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.
Although the Streak Chesias
legatella has an official status of Common in Britain, that does not mean
that it can be found everywhere. In the Bristol area where we are based the soil
is mostly alkaline and the Streaks foodplant Broom is uncommon. There appears to
be only one fairly recent record of a vagrant on the coast in South
Gloucestershire. For this reason I only had pictures of one rather worn specimen
from Aberdeenshire taken nine years ago, and this was the only Streak I had ever
My partner Carolyn and I decided to
correct this on a recent trip to Aberdeenshire by dusking for it at a site a few
miles outside of Aberdeen where Broom was abundant.
We arrived as the sun was setting, so
quickly checked out the shoulder height Broom amongst the gorse on the slope.
The breeze meant that no moths were flying in this area, so we went to the base
of the slope where there was a tall stand of Broom which was partly sheltered by
a row of conifers.
This Broom was about three metres high
and we soon saw several moths flying over the top of it. Unfortunately the Broom
was surrounded by a layer of brash where conifers had previously been felled and
this was grown over with brambles.
My first step towards the foodplant
found me falling through the deep ground cover of rotting conifer branches and
scratching my legs on the wood and the brambles. I did get a couple of swipes at
some of the moths, but standing on wet branches while trying to catch fast
moving moths blowing in the breeze was not successful.
As it started to get fully dark there
were few moths still flying, but I could see a moth settled on the Broom.
For the first time I could see that it definitely was a Streak. I again waded
through the brash. This time I was more careful and managed to get to a clear
area of ground without falling.
I soon found four Streaks which I
collected to take home to photograph rather than trying to photograph in my
mobile "studio" which I use. Two of the moths were in good condition,
so I got my photograph. The moths were returned to the site unharmed the
Streak Chesias legatella -
The specimens we caught had a forewing
length between 17 and 18mm. The moth flies in September through to the end of
October and sometimes a bit later. It is distributed widely throughout Britain
and Ireland wherever the foodplant is abundant.
On the 13th August when we
were on the Mendip Hills in Somerset, Roger found a hawkmoth larva in a patch of
Lady's Bedstraw. As it was on this foodplant we guessed that it was a Humming-bird
Hawk-moth Macroglossum stellatarum larva.
As I did not have a picture of the moth
with its wings spread (other than a low resolution picture of the moth
nectaring), I decided to rear it through. I only took a small amount of the
bedstraw, partly because I thought the larva was nearly full size and about to
pupate at 45mm, and partly because I did not think a larger amount of the
bedstraw would still be of use by the time it was needed.
The larva fed faster than I expected.
All of the Lady's Bedstraw was gone within 24 hours and the caterpillar was
showing no signs of pupating. I searched for other bedstraws in the garden, but
unfortunately the Cleavers that was usually present had all shrivelled in the
recent hot weather. What I did have was Woodruff growing in the shade of the
hedge. I had not heard of this moth accepting it, but I thought it was worth a
try as I had nothing else.
The larva took to it straight away and
fed on it until it started to pupate about 3 days later.
As can be seen from the picture below
the pupa had clearly visible features soon after it was formed. By the 13th
September the pupa had become dark brown as the moth inside was fully formed and
near emergence. On the 15th September it emerged.
Humming-bird Hawk-moth - larva (45mm)
Humming-bird Hawk-moth - pupa (32mm)
Humming-bird Hawk-moth - (forewing
Getting the picture I wanted of the
moth with its wings spread was not easy. It would either rest with its wings
closed, or do a vertical take off before I could press the camera shutter.
Occasionally it would run up the slate
that I was trying to photograph it on, with its wings flapping. I took pictures
but only managed one blurred shot per flight.
I noticed that it flew from the slate
to roughly the same place at the back of the light tent I was using and then run
up the tent with its wings flapping. It would then stop for a fraction of a
second before quickly closing its wings again. By focusing on that spot at the
back of the tent I got the shot above. Not the nice natural looking slate
background that I had hoped for, but still a nice picture.
Whenever we visit the Scottish
Highlands, we nearly always find a few moths that at first make us feel a bit
unsure about our identification.
It is well known that species such as
Oak Eggar and Ruby Tiger have darker northern forms that are also occasionally
found in the south, but it can be a surprise to visitors that are unfamiliar
with the highland moths just how different some of the species can be.
