Travel Notes

As we travel widely during the summer looking for insects to photograph, Roger Edmondson 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.

26th June 2012

Acleris ferrugana and Acleris notana are two similar species that are very difficult to tell apart. Checking the genitalia is often the only way to be sure of their identity.

There are a few clues that can help identification as Acleris ferrugana larvae feed on oaks and sallows, while Acleris notana feed mainly on birches, Alder and Bog-myrtle.  Unfortunately these foodplants often grow together so cannot be used for identification when an adult is found. Both species have a summer brood and another in the autumn, after which they hibernate until the spring, so the flight period does not separate them. Although Acleris notana can be slightly larger, in general this is not of much help with ID.

Freshly emerged specimens of Acleris ferrugana have a dark tuft of scales at about a third length of the wing. These raised scales are either absent in Acleris notana or usually consist of only two or three scales. In older specimens these scales may have rubbed off, so cannot be used for ID.

I was lucky enough to get the following pictures from a captive emergence which illustrate this.

Acleris ferrugana freshly emerged    Copyright Martin Evans@WGUK

Acleris ferrugana freshly emerged from its silken cocoon

 in a folded lobe of an oak leaf

Acleris ferrugana showing scale tufts    Copyright Martin Evans@WGUK

Acleris ferrugana showing black scale tufts at one third of forewing

 

25th June 2012

A small gap between periods of  rain allowed us to take a trip up to the Wyre Forest area to do some moth trapping.

We arrived just before dusk which gave us time to set up two actinic traps, each running twin 20W compact fluorescents. One trap was situated in an open area of heather and the other under the trees.

The lights were switched on at 10.15pm and off again at 4.15am by which time it was light. Over that period we caught 54 species. This would have been a disappointing number in a normal year, but in 2012 it was as expected.

There were a few of the local specialities such as Common Fanfoot and Great Oak Beauty, the former with a National status of Na and the latter Nb, and several Local species such as Satin Lutestring, Clay Triple-lines and Four-dotted Footman. We also recorded Eucosma aemulana a rare (pRDB2), pale-brown micro-moth that has larvae which feed on the seeds of Golden-rod. One of the commoner species at the trap was a pretty, spotted gelechid Pseudotelphusa paripunctella.

The Great Oak Beauty Hypomecis roboraria is a large moth of the central south and south-east of England becoming increasingly scarce towards the west of England, east and north-east of Wales and up through the midlands of England. It is not found to the north or in Scotland.

The moth flies from mid-June until mid-July. The larvae look like thick brown twigs and feed on Pedunculate Oak. The specimen in the picture had a forewing length of 27mm.

Great Oak Beauty  Hypomecis roboraria    Copyright Martin Evans@WGUK

Great Oak Beauty  Hypomecis roboraria

As mentioned above Pseudotelphusa paripunctella was a species recorded in large numbers at this site. It is a widespread, but local species that flies in May and June. The larvae feed mainly on oaks, although in Scotland it is more likely to be found on Bog-myrtle and sometimes Dwarf Birch. The specimen in the picture had a forewing length of 6mm.

Pseudotelphusa paripunctella    Copyright Martin Evans@WGUK

Pseudotelphusa paripunctella

18th June 2012

Continual rain, wind and dull cloudy weather has meant that it has not been worth us travelling long distances in search of insects, but we have managed to do a small amount of local  moth trapping which has been poor, apart from during the warm spell back in March of this year.

A trip to a coniferous woodland on the Mendip Hills in Somerset (which also has a small amount of deciduous trees and an acid ground flora) rewarded us with an improvement in the number of species arriving at the trap, although thirty-seven is still low for the time of year.

Many of the moths were typical for the habitat including Epinotia tedella, Spruce Carpet, Grey Pine Carpet, Tawny-barred Angle, Foxglove Pug, Map-winged Swift, Fox Moth, Red-necked Footman, True-lovers Knot and Brown Rustic, plus other attractive species such as Beautiful Golden Y, Small Phoenix, Marbled White-spot and Peach Blossom.

