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.

18th June 2014

I have been so busy this summer with the good weather that I have not had time to work on this website. I have taken a couple of thousand moth pictures in the last month which is very time consuming.

As a change from the moths I have added a couple of pictures that my partner Carolyn took while she was painting what has become a local tourist attraction. The poppies below are at Failand (on the B3128, Clevedon Road) in North Somerset on the south-western outskirts of Bristol.

Poppies at Failand, North Somerset   Copyright Carolyn Lamb

Poppies  Failand, North Somerset

Poppy field at Failand, North Somerset   Copyright Carolyn Lamb

Poppy Field  Failand, North Somerset

8th May 2014

At the end of March this year while we were visiting Speyside in the Highlands of Scotland, Roger collected a few spinnings from Bilberry shoots. Only six weeks later a beautiful tortrix moth emerged which was Rhopobota ustomaculana. This moth is quite striking when fresh, especially when compared with the Holly Tortrix Rhopobota naevana which is the common member of this genus throughout Britain and most of Ireland.

Rhopobota ustomaculana is a local species found on the moors of northern England, north Wales, and a broad band across central Scotland from the Highlands across to Aberdeenshire. The larvae feed on Cowberry as well as Bilberry. Their flight time is from late May through to July when they can be seen flying in sunshine over the foodplant in the afternoon and evening. The specimen in the picture had a forewing length of 6.5mm.

Rhopobota ustomaculana    Copyright Martin Evans

Rhopobota ustomaculana  Speyside

The Holly Tortrix Rhopobota naevana is a common species that like R. ustomaculana feeds on Bilberry on moorland, but unlike that species it is also common in woodlands, scrub and gardens feeding on Holly, Hawthorn, Blackthorn, Apple and a variety of other tree and shrub species. The specimen in the picture had a forewing length of 7mm.

Rhopobota naevana   Copyright Martin Evans

Rhopobota naevana

19th April 2014

This was an afternoon visit to Ashton Court Estate, just south of Bristol, with the Bristol & District Moth Group. We were there to look for moths associated with the many veteran oaks in the woodlands.

The afternoon was mainly sunny, so we recorded a number of day-flying moths as well as others resting on the bark of the trees.

On the north side of one of the oaks was a lichen of a Lepraria spp. It was here that several of the lichen covered silk tubes of Infurcitinea argentimaculella larvae were discovered. The tubes of this tineid can be found from April to June. The lichen is found not only on trees, but also on fence posts and wooden fences. The adult moth is black with white broken bands and flies in sunshine during July.

Infurcitinea argentimaculella larval tube    Copyright Martin Evans

Infurcitinea argentimaculella larval tube (stretching from top left to bottom right)

Several common spring moths were recorded, including Micropterix thunbergella, Incurvaria oehlmanniella, and several Adela reaumurella flying around the top of a Hawthorn. The only macro-moth found was a White-pinion Spotted Lomographa bimaculata which was freshly emerged and resting on an Ash trunk.

The commonest family of moths found were Phyllonorycter spp. Several were netted while flying in the sunshine, while others were found in the crevices of the bark on the oaks.

All three species found have larvae that feed on oaks, these were Phyllonorycter quercifoliella, Phyllonorycter harrisella and Phyllonorycter muelleriella.

Phyllonorycter quercifoliella   Copyright Martin Evans

Phyllonorycter quercifoliella 

Phyllonorycter harrisella   Copyright Martin Evans

Phyllonorycter harrisella

Phyllonorycter muelleriella   Copyright Martin Evans

Phyllonorycter muelleriella 

Both Phyllonorycter quercifoliella and Phyllonorycter harrisella are common, but Phyllonorycter muelleriella has a more restricted distribution from the West Midlands down into South Wales and the West Country, with a smaller area of population in North Lancashire. For this reason it has a National status of Notable B.

All three species form mines on the oak leaves and have a second adult emergence in the latter half of the summer.

29th March 2014

As the afternoon of our second day in Scotland was sunny we decided to take a walk in pine woodland near Loch an Eilein.  We were looking for birds, but soon disturbed some moths from the heather.

We realised by the markings that they were pine feeders as several tortricoid species have similar cryptic colouring so that they remain undetected when sitting on the bark or young pine buds.

The species we had disturbed was one of the scarcer species (Nationally Scarce A), as it is mainly restricted to areas of pine woodland in the highlands of Scotland. The species was the Elgin Shoot Moth Rhyacionia logaea. The larvae of this moth feed on Scot's Pine, but will also eat Sitka Spruce and Lodgepole Pine. The specimens we found had a forewing length of 7mm and 7.5mm.

49.308 Rhyacionia logaea  Elgin Shoot Moth   Copyright Martin Evans

Elgin Shoot Moth Rhyacionia logaea   Speyside

In the evening we moth trapped in birch woodland in order to try and photograph Rannoch Sprawler Brachionycha nubeculosaAlthough it was dark by about 7.15pm, we did not expect immediate results as the moths are reputed to fly later in the evening between 11.00 and 12.00pm with just a few before that time. We were therefore surprised when the first moth arrived at 9.30 pm and we had recorded 49 by 11.00pm.

There was an explanation for this. We were trapping the night before the clocks went forward for British summertime, so the next evening the moths would have been flying from 10.30, but mainly between 11.00 and 12.00pm as they were supposed to do.

