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Posts Tagged ‘uncertain’

During the middle of the week when the weather was warmer and calmer traffic levels were up slightly but not by as much as I had hoped.  I have lots of drunken hoverflies and the occasional sozzled Red Admiral making merry beneath the Victoria Plum trees and the broken over-ripe plums I can’t clear. The won’t rake up and some I can’t even pick up; they simply disintegrate and spill out over the ground in a worse mess than before I started on them.

Getting back to my moth watch, the pick of  Tuesday evening’s crop was a new moth for me and yet one I knew the minute I saw it I would have no difficulty IDing. It is the Scalloped Oak (crocallis elinguaria). The specimen that came into the bathroom was in beautiful condition. It is a member of the ennominae sub-family of geometers. It is a common moth and on the wing in July and August.

Scalloped Oak (crocallis elinguaria)

Scalloped Oak (crocallis elinguaria)

The other species of moth included carcina quercana, which when newly emerged is quite pretty (purples and yellows) though small. Earlier in the year I found plenty of them in the strawberry patch, then they disappeared for quite a time; now they seem to be back regularly though the ones I am seeing are less bright. Other micros included Light Brown Apple Moth which is still about in almost plague proportions, the Brown House Moth and phylctaenia coronata. None of them are remarkable, and all have been about in numbers this year.

Macro moths included the Brimstone Moth (intermittent visitor this year), the Lesser Broad-bordered Yellow Underwing, Garden Carpet and moths that were either the Common Rustic or the very similar Lesser Common Rustic.

Beyond that I found one micro (so small the pictures I took were no help) and one new moth (or at least new for this year) which I’m pretty sure is the Square-spot Rustic (xestia xanthographa).

Square-spot Rustic (xestia xanthographa)

Square-spot Rustic (xestia xanthographa)

Then Wednesday evening produced a real treat. Having been distracted (all too easy) and not gone back to the kitchen  to make a start on them until after 9:00, on a warm evening with the lights on, I found my plans to get the dishes done being put on hold by a spectacular moth sitting on the top of the humble pile of unwashed dishes.

I had the time to grab magnifying glass and field guide; it sat there patiently while I measured, peered and photographed. It is the Old Lady (mormo maura).

Old Lady (mormo maura)

Old Lady (mormo maura)

Apart from the Poplar Hawk-moth this is the biggest moth I’ve seen this year. The typical wingspan of the species is about 7cm; even at rest with the wings brought together it is still an impressive size. This one had evidently been in the wars and had extensive damage to the left forewing.

It is a resident moth in the UK (meaning that the full life-cycle takes place here) with local distribution and on the wing between July and September. It is not regularly brought to light so I feel a bit fortunate to have seen this one, though it is typically found near rivers and marshes so this is the right environment.

In the bathroom I found a couple of Small China-marks, a crambus perlella and yet more Light Brown Apple Moths. Of the macros the only certainties were another Setaceous Hebrew Character (hard to believe I’d not seen one before this year) and the first Common Wainscot of the year:

Common Wainscot (mythimna pallens)

Common Wainscot (mythimna pallens)

Setaceous Hebrew Character (l) and Common Wainscot (r)

Setaceous Hebrew Character (l) and Common Wainscot (r)

The Rustic (hoplodrina blanda) and the Uncertain (hoplodrina alsines) are virtually indistinguishable, particularly by an ill-equipped rank amateur. Flight periods and location are no help. I’m sure this is one or the other:

Rustic or Uncertain

Rustic or Uncertain

And similarly the Common Rustic and Lesser Common Rustic are very nearly impossible to distinguish with the naked eye and in the absence of a willingness to sacrifice the moths to make an ID.:

Common Rustic (or Lesser Common Rustic)

Common Rustic (or Lesser Common Rustic)

Finally I had help from Ben Sale to identify this one as the Pale Mottled Willow (paradrina clavipalpis); another first for me. August has not been everything I’d hoped but I’m pretty sure that the list for the month will not look too thin, now, compared with June and July.

Pale Mottled Willow (paradrina clavipalpis)

Pale Mottled Willow (paradrina clavipalpis)

Last night was much thinner – the only new moth was this macro which I’ve tentatively identified as a Shuttle-shaped Dart (agrotis puta puta).

Shuttle-shaped Dart (agrotis puta puta)

Shuttle-shaped Dart (agrotis puta puta)

Which brings me up to date and so I can slink off and feel sorry for myself. I’m paying a price for this. The night before last I sustained quite an attack by something and as a result have nasty bites on hand, arm and foot – the bits of me that stuck out from under the covers I suppose. I’d dearly love to wage chemical warfare on the midges but probably won’t for the sake of the moths.

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I know I’m tempting fate, here. It has dawned on me that had I applied myself with the same focus, dedication and commitment at school or after university in my career things might have turned out rather differently. I’d be sitting behind a desk somewhere, or in an airport lounge somewhere or interviewing someone I secretly despise … no I can’t regret putting management consulting behind me.