The Red-necked Footman Atolmis rubricollis is a locally common resident of that area of the Mendips which agrees with its National status of Local. It is most common in the south-west of England, but is also found across the south with colonies as far north as south-west Scotland. It is also fairly frequent in Northern Ireland, although less so further south.

The moth flies in June and July and comes regularly to light, as well as flying during the day in hot weather.

The larvae feed on lichens and green algae on the trunks of both deciduous and coniferous trees, which is why it does well in this type of habitat where lichens are abundant.

The moth shown in the picture below had a forewing length of 15mm.

Red-necked Footman  Atolmis rubricollis    Copyright Martin Evans@WGUK

Red-necked Footman  Atolmis rubricollis

During this prolonged period of poor trapping weather I have spent much of my time photographing fresh specimens of moths of which I had previously photographed, but which were not neccesarily specimens in the best condition. Searching out fresh specimens has meant that both Roger and I have come to appreciate how beautiful some of our common species can be.

The Peach Blossom Thyatira batis in the picture below was obviously a very recently emerged moth, and although Roger described it as gaudy, I would describe it as having subtle colours, but with strong markings.

This is a common moth and many people will be getting them in their garden traps. It is nocturnal and is on the wing from late May, throughout June and most of July, with a second brood about a month later which may survive until the end of September.

The larvae feed on Bramble in scrubby woodland and similar habitats. It is found throughout Britain and Ireland, although less commonly in Scotland. The specimen in the picture had a forewing length of 16mm.

Peach Blossom Thyatira batis    Copyright Martin Evans@WGUK

Peach Blossom Thyatira batis

23rd May 2012

After several weeks of dull, wet weather, Roger and I were desperate to get out and look for some insects to photograph, so we were pleased to get a phone call from Andy Pym to say that he had again found the micro-moth Schiffermuelleria grandis at the Somerset site where he had rediscovered it in the mid 1990s.

The weather when we visited was warm and sunny. Although the moth usually flies in the first part of the morning they can be found sitting around later in the day if it is warm. We were lucky as we recorded a total of four in the early afternoon.

The species is rare and is only known from a few sites, although there have previously been records from the west midlands into north Wales and the west country down to the south coast.

The larvae feed within dead wood in old hedgerows and ancient woodland. They are rarely seen, although they do occasionally come to light.

Schiffermuelleria grandis   Copyright Martin Evans@WGUK

Schiffermuelleria grandis    West Somerset

The adult moth has a forewing length of 6 to 8mm and flies between late May and June. It is similar to the much more common Alabonia geofrella, but that has a pale head and thorax, no metallic blue bar across the forewing and the two longitudinal metallic bars are joined together at the rear, forming a loop.

This was not the only day-flying moth we found, as we also saw a large number of Metriotes lutarea flying around the Greater Stitchwort in the shade of the hedge. They were also resting on the petals of the plant and burrowing into the centres of the flowers, presumably after nectar, but possibly egg laying as the larvae feed on the ripening seeds of the stitchwort. The species looks like a small, grey-brown Coleophora with a shiny head, except that they do not rest with their antennae pointing forward.

Another day-flyer we saw was Pammene rhediella a species that Andy had recorded on a previous visit. This is a small tortricoid moth which has a dark base to the forewing with an orange-red outer third. It has the common name Fruitlet Mining Tortrix because the larvae feed on the flowers and fruit of hawthorns, apple, plum, cherry and similar species.

20th March 2012

While rinsing the bath after having a shower I was shocked to disturb a large thick legged spider from under the bath plug which was hanging from a chain over the tap. When most people find a spider in the bath it is usually one of the large House Spiders  Tegenaria spp., but in many parts of Bristol it could be what I had discovered, a Segestria florentina.

