Travel Notes

As we travel widely during the summer looking for insects to photograph, Roger 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 header.

26th October 2010

Even in late October there are still interesting moths to be found if you choose a mild night. In this case Roger and I trapped in woodland on the edge of the Gordano Valley in North Somerset. We turned on the 125W Mercury Vapour light at about 6.30pm and trapped for just over three hours.

In this period of time we caught over fifty moths of fifteen species. About half of the fifty moths were November Moth and another ten were Acleris rhombana.

A moth that is widespread but local, and perhaps under recorded due to its late flight period is Diurnea lipsiella. We attracted four during the evening. They were all in good condition as they were probably newly emerged.

The males  of this moth are on the wing in October and November. The females are brachypterous (reduced wings) and therefore do not fly. They have this in common with Diurnea fagella a more regularly recorded spring time species. The larvae are known to feed on oaks Quercus spp. and Bilberry Vaccinium myrtillus. The specimen in the picture had a forewing length of 10mm.

This was only the second time we had recorded the species. The previous occasion was at Shapwick Heath in Somerset during 2009.

Diurnea lipsiella   Copyright Martin Evans

Diurnea lipsiella  Gordano Valley, North Somerset

Perhaps the most beautiful moths of the evening were the two Merveille du Jour Dichonia aprilina that arrived about half way through the trapping period.

This moth is a common woodland species in most of Britain and Ireland, but as it is so attractive always causes some excitement when found. The larvae feed on oak Quercus spp. The adults fly in September and October. The specimen in the picture had a forewing length of 21mm.

Merveille du Jour Dichonia aprilina  Copyright Martin Evans

Merveille du Jour    Gordano Valley, North Somerset

24th October 2010

This time last year I added an entry  to 'Travel Notes' about the Deer Fly Lipoptena cervi. This is a rather ugly looking fly that is a parasite of deer. By coincidence, a year later I have been able to photograph another parasitic insect, but this time the hosts are bats.

A few months ago local naturalist Nigel Milbourne got in touch with Ray Barnett at the Bristol Museum and Art Gallery, to say that he had discovered Bat Bugs Cimex pipistrelli in bat boxes that he had been checking at Blagdon in Somerset. Ray told him that there did not appear to be any local records of this species, and so on a recent trip back to check the boxes, Nigel captured a few and passed them on to Ray. Ray was kind enough to give me the opportunity to take a few pictures. So I would like to thank both Nigel and Ray.

There are possibly three species of bat bugs in Europe Cimex pipistrelli, Cimex dissimilis and Cimex stadleri, but authorities differ on the validity of these names and some now consider that only Cimex pipistrelli is valid, although there could possibly be a subspecies as well. The recent records in Britain have all been identified as Cimex pipistrelli.

Cimex pipistrelli is closely related to the Bed Bug Cimex lectularius and it is difficult to tell them apart. Cimex pipistrelli has longer hairs on the sides of the pronotum and the width of the pronotum at its centre is less than 2.5 times the length (not more than 2.5 times). The specimen in the photographs below had a total length of 4mm but there was a larger specimen in the collection of over 5mm.

I must admit to being very careful not to let any escape when taking the photographs. They can run quite fast and they have been known to bite humans as well as bats. There was an isolated case described in the 'Lancet' of a student in Scotland in December 1998 complaining of itching spots on his skin. These were at first diagnosed as Bed Bug bites, but later turned out to be caused by Cimex pipistrelli. He had a large colony of bats under his floor and the bugs were entering his bedroom between the floorboards and through a cupboard in his bathroom.

I have stopped itching now, as Ray has had the bugs back and I don't think any got away ....

Bat Bug Cimex pipistrelli  Copyright Martin Evans

Cimex pipistrelli.  Blagdon, Somerset

Bat Bug Cimex pipistrelli -underside  Copyright Martin Evans

Cimex pipistrelli  - underside.  Blagdon, Somerset

8th October 2010

Although I am writing under the heading of 'Travel Notes', it is sometimes unnecessary to travel very far to find an exotic species. To photograph the moth below I had to travel a whole two metres from my back door in west Bristol, as the moth came to my MV light trap.

