As we travel widely during the summer
looking for insects to photograph, Roger and I have decided to put a record of
our more interesting finds on this website. New
entries are not always entered in date order so please check for changes
by clicking on 'What's new' on the home page.
19th May 2011
East Kent coast. A walk along the coast
produced a very early Fiery Clearwing basking on a dock leaf,
Alabonia geofrella which has a dawn and morning flight period, and a
small tortricid moth Cydia microgrammana.
The latter moth was new to us. Although not brightly coloured we were fascinated
by its unusual wing pattern of wavy lines. The larvae of this moth feed in the
flower and seed heads of Restharrow which is abundant in many places along the
Kent coast. The adults flight time is from the end of May until July.
The moth is a coastal species found
mainly in southern England from Devon round to Norfolk, with other local sites
in Northumberland and north-east Wales. The moth we found had a forewing length
Cydia microgrammana. East Kent coast.
18th May 2011
Ancient woodland, East Sussex. This was
a moth trapping session during which we attracted seventy species of moth with a
125W mercury vapour and a 26W high UV compact fluorescent bulb.
There were many attractive species at
the light, but arguably the most attractive was a Scarce Merveille du Jour
Moma alpium. Like many others this year this moth was flying a couple of
weeks earlier than is normal. At first glance it appears similar to the
Merveille du Jour, but that species flies in September and October rather than
early June until mid-July which is the normal flight time of the Scarce
Merveille du Jour.
The moth has a national status of RDB
(Red Data Book) as it is found in less than 15 10km squares in Britain. The
distribution is within southern England from Kent to east Cornwall (with some
large gaps in the west). There are some outlying sites in southern Wiltshire and
The larvae feed on oak and are usually
(but not always) found in mature woodland. The specimen in the picture had a
forewing length of 17mm
Scarce Mervielle du Jour Moma alpium. East
Another interesting species that we
recorded was Rosy Marbled Elaphria venustula. This is a small moth
and at first glance could be mistaken for one of the Epinotia species
(micro-moths in the Tortricidae) which are of a similar size and have a blotch
across the dorsal. The moth has a national status of Nb (found in 31 to
100 km squares in Britain) and is widespread in the south-east of England from
Suffolk to Kent across to the New Forest in Hampshire.
The larvae feed on a variety of
low-growing plants in captivity, but Tormentil and Creeping Cinquefoil are
thought to be the natural foodplants, which would account for its habitat
preferences of open woodland, heathland and occasionally road verges. The
specimen in the picture had a forewing length of 9mm.
Rosy Marbled Elaphria venustula. East Sussex.
This trip was to the west Midlands so
that in the evening we could do some woodland moth trapping. The weather was
overcast, with occasional light rain showers, which is ideal for moth trapping
as long as the rain stays light. It was a good evening, with well over sixty
species arriving before we packed up at 12.50am.
The very first moth that arrived was a
Beautiful Snout which was in excellent condition. Other moths came in
fast and within half an hour we had about two dozen species.
The moths were mainly common woodland
species, but included Ancylis obtusana, Pammene germmana,
Little Emerald, Square-spot, Seraphim, Barred
Umber, Devon Carpet, Northern Spinach, Grey
Birch, Orange Footman, Satin Lutestring, Green
Silver-lines and two Common Fan-foot.
We were excited by the first moth being
a Beautiful Snout Hypena crassalis, as although
widespread as far north as Yorkshire with a national status of Local, and also
found in a handful of counties in Ireland, this is a scarce moth in our home
area around Bristol.
The larvae feed on Bilberry and
possibly heaths, heathers and other species. The moth normally flies from late
May until early-August, but like many other moths in this unusual year, it was a
bit early. The specimen we caught had a forewing length of 15mm.
Beautiful Snout Hypena crassalis. West Midlands.
Another species we were pleased to see
was the Common Fan-foot Pechipogo strigilata. This moth is not
common despite its name and is actually declining in numbers. It has a national
status of Na (found in less than thirty 10km squares in Britain).
The adult moth flies from late May
until early July (rarely late July). Although the larvae have been reported as
feeding on a variety of deciduous trees and even Dandelion. They are now thought
to prefer the brown, withered leaves of oaks that are still on the tree. The
specimens that came to our light trap had a forewing length of approximately
Common Fan-foot Pechipogo strigilata. West
Searching for moths in the Scottish
Highlands is always exciting, as the moths and their habitats are so different
than those in the Bristol area where Roger and I live. We find these visits are
the most difficult to arrange as it takes such a long time to get there and the
weather is so changeable.