In this case it was some specimens of Lesser
Yellow Underwing Noctua comes that at first challenged our ID skills.
Although many of this species in the south may have distinct markings on the
pale brown wings and a few are slightly rufous, they are not usually a bright
red-brown with dark markings, or the reverse of this with dark wings and rufous
Lesser Yellow Underwing Noctua comes -
Lesser Yellow Underwing Noctua comes -
Another moth that has many forms even in
the south of Britain is Ingrailed Clay Diarsia mendica, but in the
Scottish Highlands these variations are taken to the extreme with red, yellow
and grey forms.
Ingrailed Clay Diarsia mendica
Ingrailed Clay Diarsia mendica -
While travelling to Scotland to visit
family, my partner Carolyn and I stayed at Windermere in the Lake District. While
returning to our hotel in the late afternoon I found the largest horsefly I had
ever seen, sitting in the shade on the pavement.
It was quickly potted and taken back to
the hotel to photograph. As it happens it was not just the largest fly I had
ever seen, but at 25mm in length the largest British fly.
It was a female Tabanus sudeticus.
The females of this species have to feed on blood before they oviposit. Their
main hosts are large mammals such as horses, cattle and deer, but they will bite
humans. They do not pierce the skin as with insects such as bugs and mosquitoes,
but cut an incision to let the blood run. The bite often causes painful swelling
a few hours later.
The species can be recognised by the
large size, very dark markings, the pale triangles on the abdomen not reaching
right across the tergites, and the reddish base to the third part of the
antennae. Males (which have no gap between the eyes when viewed from above) have
larger facets in the upper part of the compound eye when compared with the lower
Tabanus sudeticus -
Tabanus sudeticus -
The species is most common in the
western half of Britain and some southern parts of Ireland, especially the
Scottish Highlands, Cumbria, most of Wales and Cornwall. Elsewhere in Britain
the records are very scattered except for the New Forest where it is common.
This was a visit
the Bristol and District Moth Group to Lower Woods NR at Wetmoor in
Gloucestershire. With 10
people in attendance we ran 6 MV traps and 2 UV fluorescent traps from
9.30pm. We packed up at around 1.30am, although the last light was
probably turned off about half an hour later than that.
Despite the temperature not being
unusually warm (14C going down to 12C by 1.30am), we recorded 128 species of
Amongst these species were Incurvaria
praeletella, Pseudosciaphila branderiana, Poplar Lutestring, Mocha, Scallop
Shell, Maple Pug, Orange Moth, Brindled White-spot, Blotched Emerald, Little
Emerald, Muslin Footman, Orange Footman, Rustic Shoulder-knot, Purple Clay,
Green Arches and Short Cloaked.
(Nb) Pseudosciaphila branderiana was of interest as it was the first
record in the Bristol area since the 1960's.
The species is commonly an almost
uniform brown in colour, although at all of the three sites where I have
recorded it (which were widely separated across
southern England), the moth has been the banded form.
The larvae feed from within a rolled
leaf, or two spun
leaves of Aspen Populus tremula. It is an uncommon moth, but is widely
distributed across the southern half of England, although not in the south-west. The moth
has a forewing
length of 11 to 12mm.
We attracted a large number of male
Orange Moth Angerona prunaria of the commoner orange form, but I was interested in the female shown in the picture below, as I had not seen this
more uncommon form for many years and did
not have a good picture. It was one of the latest moths to arrive (as is normal
with females of this species). The males are usually orange with small black
dashes all over, or brown with an orange central blotch in each wing,
making them reminiscent of a Meadow Brown butterfly. The females are similar,
but often a paler orange or cream-yellow. The males have feathered antennae,
while females have simple antennae.
The species has a wide distribution
across southern English woodlands, the Wye Valley, north-west Wales, and a
scattered, but wide distribution across Ireland. The larvae feed from August and
again in the spring until May, on a wide variety of broadleaved trees, shrubs and climbers, including Honeysuckle and Old-man's Beard.
The moth in the picture was at the
large end of its size range with a forewing length of 24mm.
70.230 Orange Moth - colour form
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 Kingston
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.
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.
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.