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 trip was to Berrow in Somerset to
trap on the sand dunes. We used three traps powered with 20w compact fluorescent
bulbs. These were lit from 9.50 pm. Within a short time after dusk
the clouds cleared and the moon appeared. It was at about 60% of maximum and was
therefore quite bright. Luckily the temperature did not drop from the
initial 15C, but the moth catch was still small.
At about 11.45 pm we still had less than
thirty moth species and not many were being attracted to the lights, so we
decided to give it to midnight and then pack up. During that quarter of an hour
it clouded over again and by the time we finally finished at 1.30 am we had
recorded 54 species including Eulamprotes wilkella, Crambus
inquinatella, Catoptria pinella, Homoeosoma sinuella, a Poplar
Hawk-moth, an Elephant Hawk-moth, a Small Elephant Hawk-moth, a male Fox Moth,
two Dwarf Cream Wave, a Sandy Carpet, an Obscure Wainscot, two Sand Dart,
3 Miller and 5 Reddish Light Arches.
Sand Dart Agrotis
The Sand Dart larvae burrow
under the sand by day, emerging at night to feed on a wide variety of sand dune
plants near the high water mark. These include goosefoots, Sea-purslane, Orache, Sea
Milkwort and Sea Holly. They feed from August and are full size by October
when they form cocoons under the sand, where they stay until they pupate in late
April or May.
The Sand Dart is found in suitable
places on the coast as far north as Cumbria in the west and Aberdeenshire in the
east. The adults fly from late May until July. The moth in the picture had a
forewing length of 18mm.
There were also about thirty
grasshopper nymphs on the sheets. These were mainly Meadow Grasshopper Chorthippus
parallelus, and Mottled Grashopper Myrmeleotettix maculatus. We also
discovered a couple of Great Green Bush-cricket Tettigonia viridissima
nymphs resting on the top of Evening Primrose flower spikes, apparently waiting
for insects to visit.
Great Green Bush-cricket nymph Tettigonia
The Great Green Bush-cricket is
the largest of the resident orthoptera in Britain and Ireland. The males are up
to 50mm total length and the females up to 55mm with an ovipositor of up to
They are mainly residents of warm south facing
slopes with areas of long grass or bramble when inland, but are most common on the
coast in sand dunes, on scrubby downland and even more exposed cliffs.
This bush-cricket is mainly a southern species and
is found as far north as Gloucetershire and South
Wales in the west and at least as far north as Suffolk in the east.
The nymphs hatch from the overwintering
eggs in April and can be separated from the adults by their reduced wings. They
reach maturity from mid-June onwards and can often still be heard stridulating
as late as November. They feed on a wide variety of plants and insects and are
occasionally cannibalistic. The male nymph in the picture had a total length of
This was our third trip to Sand Point
near Weston-super-Mare in the last couple of months and each time the weather
has been against us. The first time the sky cleared and we caught very few moths
due to the large moon. The second time the forecasted "cloudy, but
dry" evening actually turned out to be extremely wet. On this third
occasion the patchy cloud again disappeared and although the moon was only about
40% its full size, combined with the low temperature meant we only caught 19
species of moth.
The most interesting moths of the evening were two Netted
Pug Eupithecia venosata and two
Pseudoswammerdamia combinella, a moth which seems to be an especially frequent visitor to light traps this year.
Sea Campion which is the larval food
plant of the Netted Pug, is found mainly on the cliffs below where we
were trapping, although there was a patch of the plant in the grassland between
two of the traps, which is probably why we were able to record them.
The larvae feed in the mature flowers
and seed pods of the Sea Campion from mid-June through July. The adult can be
found in May and June. The specimen in the picture had a forewing length
Pug Eupithecia venosata
As we had plenty of time while waiting
for the moths to arrive at the light traps, we decided to search around for
larvae. This search was quite successful. On the Hawthorn and Blackthorn we
found the larvae of Early Moth Theria
primaria, Winter Moth Operophtera
brumata and other geometrids which we will need to rear on to identify,
and in the grass we found two Clay Mythimna ferrago larvae
and a Marbled White Melanargia galathea larva, as well as a
sleeping adult of Common Blue.
Early Moth Theria primaria
The Early Moth larvae are green
in their early instars, but later instars may also be green or of a black and
green form. They feed on Blackthorn and hawthorns in April and May. At night
they are easily disturbed and will drop on a strand of silk, later climbing back
up the strand to continue feeding.
The adult males fly between January and
early March according to the season. The females are wingless.
Early Moth Theria primaria
The male of the Winter Moth is
on the wing from October until January and is probably the most abundant moth
flying in late November and December. The female is wingless.
The larvae feed on most deciduous trees
and shrubs and also on some conifers. Having spent late winter as an egg the
larvae emerge in April and can be found until early June.
Like the Early Moth, if disturbed the
larvae will drop on a strand of silk.
Winter Moth Operophtera
The adults of the Clay fly from
late June through to early August. The larvae emerge from the eggs in August and
overwinter while small. They feed on grasses. The larvae we found were on
Clay Mythimna ferrago
The attractive Marbled White
butterfly (which is actually in the 'Brown' family) is on the wing from late
June until mid-August. The larvae can be found in every month of the year as the
eggs start to hatch in late July and the last caterpillars pupate in early June,
although they do not really start putting on size until early spring.
The food plants are grasses including
Red Fescue, Cock's-foot and Tor-grass.
Marbled White Melanargia galathea
Perhaps this experience of what at first
appeared to be a poor nights moth recording shows how dependent we are on light
traps. With dusking, sugaring, pheremones and just plain searching there is so
much extra to be gained.
5th April 2016
This was not the first trapping session of
the year for us. I have been regularly trapping at home in my Bristol garden and
Roger and I have trapped in woodland in Somerset and the midlands in search of
Blossom Underwing (which we finally caught at 'sugar' in the west midlands).
We had targeted our trapping sites at
places where White-marked as well as Blossom Underwing had previously been
recorded, as the former is a moth that does not appear to be present in the
Bristol area and neither Roger or I had ever seen one. The moth has a national
status of Local, but its distribution is patchy across Wales and southern
As we had now photographed Blossom
Underwing we concentrated on White-marked and decided to visit a site near
Montgomery where there were previous records.
We ran two 20w compact fluorescent traps,
1 trap with two 20w compact fluorescents and a 125w MV trap. The lights were on
from a late start of 8.40 pm (because we got a bit lost on the way) until
The weather was mostly a clear sky with
very little wind and a temperature of 7C. The temperature later dropped to 3C at 10pm (when the White-marked arrived) and
rose to 5C by
the time we left. We might have thought it was a bit cold, but it did not affect
the hardy early spring moths as the result was 105 moths of 20 species including 4
White-marked Cerastis leucographa. Two of these were fairly worn (so had probably been flying for a
week or so). The other two moths were in good condition.
The rest of the species recorded were
common for this time of year, but included some interesting forms of
Clouded Drab and a very dark form of Oak Beauty .