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.

25th May 2018

This trip was to Kingston Maurward gardens which are situated to the north east of Dorchester. Here Carolyn and I met up with our friend Helen, who on our walk around the garden pointed out a red beetle. I realised it was a tortoise beetle Cassida sp. because of its shape, but I had only ever seen the green species in the past.

The beetle was Cassida murraea. While an immature adult this species is green. It later continues being green or changes to yellow or red. 

Cassida murraea   Copyright Martin Evans

Cassida murraea   Kingston Maurward, Dorchester

The adult has been recorded feeding on Common Fleabane Pulicaria dysenterica and Marsh Thistle Cirsium palustre, making holes in the leaves.  The larvae feed under the leaves. Its wide, but local distribution is mainly a broad band from central southern England north-west to southern Wales and on the coast in the south-west. There are also a few records from east of the Midlands. The specimen found had a total length of 8mm.

24th May 2018

For the first time in many years of British holidays Carolyn and I chose a week when the forecast was for warm, dry weather. To our relief the forecast was  true. We were based in a very nice cottage north of Abbotsbury Swannery in Dorset.

One of the local attractions is the Abbotsbury Sub-tropical Gardens. These are beautiful gardens with lots of exotic trees and shrubs and a large number of ferns. 

I knew the site was home to Pachyrhabda steropodes, a micro-moth in the family Stathmopodidae, discovered by Phil Sterling back in 2010. The species is an Australasian adventive that has naturalised in the garden and was thought to have arrived with imported ferns. It had previously been reported to fly in April, but other naturalised Australasian species such as Epiphyas postvittana and Tachystola acroxantha have a long season with overlapping broods, and as this was a 'late' season anyway, I was hopeful of finding them in late May.

I was not disapponted, as it did not take long to find large numbers of them flying in the sunshine around the many Soft Shield Ferns Polystichum setiferum found throughout the gardens. I probably saw several hundreds throughout the day, all of them around Soft Shield Fern. I did see them resting on other ferns including Broad Buckler Fern Dryopteris dilatata, but the Soft Shield Fern was always adjacent or very close. The larvae feed from tubes on the ferns sporangia on the underside of the leaves.

42.001 Pachyrhabda steropodes   Copyright Martin Evans

Pachyrhabda steropodes  Abbotsbury

We visited several other gardens in the Dorchester area, and each time I searched the ferns for this species, but did not find them. In late April 2014 Chris Manley reported that he had confirmed the presence of the moth in Aberglasney Gardens, Carmarthenshire, on Hard Fern / Deer Fern Blechnum spicant, where they had been rumoured to be present in 2005. As the species seems to be associated with native ferns, it could be present elsewhere in planted gardens or damp woodland in southern Britain or Ireland. The moths at Abbotsbury had a forewing length up to about 5mm.

The only native moth in the family Stathmopodidae is Stathmopoda pedella. This species looks superficially similar, but with more prominent straight, rather than angled bands. The larvae feed on the unripe seeds of Alder Alnus spp. The adults fly in July, and have a forewing length of about 5mm.



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