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.
This evening I went dusking and also
sugared some trees in a local wood with a cider and demerara sugar mix. Although
not a particularly warm night I still managed to record about twenty species
including two newly emerged Old Lady Moma maura at the sugar.
I was home by 11.3O pm, which to me
seems quite a productive way of mothing and still getting a good nights sleep.
Old Lady Mormo maura
From looking at the moth forums on the
internet it is apparent that apart from a few specialist moth recorders looking
for leaf miners or other early stages of micro-moths, most people now seem to
depend almost entirely on ultra violet moth traps to find their moths.
This is unfortunate as many moths are
as easily recorded and sometimes more easily recorded by other methods. Roger
and I have recorded many 'good' species this year by searching at dusk (and
later) with just a net and a head torch. Amongst these have been Dingy Mocha,
Morris's Wainscot and Ruddy Carpet.
Many moths can be found in daylight, as
about a third of the Lepidoptera on the British list are either day flying or
are easily disturbed in the day, and these not only include the well known
species such as the burnet moths, Silver Y, Emperor Moth and Burnet Companion,
but also species such as the crimson underwings which have a late afternoon
flight around the tree tops, the Broom Moth which flies in the early evening in
the north (and has also been recorded nectaring at flowers in hot sunshine), and
the Pebble Hook-tip of
which Roger and I recorded several, flying up and down a ride in Kent at 7.00 am
in the morning.
Sugaring and wine ropes are not used as
much as they could be as these methods are probably the easiest way to record
moths such as the Gothic, Old Lady, Double Dart, Red Underwing, Light Crimson
Underwing, Dark Crimson Underwing and many others.
Other advantages to these recording
methods are that you do not have to carry loads of equipment to the mothing site
and that they can be used in some urban areas where using a light is impractical
or likely to attract unwanted attention.
At the end of May, my partner Carolyn
and I spent a week in Speyside in the Highlands of Scotland. We stayed in the
gardeners cottage at
Inshriach Alpine Nursery which is about four miles from
It is an ideal place to stay if you are
interested in wildlife as the planted gardens at the nursery attract a variety
of wildlife including Red Squirrels, Badgers and a variety of birds.
The other attraction at the site is a
cake shop and tea room serving a variety of delicious cakes. The cake shop,
known as the Potting Shed, has large picture windows all along one side, where
you can sit and watch the birds and Red Squirrels at a multitude of peanut
feeders while eating your cake.
There was also a feeder just outside of
the window of the cottage in which we stayed. This feeder had either Red Squirrels
or Great Spotted Woodpeckers on it for at least 50% of the daylight
hours. During the rest of the time it attracted tits and finches including
Red Squirrels at the cottage
We also saw a pair of Roe
Deer on most days, feeding in the marsh next to the cottage. From dusk onward and
throughout the night, Snipe could be heard displaying, with the wind
blowing through their vibrating tail feathers.
Unfortunately we chose a rather cool, wet
and windy period for our holiday, and although we did manage to go for some walks and
Carolyn did some paintings, the moth trapping was poor. Although it was
cloudy most days, it seemed to clear most nights at dusk so that the temperature
We took an early evening trip up to
Cairngorm Mountain on the 3rd June. We walked from the lower
furnicular railway station up to the snow line.
By the station we were rewarded with
sightings of about six Ring Ouzel. I have seen them there before, but
not that many. This was perhaps due to the time of day, as there was hardly
anybody about, because the restuarant and the railway were closed for the day.
We only saw a couple of moths, as there
was a fairly strong breeze. One of them was a newly emerged Satyr Pug
It was probably the most perfect one I had seen there, as they quickly get
damaged when they are blown about in the heather.
This northern moorland form of Satyr
Pug is more strongly marked than the moths found in southern England. It feeds
on the flowers of Heather, Cross-leaved Heath and many other moorland plants.
The moth we found had a forewing length of 10mm.
We heard, then later saw some Red
Grouse on the walk, and as we reached the snow line we disturbed two
Ptarmigan. One of these flew up into the snow, but the other flew on to the
path and then ran under the snow fence.
Carolyn slowly walked up the path and
managed to get within ten feet of the bird. She took a series of about twenty
pictures through the fence, using the compact camera that she always carries in
her pocket. She also made a short video before it finally flew away.
I did not have a camera with me, which
proves the saying that "the best camera is the one you have with you".
Ptarmigan - alert.
Ptarmigan - just before it flew
Ptarmigan are found above the tree line on mountains.
In Scotland in the summer this often means up near the peaks. They can be told
from Red Grouse in flight by their white wing tips. In the winter they are white
all over, except for the black tail and black eye stripe of the male. They feed
on shoots and buds although the young feed on insects.
On the way back down the path we spotted a Dipper
in the burn. We also saw a large bird of prey as we got into the car,
unfortunately not a Golden Eagle, but a Buzzard. We were not disappointed
as we had already seen a bird that evening that a lot of birders would be excited to see at
such close proximity.
Throughout this spring those of you who
follow the moth forums will have seen comments about what a poor spring it has
been, with people catching very few moths of only two or three species, and
that it seems to be a 'late season'.
