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.

19th June 2013

Over the last three summers Roger and I have visited the Wyre Forest area several times in the hope of finding two Oecophorid species, Oecophora bractella and Dasycera oliviella as we wished to photograph them.

Despite recording many other rare species such as Common Fanfoot, until we did an all night moth trapping session last year, we had no luck.

Both species will apparently fly in daylight. We have found records of Dasycera oliviella flying in the afternoon, but we are less sure exactly what time of day Oecophora bractella flies.

What we did know was that both also come to light. We recorded five Dasycera oliviella at one of our light traps last year, but unfortunately they were all so worn that we were barely able to identify them. These arrived between 1.00 and 2.00 am on the morning of 26th June.

Oecophora bractella is known to fly between dawn and sunrise, which is the reason we trapped all night last year (without recording any).

On this years visit we placed one of the two traps we were using in the middle of an area of dead wood that was scattered across a large area of ground. The larvae of these species are dead wood feeders and we were hoping we would be able to catch some newly emerged specimens.

We had two portable traps each with two 20W compact fluorescent UV bulbs. They were running from lithium batteries that will each keep a trap running for 4 hours 20 minutes, so we needed to stagger them to last the night. The first one was not turned on until 10.25 pm, as the days at this time of year are long and it was still light until then.

As there was only a thin layer of cloud, the sky was not completely dark until almost midnight and only about 20 species of moth had arrived by that time. About 12.30 am a Common Fanfoot arrived at the trap. It had a patch of scales missing in the centre of one wing, but was in an otherwise reasonable condition. Within the next half hour two more arrived, and these were fresh and in near perfect condition.

Unfortunately these were not what we were after, as we had photographed them before, but just after 1.00 am one of our target species arrived, a beautiful specimen of Dasycera oliviella.

From the pictures below you can see why we were so interested in photographing these two species as they are perhaps Britains most attractive micro-moths.

Dasycera oliviella    Copyright Martin Evans@WGUK

Dasycera oliviella

Dasycera oliviella is found mainly in the south-east of England in old woodland, but it is also found at a few other sites further west in Dorset, Devon and Shropshire. It is on the wing from May until July according to the season. This specimen had a forewing length of 7mm.

During the nights trapping we noticed a large number of spiders hunting on the dead wood substrate around the trap. The most frequent species were the very common Pisaura mirabilis and the more local but widespread Micrommata virescens. These spiders ambush their prey and despite chasing them off the sheet  many times during the trapping session, they still managed to catch a Smoky Wave and a Scalloped Hook-tip just off the sheet in the surrounding wood chips.

The male Micrommata virescens that we encountered were all about 8 or 9mm from front of head to tip of abdomen, while the larger bodied females were around 14 or 15mm long.

As already mentioned this colourful species is widespread, but local in the south. It is much rarer in the north of Britain.

Micrommata virescens - male  Copyright Martin Evans@WGUK

Micrommata virescens - malei

Micrommata virescens - female  Copyright Martin Evans@WGUK

Micrommata virescens - female

At around 3.00 am the sky was starting to lighten, but it was not until about 4.00 am just after a small shower of rain that dawn really started to break and the first birds started to sing. It was then that an Oecophora bractella arrived at the light. It did not go into the trap, but just made short fast hops on the sheet causing us much concern, as it looked like it might fly off before we  had a chance to have a look at it, but luckily that was not the outcome.

Having recorded our second target species and around seventy other moth species, we decided to open the trap and pack up. At about 4.15 am while we were checking the contents of the trap, another Oecophora bractella arrived. This was also a fresh specimen.

Oecophora bractella     Copyright Martin Evans@WGUK

Oecophora bractella

Oecophora bractella is found in ancient woodland mainly on the west side of Britain from Shropshire down to Devon including South Wales. The specimen in the picture had a forewing length of 8mm.

22nd May 2013

Earlier in May this year I disturbed a dragonfly from some long grass by the garden pond while I was mowing the lawn. It immediately took to the air, flew briefly around the pond then over the hedge into the neighbours garden. On closer inspection I found the larval exuvia clinging to the blade of grass that it had crawled up before the adult had emerged.

Since then I have found half a dozen more exuvia around the pond, but not seen any more adults.

Today I was lucky enough to find  a newly emerged adult of Broad-bodied Chaser Libellula depressa a couple of feet from the pond, clinging to the stem of a Meadowsweet. I took a few pictures, and then visited again half an hour later. I was expecting it to have crawled up higher so that it could open it's wings ready to fly, but it was still in the same position.

Being a bit impatient, I decided to give it a helping hand and move it to a higher position so that I could get a clearer view (and picture). It was not as sluggish as I had expected, as it immediately took off and flew over the hedge, never to be seen by me again.

Although my impatience had lost me the picture of the insect with its wings open, I did find some more exuvia on another stem nearby. I had already photographed a mature male at the pond in a previous year, but I had not realised that they were actually breeding there.