As it is last night there were 17 species of moth in the bathroom last night, and of them just two remain unidentified. Slowly but steadily this is getting easier, I’m getting measurably better at it. Two of the moths making their first ever appearance I readily recognised immediately just because I’ve invested so much in this over the past two months – putting in probably four hours a day. Perhaps my orchestra career might not have stalled at the third violin section if I’d invested that much time per day in practising.

Small Cream wave (idaea fuscovenosa)

Small Cream wave (idaea fuscovenosa)

The above image was actually taken earlier in the day when I spotted this little moth on the inside of the back door, the remainder were taken later at night long after dark. The hot spell continues despite my best effort to sabotage it by digging swimwear out of the closet and I’d left the patio doors open as well as the bathroom light on so the moths were coming at me from more than one direction. I counted 17 moth species in total (including the Dwarf Cream Wave above) which isn’t the highest figure of the year but of that lot I’ve readily identified all but two.

Things will probably go horribly wrong tonight. In the meantime last night’s crew included the Clay, the Bee Moth, the Willow Beauty, the Riband Wave, the Least Carpet, the Small Magpie, phylctaenia coronata, the Diamond-back and the Brown House Moth – all of which have already been in the house on at least one occasion this year. Note the absence from that list of the Common Emerald – upwards of a dozen a night for days on end and then abruptly not one. Curious.

Last night I had my first visit for the year of a readily recognisable macro moth that in other years has been a frequent caller:

Silver-Y (autographa gamma)

Silver-Y (autographa gamma)

And four moths that are new for me including one that isn’t found all over Britain, but is essentially a moth of East Anglia:

Dark Arches (apamea monoglypha)

Dark Arches (apamea monoglypha)

Dark Arches (apamea monoglypha)

Dark Arches (apamea monoglypha)

The Dark Arches is described as ‘common and abundant’ so why is this the first one I’ve seen? No idea.  The larvae feed on a variety of grasses.

The Snout (hypena proboscidalis)

The Snout (hypena proboscidalis)

This is another larger moth and also common and fairly widespread. The foodstuff is predominantly Common Nettle, so that’s OK. It is on the wing between June and October so possibly not the last one I’ll see; that being usually how it works.

Dotted Fan-foot (macrochilo cribrumalis)

Dotted Fan-foot (macrochilo cribrumalis)

This moth is on the wing between June and August and is found across South-east England but particularly in East Anglia. The larvae feed on wood-sedge, hairy and field wood-rush. It is prefers bogs and marshy areas so it had wandered a bit off its usual turf.

The final one is my favourite. Much smaller than the other two, I almost missed it as it had gone to rest on the window. Being both small and almost transparent I couldn’t photograph it there and had to persuade it to move to a wall.

Twenty-plume Moth (alucita hexadactyla)

Twenty-plume Moth (alucita hexadactyla)

This is the solitary British member of the Alucitidae family of micro moths. It has a wingspan of 15mm and though common I can imagine it is easy enough to overlook, though unmistakable once spotted. It is on the wing throughout the year and the larvae feed on honeysuckle.

The other two moths I’ve not been able to definitively ID, though one is undoubtedly a plume moth and other probably a noctuid:

Plume moth

Plume moth

A noctuid?

A noctuid?

[This is almost certainly the Rustic (hoplodrina blanda) or, fittingly and more likely, the Uncertain (hoplodrina alsines) – these two species are difficult to distinguish.]

And that was relatively easy peasy.

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As well as the moths I’m never likely to get close to giving an ID (see previous post) a number of the moths that have come to the bathroom after dusk over the past two days are one’s I’m not certain I’ve ID’d correctly. For starters there’s this large moth which has been every evening this week and which is rather boistrous. I think it is the Broom Moth – it is certainly a moth I’ve not recorded in previous years, and appears to be about in relatively large numbers at the moment. A bathroom full is rather daunting.

Broom Moth (melanchra pisi)?

Broom Moth (melanchra pisi)?

And this moth, too, has been about on most days over the past week. I believe it is either the Apple Ermine or the Bird-cherry Emine.

Apple (or Bird-cherry) Ermine ?

Apple (or Bird-cherry) Ermine ?

Then there’s those wretched pugs … all small and generally dark and usually lurking somewhere difficult to get at. I’m leaning towards this one being the Tawny Pug:

Tawny-speckled Pug (eupithecia icterata)?

Tawny-speckled Pug (eupithecia icterata)?

Finally, among this group there is this moth which is either the Common Rustic or Lesser Common Rustic – two moth species so nearly indistinguishable one from the other that a dissection would be necessary to decide one way or another. I left this one to fly another day.

Common or Lesser Common Rustic

Common or Lesser Common Rustic

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