I would like to propose a theory
suggesting that this is inaccurate. Like those on the moth forums I have been
getting very few moths in the garden, but I do not think that you can judge the
moth season by the numbers that are recorded in a garden trap, unless you happen to
live right on the edge of some ancient woodland or similar rich habitat.
Throughout the spring Roger and I have
trapped twice a week away from home in ancient woodland, sheltered downland, and
scrubby sheltered heathland, and we have recorded much larger amounts of
In a wood in Gloucestershire on 11th
May we recorded 44 species and the week before on the edge of heathland in
Dorset we recorded 31 species. Even back in late March and early April we
were getting around 18 to 20 species using two 20w actinic traps. These were turned
on for only an average of three hours during an evening.
My theory is that on the cold nights
that we have had during this spring, moths do not fly very far, although
they have emerged as normal. They just don't fly far enough for people to record
them in their gardens.
I will go further in suggesting that
the warm day time temperatures during April even pushed the emergence of some
moths forward, as we have recorded several species much earlier than their
'normal' flight period.
On 16th April we recorded
Shaded Pug in a sheltered downland valley in Dorset. This is a species
that should be flying in June and July. We also recorded the first two Flame
Shoulder of the year and also an Oak-tree Pug on the same night.
These moths normally
start there flight period at the beginning of May.
A trip on 11th May searching for
Poplar Kitten in a Gloucestershire woodland brought us another surprising early
emergence. This was of four specimens of Poplar Lutestring Tethea or, which
usually starts its flight period in late May or early June and carries on
through July and sometimes early August.
The three subspecies of Poplar Lutestring
are found locally throughout Britain and Ireland. The Scottish and Irish
subspecies have a shorter flight period from early June until about mid July.
The larvae of all the subspecies feed on Aspen and poplars.
Tethea or or is the
moth in the picture below found locally throughout southern England and Wales
except the west country where it is rare with only one site in Gloucestershire
and only a couple in each of Somerset, Devon and Cornwall. Its stronghold is
towards the south-east. It is also very local in northern England.
Tethea or scotica is
often a more greyish moth with darker markings. It is found locally in Scotland
including the Hebrides.
Tethea or hibernica is
the Irish subspecies which has colour and markings somewhere between the other
two subspecies. It is found very locally in the north of Ireland and central
Poplar Lutestring Tethea or
The only species that is likely to be
confused with Poplar Lutestring is the Figure of Eighty which has a similar
flight period and the larvae also feed on Aspen and poplars. It is common
and has a wide
distribution in southern England and Wales although it is local in west Wales
and Cornwall. Its distribution thinly stretches to northern-east England and the eastern borders of southern Scotland. It is also found on the Isle of
The Poplar Lutestring differs from that
species in that the white markings do not form a proper '80'. There are usually
about four 'lutestring' bars across the base of the wing rather than two, and
the outer bar is angled away from the base of the wing rather than towards it.
Figure of Eighty Tethea
Finally spring appears to have started.
At the end of last week a couple of mild evenings meant that several species of
moth were attracted to the ultra violet light in the garden, and at the
beginning of this week the frogs spawned in the garden pond.
As moth trapping was now showing
results, Roger and I took a trip over to the Wye Valley in South Wales. We were
not after any particular moth, but hoped that the ancient woodland there would
provide us with a variety of spring species.
We were not disappointed, as although
there was a continuous fine drizzle all evening, we managed to attract fourteen
species of moth and three shieldbugs to a 125w MV trap and another trap with
twin 20w UV compact fluorescents.
The most common visitors to the traps
were Common Quaker and Oak Beauty, both with seven specimens
present. The other species were mostly single moths of Agonopterix
occelana, 2x Acleris ferrugana/ notana,
Acleris cristana, Shoulder Stripe,
Brindled Pug, 6x March Moth, Dotted Border,
Engrailed, 4x Chestnut, Early Grey, Hebrew Character and
The bugs were Birch Shieldbug,
Hawthorn Shieldbug and Troilus luridus.
Biston strataria Wye Valley
close relative the well known Peppered Moth, the Oak Beauty is a common moth in
Britain as far north as southern Scotland. It is also found in many parts of
coastal Ireland. It flies from February until April.
grey-brown, twig-like larva not only feeds on oaks as its name suggests, but
also on other deciduous trees such as Hazel, elm, Aspen and Alder.
The moth in
the picture had a forewing length of 22mm.
Troilus luridus Wye Valley
Although still common, of the three
shieldbugs that were caught Troilus luridus is perhaps the least
frequently seen. It has a wide distribution in England and Wales as far as
northern England. It is also found throughout most of Ireland.
It is a woodland species, where despite
the larva being a vegetarian in its early instars, it soon becomes carnivorous
on the larvae of moths and beetles.
The Forest Bug Pentatoma rufipes
is superficially similar, but lacks the yellow bands on the antennae, has orange
not mottled brown legs, and has a pale tip to the triangular scutellum.
The bug in the picture had a total
length of 12mm.