We usually stay for three or four days
and as we are camping in tents, we prefer a few days of dry weather. When we
first used to go, we would wait for the weather forecast to predict three days
in a row of good weather and then we would set off.
Unfortunately this rarely happens as
the mountains cause local changes to the weather, so it is often wet, cold or
cloudy when the rest of Scotland is enjoying sunny dry weather. Last year we
decided to just 'go for it' as long as no particularly bad weather was
forecasted. This worked well and we managed to get most of the moths we wanted
between the showers.
On this trip things did not work out so
well. Showers were predicted, but what we got for the first of the three days we
were there was almost continuous rain with only occasional spells of sunshine
lasting about five minutes at a time. As we wanted to be on the mountain tops
looking for moths that fly in the sunshine, this was not only impractical, but
also unsafe as visibility was very poor during the rain.
On the way up to Speyside we stopped
off near Struan where we found (well actually Roger found) three Light
Knotgrass Acronicta menyanthids resting on fence posts. This is
mainly a northern moorland species although it is also found very locally in
South Wales, Norfolk and Ireland. The larvae feed on low growing woody species
such as Bog Myrtle, Heather and sallows. The moths we found varied greatly in
size with a forewing length of between 16 and 19mm. They are normally on the
wing from later in May until mid-July.
Light Knotgrass Acronicta menyanthids.
Our next stop was in southern Speyside
near Dalwhinnie, but we hardly managed to leave the car because of the rain. We
then went north to Grantown on Spey where it was only a little better, so we
decided to move to the east Highlands where the weather was supposed to be
We went through Tomintoul and across to
the Lecht which has one of the highest roads in Scotland. This meant that we
would already be at a good height when we set off across the moorland.
Unfortunately there was a strong, cold breeze, and all we found were a few
poorly marked Satyr Pugs and some Neofaculta ericitella (a
common moorland gelechid moth).
The visit was certainly not a waste of
time, because while looking high up across the glen we saw a flock off Common
Gulls mobbing a large raptor, which we soon realised was a Golden Eagle.
Unlike the Common Buzzards that we normally see being mobbed, the eagle dwarfed
the gulls and seemed to be almost oblivious to them. It did not appear to
deviate from its flight path at all. We watched it until it disappeared over the
horizon with the gulls still in attendance.
After about half an hour of wandering
around and not finding anything interesting, we set off back to the car. On the
way back we again saw the gulls mobbing a raptor, this time well below us. When
we looked through the binoculars we saw that it was a Merlin that they
were tormenting. This time the bird sped off with the lead gull in hot pursuit,
but it soon left it behind.
We camped in Glenshee overnight. As it
got dark we noticed that there were a couple of small herds of Red Deer
on the lower slopes of the hills, as well as numerous Red Grouse and
At about three in the morning a strong
wind blew up and the tents were constantly buffeted. We were so tired that we
managed to get some sleep, despite being regularly woken by the stronger gusts.
At least it had stopped raining.
At about 6.30am I had to get up,
because the roof of my tent was being buffeted so hard by the wind that it kept
tapping me on the head. I wanted to get the tent down as I was worried that it
was going to break the tent frame. Roger's tent seemed OK until he unzipped the
door, then the same thing happened to his.
The weather that day was similar to the
day before. We could not get on the mountain tops due to the rain and despite
searches on the lower moors we only found more Satyr Pug and a single
Carpatolechia proxima. At the Linn of Dee we spotted another raptor
flying along the skyline. This time it was an
Osprey. It was obviouslly on a mission, as it flew directly east
The following night we again camped in
Glenshee. By this time the wind had dropped, but it rained in the morning just
before we got up, so we had wet tents to sort out before we set off for the day.
I rang my partner Carolyn in Bristol
and she gave me the latest Highland weather forecast, which was a few sunny
spells in the morning and then cloud and rain for the twenty-four hours after
that. By this time we were fed up. Roger suggested that we should go home in the
afternoon. Usually one of us manages to keep the others spirits up at times like
this, but despite saying that today was the day we would find the moths we
wanted to photograph, I was tired of the cold, rain and cloud.
After some breakfast at the Cairnwell
Ski Centre we decided to climb a nearby mountain and just sit at the top until
the rain stopped and we saw some sunshine. At the ridge near the mountain top
the wind was strong and unfortunately just as we reached it we were greeted by a
hail storm. In the wind it was painful. At first we crouched behind the posts
holding up the snow fence, but that did not help much, so we had to go lower
down the other side of the ridge to get out of the wind.