The moth is Diaphania perspectalis, an Asian species that first appeared in Britain in Surrey in 2008. It has since been recorded at least twice in Sussex, in Hertfordshire in August this year and also in France, Germany and the Netherlands. It feeds on Box Buxus sp. and can become a pest.

In Europe it is thought to have arrived with imported Box, and although there does not seem to be any proof, there is a possibility that it is now breeding here.

Diaphania perspectalis  Copyright Martin Evans

Diaphania perspectalis  Bristol.

22nd September 2010

As Roger and I travelled through thick fog, a last minute decision to visit some coastal cliffs near Weymouth to moth trap, did not look like such a good idea. Luckily the fog was absent when we arrived on site, although it had delayed us and we arrived in darkness.

Fortunately we were rewarded with many interesting species including; Agonopterix pallorella, Eulamprotes immaculatella, Cochylis molliculana, Epischnia bankesiella, Mullein Wave, Yellow Belle, Chalk Carpet, a very worn Annulet, Beautiful Gothic, Feathered Brindle, L-album Wainscot, White Point and a rather worn Pinion-streaked Snout.

I was especially pleased to find a really bright specimen of Cochylis molliculana. We have recorded them on the south coast several times before, but they they have usually been much less well marked (or faded).

Cochylis molliculana   Copyright Martin Evans

Cochylis molliculana

This tortricoid moth was first recorded on Portland in 1993 and is now fairly abundant, but it has also spread along the coast of Hampshire and more recently inland at least as far north as Luton in the east and Chippenham in the west. The larvae feed in the heads of Bristly Ox-tongue. The adult is found from June until September and has a wing length of 5.5 to 7.5 mm.

One of the most attractive moths of the evening was the Beautiful Gothic Leucochlaena oditis. Several of these moths were attracted to the MV light. This is a rare moth of the southern English coast which is found mainly from Cornwall to Hampshire, although occasionally recorded further east. It is usually found on sand dunes and sea cliffs from late August until October. Although rare it can be attracted to light in large numbers (Oct. 2013).

It has a forewing length of 13 to 16mm. The larvae feed on grasses.  A female Beautiful Gothic is shown in the picture below. The males have feathered antennae.

Beautiful Gothic Leucochlaena oditis  Copyright Martin Evans

Beautiful Gothic Leucochlaena oditis

15th August 2010

On a trip north to Aberdeen, my partner Carolyn and I took a detour through Glenshee south of Braemar. We arrived at dusk and immediately set up  the mercury vapour trap. The road through Glenshee is one of the higher roads in Scotland and with a bit of a climb the trap was set up at a height of about 670m. It became misty during the evening, but cleared later. 

The most common species attracted to the light was Antler followed by Dark Arches. About two hundred Antler visited the trap and about eighty Dark Arches. This meant that the other moths visiting were constantly disturbed as these two species both take a long time to settle after their arrival. The other species included, Cousin German, Red Carpet, Suspected, Udea uliginosalis and Northern Arches Apamea zeta.

The latter moth has two subspecies in Britain, the mainland form, which is Northern Arches Apamea zeta ssp. assimilis and the Exile Apamea zeta ssp. marmorata, which is slightly larger and found in Britain only on the Shetland Islands. 

The Northern Arches flies in July and August on moorland, especially high moorland. The larvae are thought to feed on moorland grasses. The specimen in the picture below had a forewing length of about 19mm. Several came into the trap and all except one dark specimen stood out from the other large noctuids because of the heavy body, broad wing and pinkish markings.

Northern Arches Apamea zeta assimilis  Copyright Martin Evans

Northern Arches Apamea zeta assimilis  - Glenshee, Aberdeenshire

9th August 2010

Ayres NNR, Isle of Man. There are a number of insect species that are widespread, but rarely recorded. This is because although they are common they live in specialist habitats. The bee-fly Villa modesta is an example of this, as although present on most major coastal sand dunes in England, Jersey, south Wales, eastern Scotland and south-east Ireland, it is rarely seen inland. Although Roger and I have seen it at several other dunes, this is the first time I have managed to get a decent picture, as the fly basks on the sand, but quickly disappears when approached with a camera.

There is a similar, but rarer fly known as Villa venusta, that can be distinguished by the presence of a broader band of shading on the leading edge of the forewing and its preference for a heathland habitat.

The larvae of bee-flies are parasites. It is not known which species are the hosts of the Villa spp., as the few reports are contradictory. It is thought that the british host species may be moths.

