate number of new species. They were all rather small though mostly classified as macro moths and it has taken me a while to get to the point where most are identified and I can post them. None are particularly notable beyond being new for me.

Unidentified micro

Unidentified micro

Second unidentifed micro

Second unidentifed micro

The second moth (above)  was substantially larger than the first – and I’m almost certain is the same species seen in the bathroom mid-July.

The third of the three unidentified micros last night was the smallest and also the most distinctive looking, with its white head; but as is so often the case with these very small moths the resources available to me simply are not comprehensive enough.

Third unidentified micro

Third unidentified micro

The remainder of the moths last night were all much larger though the first of these is classified as a micromoth.

Garden Pebble (evergestis forficalis)

Garden Pebble (evergestis forficalis)

The Garden Pebble might be a common moth in the UK but this is the first time I’ve caught one in the bathroom.

Inevitably there were pugs, to have me pulling my hair out, though one of them, this one, I was able to identify with some certainty as the Double-striped:

Double-striped Pug (glymnoscelis rufifasciata)

Double-striped Pug (glymnoscelis rufifasciata)

Another three moths that were all new to me, all common enough and all macro moths (though only the first is actually quite large):

Common Carpet (epirrhoe alternata)

Common Carpet (epirrhoe alternata)

Cloaked Minor (mesoligia furuncula)

Cloaked Minor (mesoligia furuncula)

Vine's Rustic (hoplodrina ambigua)

Vine's Rustic (hoplodrina ambigua)

And then there were two unidentified macro moths, the first a pug – the constant source of ID frustration, the other of uncertain family:

Unidentified pug

Unidentified pug

Unidentified macro (family uncertain)

Unidentified macro (family uncertain)

So that wraps up last night’s finds; it was a warmer evening and quite still – a large number of species but not present in quantities.

On the previous night, with similar conditions, pickings were far leaner but there was this lovely little macro moth which I haven’t identified, which quite happily sat on my finger (after I’d rescued it from some cobwebs) while I photographed it:

Unidentified

Unidentified

Unidentified

Unidentified

I found the first example of the micro moth pyrausta purpuralis, a moth which has been a frequent visitor in the past:

pyrausta purpuralis

pyrausta purpuralis

And then those determined Light Brown Apple Moths – a pair that was at it for ages and even tried flying while hooked up:

Light Brown Apple Moths

Light Brown Apple Moths

Worth noting also that the Willow Beauty continues to be about in numbers and that a Cabbage Moth (big and dark, rather than the white butterfly that back home is also known as the cabbage moth) were about. I couldn’t justify more posts of the Willow Beauty and couldn’t get a good shot of the cabbage moth. Off now to check out what waits upstairs.

Read Full Post »

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.

Read Full Post »

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.

Read Full Post »

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.

Read Full Post »

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.

Read Full Post »

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.

Read Full Post »

Older Posts »