After the hail we found a sheltered
slope and while enjoying a brief period of sunshine (none lasted more than about
a minute and a half) Roger saw a Broad-bordered White Underwing. This was
one of the species we wanted to photograph for our next book, so I did.
In the next sunny spell Roger saw
another. This moth flies as soon as the sun comes out and drops into the low
Heather and Crowberry when the cloud returns. It flies only a few inches above
the ground so that it doesn't get blown away. The larvae feed on Crowberry
and other mountain top plants. Rogers secret of success was probably that he was
standing in an area of Mountain Azalea that was in full flower and
attracting the moth.
We had several other rewards at the top
of the mountain as we had close views of Ptarmigan. One was so close that
I managed to get the photograph below with my compact camera while it fed next
to one of the snow fences. We also saw several Mountain Hare, a couple of
Mountain Bumblebee and another Golden Eagle. This time the bird was
high above us.
Less than a quarter of an hour later
the cloud came in and the showers started again, so we made our way down the
slopes. On the way down we found a Globe Flower. It was growing in a wet
flush amongst countless Marsh Marigold that were also in flower. We were
now feeling pleased with ourselves. Sometimes you just have to 'go for it'.
Ptarmigan - male. Glenshee, Aberdeenshire.
While on another trip to the New Forest
(this time in the Burley area), Roger and I came across a longhorn beetle that
we did not recognise. After some research on the internet we realised that this
was not a new species to us, but one of the many colour forms of Rhagium
bifasciatum. This is a fairly common species on moorland where its larvae
live for two to three years in the wood of decaying pine trees and other
Rhagium bifasciatum - form. New Forest.
The adults can be found from April
until July. The one we found had a body length of 15mm. The normal form can be
seen in the picture below. That one was photographed while it was running across
a path near Burg on the Isle of Mull a couple of years ago.
Rhagium bifasciatum - normal form. Mull.
This trip was to the New Forest
to photograph Ringed Carpet. After much searching of tree trunks in open
areas of suitable habitat, we did find them at two different sites, but with the
recent warm weather it looked as if they had been flying for several weeks and
were in poor condition.
On four different trees, at separate
sites, we found larval cases of Pachythelia villosella, the
largest of the 'bagworms'. At the base of one tree we found more than twenty,
which were around 40mm in length and probably females in the pupal stage. They
do not usually pupate until May, but again the warm weather has pushed their
This species is one of the rarest
(RDB2) of this group. It feeds on Heather and is found only on the heaths of
Dorset and Hampshire. The females are wingless and almost legless, spending
their lifecycle within the case. The shortlived males have full wings which are
around 10 or 11mm in length. They fly in June and July.
Pachythelia villosella larval case
- New Forest
While visting the Avon Gorge to the
south-west of Bristol, Roger and I searched some Hedge Garlic for the eggs of
the Orange-tip butterfly. These are usually fairly easy to find, as they are
bright orange and stand out against the green flower stems where they are laid.
While searching, Roger came across a
bug about 7mm in length which we recognised as a Brassica Bug Eurydema
oleracea. This shieldbug feeds on a variety of cruciferous plants
(cabbage family). The species overwinters as an adult and although local is
widespread across southern and central England. It appears to be increasing in
There are several forms. The one that
we found is one of the least colourful. The markings can be more widespread and
red in colour. The black areas may have a green to violet sheen.
Brassica Bug Eurydema oleracea - Avon
During the afternoon, Roger and I
visited a deciduous wood near Winchester in Hampshire. We searched tree trunks
for moths, but found only Brindled Pug and the males of Diurnea
We moth trapped during the evening and
caught about three dozen moths of fourteen species. Again there was nothing
particularly unusual, although it is always nice to see attractive species such
as Frosted Green and Scorched Carpet.
Roger searched a few trees near the
light trap and found an
Oncomera femorata. This slim beetle has long antennae and is often
mistaken for a longhorn beetle, but is actually in the family Oedemeridae.
An interesting find was
which was found as it poked its white head out from under some bark during the
afternoon. This beetle is in the family Anthribidae. The larvae develop in the
fungus infected, rotten wood of Beech, Alder and birches.
The species is similar to the larger Platyrhinus resinosus, which is
sometimes known as the Cramp Ball Weevil. Cramp Balls or King Alfred's
Cakes Daldinia concentrica are fungi that grow on rotting wood. The
larvae develop inside of this fungus. There is a picture below for comparison.
It was taken a few years ago on the Somerset Levels.