The specimen in the picture is a female (eyes slightly further apart than the male and abdomen slightly more banded). It was approximately 12 or 13mm long.

Villa modesta    Copyright Martin Evans

Villa modesta  Ayres Dunes, Isle of Man

To view other bee-flies on this site visit here, and look at the entry for Surrey heaths here.

27th July 2010

While searching for moths on the mountain tops near Glenshee in the east Highlands, Roger and I came across a strange fly. It was resting on a stone beside a small peaty pool. 

Before I could open my net the fly flew off. Roger went around the other side of the pool and found either the same fly or another of the same species and he managed to net it. The fly was about 16mm total length and very broad and bumblebee like. In fact it was the best mimic of a bumblebee we have seen as it had extremely long and dense hair, even on the face. It was at a height of about 950m (almost 3120 feet).

I would like to thank Ian Mclean for identifying the fly, which is pictured below with his reply to my email asking for help in identification. We saw herds of up to two hundred Red Deer in the area where we found the fly.

"This is a member of the family Oestridae and is the species Cephenemyia auribarbis (Meigen, 1824). This is a Deer Botfly whose larvae live in the nostrils and pharyngeal cavity of deer. It is widespread in the Highlands of Scotland, though not so frequently seen as an adult."

Deer Botfly Cephenemyia auribarbis - face    Copyright Martin Evans

Deer Botfly Cephenemyia auribarbis - face

Deer Botfly Cephenemyia auribarbis - side view    Copyright Martin Evans

Deer Botfly Cephenemyia auribarbis - side view

Deer Botfly Cephenemyia auribarbis - dorsal    Copyright Martin Evans

Deer Botfly Cephenemyia auribarbis - dorsal view

25th July 2010

While on yet another visit to the Highlands of Scotland, Roger and I visited a woodland on the lower slopes of a mountain near Braemar. As is usual in Scotland there were plenty of day-flying moths and we disturbed a large number from birch trunks and the lichen covered rocks. The main species seen were Grey Mountain Carpet, Common Marbled Carpet, Twin-spot Carpet and Scoparia ambigualis, but there were also some more unusual species including Udea uliginosalis, Heath Rivulet and Chestnut-coloured Carpet. The latter moth should not have been a surprise, as we were surrounded by its larval food plant, which is Juniper. The adult moth is not large at around 13mm forewing length and as its name suggests is chestnut in colour and only likely to be mistaken for the larger Grey Pine Carpet, or Spruce and Juniper Carpets which fly later in the season.

Chestnut-coloured Carpet Thera cognata is a Notable (Nb) species and widespread where Juniper grows in Scotland, but only local in England and Wales.

Chestnut-coloured Carpet  Copyright Martin Evans

Chestnut-coloured Carpet Thera cognata - Braemar

12th July 2010 evening

On leaving Skye we travelled back through Glen Moriston where we decided to set up the moth trap. Apart from the thousands of biting midges (it is not an exaggeration that the worst place for midges is on Skye and the near mainland) we did have some interesting moths, including Scotch Annulet and a couple of Great Brocade Eurois occulta

The moth shown below is of the dark form of Great Brocade that is native to the Highlands and central Scotland. It flies during July and early August. There is also a paler immigrant form that has been recorded in low numbers across most of Britain with a few records from northern Ireland. It appears later, usually from late August through September.

The larvae feed mainly on Bog Myrtle, but also herbaceous plants, sallows and birch. It is a large moth. The one in the picture had a forewing length of 25mm.

Great Brocade Eurois occulta    Copyright Martin Evans

Great Brocade Eurois occulta - Glen Moriston

12th July 2010 afternoon

It is very noticeable that the further north you travel in Britain, the more moths you can find during the day. Why this is the case I do not know, but it could be due to the short summer nights which may not give enough time for the moths to feed and mate etc. Many species such as the Common Carpet that would be classed as 'easily disturbed' during the day in southern England, fly freely across the moors of Scotland, and sometimes in large numbers. 

We had heard that this was the case with the Magpie Moth Abraxas grossulariata, but while in Skye, Roger and I were amazed at just how many we saw flying at once. While walking the hills to the south-west of Portree we came across an area of heather where we estimated that there were a couple of thousand moths, either flying over, or resting on top of the heather. Although common, the numbers we saw made us take a fresh look at the moth and realise how attractive it is. 