I am pleased with the success of the pond, as since I dug it in about 2002, I have had eleven species of dragonfly and damselfly either visiting or breeding there, as well as Common Frogs, Smooth Newts and several uncommon as well as interesting flies, moths and other insects.

Broad-bodied Chaser Libellula depressa with wings still hardening  Copyright Martin Evans@WGUK

Broad-bodied Chaser  Libellula depressa with wings still hardening

Broad-bodied Chaser Libellula depressa exuvia  Copyright Martin Evans@WGUK

Broad-bodied Chaser  Libellula depressa exuvia

Broad-bodied Chaser Libellula depressa mature male  Copyright Martin Evans@WGUK

Broad-bodied Chaser  Libellula depressa mature male

17th May 2013

During the last  few weeks Brindled Beauty Lycia hirtaria has turned up at our traps in Somerset and Gloucestershire. As  Pale Brindled Beauty and Small Brindled Beauty featured in 'Travel Notes' earlier in the year, I thought it would be worth showing Brindled Beauty  for comparison.

Unlike the other two species Brindled Beauty Lycia hirtaria has fully winged females, but the sexes are easily separated by the antennae which are 'feathered' only in the male.

The larvae feed on the leaves of deciduous trees and because of this the habitat for this species is woodland, or partially wooded areas, including parks and wooded town suburbs. The moth flies from the latter part of March through to May, so the Pale and Small Brindled Beauty are near the end of their flight period when Brindled Beauty starts to fly.

The forewing length is between 16mm and 21mm, of a similar size to Small Brindled Beauty at the bottom end of its range, although most are larger and of a similar size to Pale Brindled Beauty.

Brindled Beauty Lycia hirtaria - male   Copyright Martin Evans@WGUK

Brindled Beauty Lycia hirtaria - male

17th April 2013

Due to the continuing poor British weather, very little moth trapping has taken place. With night time temperatures around freezing, very few moths are flying far enough to find a light trap.

For this reason Roger and I decided to try some different methods of obtaining moths to photograph this year. On 2nd April 2013 we visited a woodland near Bristol and collected freshly fallen Norway Spruce cones. These were housed in a plastic box and kept indoors.

On the 16th and 17th April two moths emerged. These were specimens of Spruce Seed Moth Cydia strobilella. The larvae of this moth live within the cones of Norway Spruce and Serbian Spruce feeding on the seeds from August onwards. They overwinter as larvae,  not pupating until the spring, occasionally as late as the end of April.

The cones we collected showed no signs of containing larvae or pupae. The moth in the picture had a forewing length of 5mm.

Spruce Seed Moth  Cydia strobilella    Copyright Martin Evans@WGUK

Spruce Seed Moth  Cydia strobilella

5th March 2013

Due to a long spell of lower than average temperatures, Roger and I were looking forward to getting out into the countryside for some moth trapping. The temperature for this evening was around 12C and there was very little breeze and no rain forcasted until later.

We visited some woodland in south Gloucestershire and used two sets of twin 20W compact fluorescent actinics. These were switched on from 6.30pm until 9.00pm.

It was quiet for the first half an hour, then Roger netted two Agonopterix away from the light. These were A. ocellana and A. heracliana. Then we had the first of nine male Pale Brindled Beauty.

The light trapping was quite successful as we also caught six male Small Brindled Beauty, one Yellow Horned, one Common Quaker, one Engrailed, ten male March Moth and two Dotted Border. Another Dotted Border was netted.

Although usually larger, the smaller of the Pale Brindled Beauty Phigalia pilosaria at first seem easy to confuse with the Small Brindled Beauty Apocheima hispidaria. The latter usually has darker, more defined markings and looks different when it arrives at the light trap, with its proportionately fluffier thorax and faster flight making it look a bit like a bumblebee. Another difference is the colour of the antennae, which are grey brown in Pale Brindled Beauty and orange in Small Brindled Beauty.

Pale Brindled Beauty  Phigalia pilosaria     Copyright Martin Evans@WGUK

Pale Brindled Beauty  Phigalia pilosaria

Small Brindled Beauty Apocheima hispidaria     Copyright Martin Evans@WGUK

Small Brindled Beauty Apocheima hispidaria

Antennae: Pale Brindled Beauty & Small Brindled Beauty  Copyright Martin Evans@WGUK


left Pale Brindled Beauty, right Small Brindled Beauty

Both of these species feed on oaks, birch and a variety of other tree species. The females of both are wingless, so only the males are usually seen, unless the trunks of trees are searched for the females, or the moths are bred through from larvae.

The more common Pale Brindle Beauty flies from early January until late March. The rather local Small Brindled Beauty flies from the middle of February until late March. A third species, the Brindled Beauty Lycia hirtaria, starts its flight period in the second half of March and lasts until late May. This species has similar markings to Small Brindled Beauty, but is as large as Pale Brindled Beauty. Both sexes are winged.

The Pale Brindle Beauty caught on this trip had a forewing length of from 20 to 22mm the Small Brindled Beauty from 15 to 17mm.





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