 Tube Web Spider Segestria florentina  Copyright Martin Evans@WGUK

Segestria florentina (found under the bath plug)

This was originally a Mediterranean species that found its way to several of the larger ports of southern England on ships. The first record was in 1845.

This spider has long been known from London and Bristol, but is now also found in many other towns as far as Plymouth, Exeter, Fowey and Looe in the west and Southend-on-sea in the east. It has also travelled further north along the Suffolk coast and in more recent times there have been inland records from Tedworth in Gloucestershire and Oxford.

Its common name the Tube Web Spider comes from the design of its web. The spider lives in small holes in walls, and sometimes trees, which it lines with a tubular web with strands of silk radiating from its hole.

The spider sits in its tube with all but two of its legs stretching forward. If an insect touches one of the radiating silk strands the spider rushes out and injects the creature with venom using its large fangs.

The spider can be found by searching at night with a torch, when it sits with its legs pointing forward out of its hole. In daylight it can be enticed from its tube by tickling the silk strands outside the hole. It will rush out and attack, so use a feather or a stem of grass, not your finger, as its bite is extremely painful. The pain will last for several hours and cause reddening of the skin and swelling.

The bite can occasionally cause an allergic reaction. A couple of years ago my partner Carolyn had to visit a hospital in Bristol. While she was there she met a woman who had been bitten by a spider on her leg and had been in hospital for two weeks as her leg had become very swollen and she could not walk. She did not know what species the spider was, but from her description it was almost certainly a Segestria florentina. This is especially likely as it is extremely common in Bristol.

It is not at all hard to find. Using a torch I have counted more than a dozen in a couple of minutes in the cracks around our lower windows at the back of our house.

Tube Web Spider Segestria florentina  Copyright Martin Evans@WGUK

Segestria florentina

showing the green chelicerae which are tipped with large fangs

This species has only six eyes which are all placed at the front. Although it does not have the leg span of some of the large Tegenaria spp. or Raft Spiders Dolomedes spp., it does have a large body. The males are up to 15mm in length and the females an impressive 22mm. This may not sound large, but it certainly seems large when a big female rushes out of its tube to attack and bite whatever you have used to disturb it. In fact it is difficult not to resist jumping away from it.

The spider in the picture is the one from my shower. When I went to file the pictures of it on my computer, I found that I already had some forgotten Segestria pictures from April 2009 labelled 'found in the bath'. So perhaps this could become a regular occurence. I am not an arachnophobe, but actually I hope it's not.

15th March 2012

As we are now well into the mothing season, Roger and I decided to visit a woodland site near Churchill, on the Mendips. On our journey there, the temperature on the car thermometer read 8.5C. We used a 26w compact actinic bulb in the trap and the light went on at 6.45pm.

The moths started to arrive almost immediately after the light was switched on and we had a few moths arriving at regular intervals throughout the three hours that we were at the site. This was much appreciated, as trapping at this time of year can be a bit dull on slower nights, and is nowhere near as exciting as in high summer when there are dozens of moths arriving throughout the evening.

The final count was 31 moths of 13 species. They were mostly the moths you would expect to find in broadleaved woodland at this time of the year; Common Quaker, Hebrew Character, Chestnut, Dark Chestnut, Water Carpet, Satellite, March Moth, Engrailed, Early Thorn, Clouded Drab, and as we were turning off the light, a single Small Quaker.

Our moth of the evening was a single Dotted Chestnut Conistra rubiginea. This is a species that seems to be local, but widely distributed in the west country. Its national status is Notable b.

Dotted Chestnut  Conistra rubiginea   Copyright Martin Evans@WGUK

Dotted Chestnut  Conistra rubiginea

If care is taken this moth is unlikely to be mistaken for any other species. It flies during October and November, then over winters as an adult and flies again in March and April.

The larvae feed from late April until June, mainly on Apple, but also on Sallow, Blackthorn, Plum and low growing plants.

The moth arrived about 8.15pm in the evening and had a forewing length of 15mm.

 

 

 

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