The larvae of Rannoch Sprawler feed on birch. Speyside is a stronghold for this Red Databook  species although they are also found near Loch Rannoch, Glen Moriston / Glen Affric and in the area of Braemar. The specimen in the picture had a forewing length of 24mm.

73.066 Rannoch Sprawler    Copyright Martin Evans

Rannoch Sprawler Brachionycha nubeculosa   Speyside

Another thing that surprised us that evening (being used to the less hardy southern moths), was that the temperature was 3C at 9.30pm and only 1C at 11pm. In southern England in late March that would probably have meant that we would not have caught a single moth!.

The other species recorded were around 20 Yellow Horned, 6 Red Swordgrass, 1 Red Chestnut, and a few dozen Mottled Grey (at light, but many more flying around the site).
Also 3 probable Agonopterix heracliana (genitalia not checked), 1 Acleris notana / ferrugana (again genitalia not checked), 10 Clouded Drab, 6 Hebrew Character, 2 Engrailed, unrecorded numbers of Common Quaker and 2 Small Quaker.

We were using a 125W MV trap and another trap with two 20W Wemlite blacklight compact fluorescent bulbs. We had approximately equal numbers of moths in each trap. Even the Red Swordgrass were three per trap.

Not bad for an evening ending at a  temperature of 1C, although in Speyside it is considered mild if an evening starts at 4C or above!

28th March 2014

For the last couple of years Roger and I had intended to travel up to Scotland in March or April to look for Sword-grass and Rannoch Sprawler, but unfortunately the poor weather had prevented us from doing that. It is too far to go from Bristol to risk the cost and effort of travelling and then fail to do any trapping due to the rain.

This year an unusually long period of dry weather was forecasted, so we decided that we could not miss the opportunity.

We went to Aberdeenshire first as although Sword-grass  is found west of the Cairngorms it is apparently more common to the east of them. We had been advised by a friend that Strathdon was a good place to find them, so this is where we went. We travelled up through Glenshee, where they were still snowboarding and ski-ing, as there was still snow at higher altitudes.

We arrived at Strathdon well before dark, which gave us time to find a good place to camp for the night and set up the trap nearby. The best method for attracting Sword-grass is apparently 'sugar' so we painted telegraph poles near the road just before it got dark. We were feeling fairly confident of success until dusk came, when the temperature plummeted to 3C. Not being used to trapping in Scotland at that time of year we were not sure that moths would fly in such low temperatures.

On our first few inspections of the sugar, we found nothing, but we did see a number of Geometers flying along the verges by the road and sitting in the tufts of grass by the fence. These were Mottled Grey and by the end of the evening we had a dozen or so in the 125W MV trap, but had seen around a hundred in the torchlight when visiting the sugar.

It seemed we were heading for a failure, as nothing seemed to be interested in the sugar. In the light trap we had the Mottled Grey, 2 Hebrew Character, 2 Dotted Border, 1 worn Acleris heyemana, 1 very worn Agonopterix sp. (possibly A.heracliana but we did not check) and a single Acleris lipsiana. By 10.00pm we were feeling a bit depressed, frozen and very tired as we had left Bristol at 5am., so we decided to have a last check of the sugar and then get some sleep.

We were surprised and very relieved to find a single Sword-grass Xylena exsoleta on one of the sugar patches. It is surprising how happy a single moth can make us feel.

73.208 Sword-grass     Copyright Martin Evans

Sword-grass Xylena exsoleta   Strathdon, Aberdeenshire

The Sword-grass feeds on a variety of low-growing plants such as docks, groundsel and Creeping Cinquefoil. It was once found throughout Britain, but in the last half of the 20th Century became more of a northern species, now Nationally Scarce B it is only widespread in parts of Scotland, north Wales and northern England. It differs from the more common Red Swordgrass in having a paler dorsal region (thorax and trailing edges to the wings), a less reddish appearance and paler hind legs. The specimen we found had a forewing length of 27mm.

11th March 2014

After a long wet winter, the last few weeks have been a pleasant change, as it has finally been dry enough, and yet still mild enough to do some moth trapping. Up to now this has only been done in the garden in my case, but up to nine species and around 20 specimens in a night has at least given an incentive to do some regular trapping.

The most interesting moths so far this year have been Acleris umbrana, Carpatolechia decorella and Ypsolopha ustella.

The latter moth was a first for the garden, although I have recorded them several times before while on our travels.

This moth is the most variable of our Ypsolopha species and the specimens pictured below give no more than an idea of the wide variety of forms that can be found. It has the typical square corner to the forewing like the other Ypsolopha, although the moth in the first picture has the cilia worn at the apex of the wing making it look rounded.

17.011 Ypsolopha ustella   Copyright Martin Evans

Ypsolopha ustella   Bristol

This is a woodland species and the foodplant is oak. The moth is on the wing from July, and overwinters as an adult with some moths lasting well into April. It is fairly common and widespread throughout England, Wales and Scotland, and much of Ireland except the central area. The moths in the pictures varied in forewing length from 7.5 to 9.5mm.

17.011 Ypsolopha ustella   Copyright Martin Evans

Ypsolopha ustella   Sussex

17.011 Ypsolopha ustella   Copyright Martin Evans

Ypsolopha ustella   Dorset

Care should be taken in identifying the plain forms of Ypsolopha ustella as shown in the lower of the three pictures, as Ypsolopha parenthesella has similar colour forms, but these usually have a head that is paler than the forewing, whereas Ypsolopha ustella has a head of a similar colour to the wing.




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