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.

15th June 2016

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   Copyright Martin Evans

Sand Dart Agrotis ripae

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  Copyright Martin Evans

Great Green Bush-cricket nymph Tettigonia viridissima

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 24mm.

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 22mm.

12th May 2016

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 of 12mm.

Netted Pug Eupithecia venosata   Copyright Martin Evans

Netted 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  Copyright Martin Evans

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  Copyright Martin Evans

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 brumata  Copyright Martin Evans

Winter Moth  Operophtera brumata

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 Cock's-foot.

Clay  Mythimna ferrago Copyright Martin Evans

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  Copyright Martin Evans

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 England.

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 11.20pm. 

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 .

73.337 White-marked  Copyright Martin Evans

White-marked Cerastis leucographa

White-marked is associated with sallows (Salix spp.) and the larvae have been reared on this shrub, but little is known about the larvae in the wild. The adult can be found from late March throughout April. The specimen in the picture had a forewing length of 15mm.

70.251 Oak Beauty   Copyright Martin Evans

Oak Beauty Biston strataria- dark form

70.251 Oak Beauty   Copyright Martin Evans

Oak Beauty Biston strataria- common form

The Oak Beauty Biston strataria is a common moth in England and Wales, but more local, although widespread, in the very north of England, Scotland, Northern Ireland, Ireland, Isle of Man and the Channel Islands. It is on the wing from late February until April. The larvae feed on a wide variety of deciduous trees especially oaks, but also Hazel, Alder, sallows and Aspen etc.

This dark form had a forewing length of 23mm which is just above the middle of its range of from 17 to 27mm.




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