The larvae feed on a wide variety of shrubs including Hawthorn, Blackthorn, Currant, Gooseberry and Privet. A favourite garden food plant is the Evergreen Spindle Euonymous japonica. This used to be popular as a hedging plant. 

On the Scottish moors the food plant is Heather. We found a clue to this, as amongst the heather we found a number of empty pupal cases. These are distinctive, as they are ringed with yellow.

Magpie Moth  Abraxas grossulariata  Copyright Martin Evans

Magpie Moth - Portree, Skye.

Magpie Moth  Abraxas grossulariata pupa   Copyright Martin Evans

Empty Magpie pupa case - Portree, Skye

7th July 2010

Having recently searched for (and found) the Hornet Clearwing in Gloucester, we decided to search for the Lunar Hornet Clearwing while at Studland in Dorset. We had already looked at known sites nearer Bristol where others had already found them, but with no luck. 

Unfortunately after getting up early and searching probably a few thousand Grey and Crack Willows we decided that either we were incredibly unlucky, or that the recent heat wave had meant an early emergence this season. 

Despite our disappointment we made the best of it and found other moth species including Argyresthia retinella, several Brown China-mark and a beautiful specimen of Acleris hastiana. The latter tortricoid is one of the most variable of British moths. They can have a diagonal band running from the costa, a lengthways stripe down the wing, or as in this case a stripe and a diagonal band from the costa. The larvae feed on Grey Willow Salix cinerea and other Salix species. They are most common in southern and eastern England, especially near the coast, but they are widespread and there are a few records even in the north of Scotland.

Acleris hastiana  Copyright Martin Evans

Acleris hastiana  Studland

5th July 2010

When travelling around Britain it is surprising how often that Roger and I find a species that is new to us, yet apparently common in the part of the country we are in. This is usually because the habitat is unusual.

In this case the habitat was the Suffolk and Norfolk Brecks which often have very thin soils of sand and dust. In the remaining unfarmed and wild areas, there is an abundance of wild flowers, because the poor soils mean the plants do not have to compete with the coarse grass species normally found on the heavier clay soils. These areas also support an abundance of insect species including moths such as Oblique Striped, Forester, Small Elephant Hawk-moth, Reddish Light Arches and Four-dotted Footman, all of which we saw on our trip.

An unusual grass bug that we found was Chorosoma shillingi, which looks more like a stick insect than a bug. It is found mainly on the thinner soils of south east England, and the coasts of south Wales, north Wales and north-west England. The one we found was about 16mm long and difficult to see when sitting lengthways on a dry grass stem.

Chorosoma shillingi   Copyright Martin Evans

Chorosoma shillingi   Suffolk Brecks

2nd July 2010

A visit to woodland north of Southampton produced several interesting sightings. Included amongst these were White Admiral, Silver-washed Fritillary, Dusky Cockroach, the red and black click beetle Ampedus pomorum and a many specimens of the leaf beetle Gonioctena viminalis.

Although Gonioctena viminalis usually looks like a 6mm long red ladybird, this species is variable in colour and pattern. The background colour varies from red to yellow, but the spots may also vary to form streaks, or even cover the background so that the beetle is black. Both the adult and larvae feed on willows, but have also been recorded from other deciduous trees including poplars, alder and apple.

Gonioctena viminalis   Copyright Martin Evans

Gonioctena viminalis  - woodland near Southampton.

26th June 2010

While travelling across Aberdeenshire on the A944 towards Alford, Carolyn and I came across what looked like dozens of trees and shrubs sprayed with artificial snow. On investigation we found it to be a very large infestation of  Bird Cherry Ermine Yponomeuta evonymella. The main trees to be cloaked in silk were Alders Alnus glutinosa, but a wild plum Prunus sp. was also being eaten. The silk totally covered the branches, twigs and trunks and most of the trees had no remaining leaves, despite thousands of caterpillars still being present. The surrounding ground flora was also covered in silk, including Stinging Nettles, False Oat-grass and Nipple-wort, although I could not be sure that these were actually being eaten.

Yponomeuta evonymella larval silk on shrubs  Copyright Martin Evans

Snow in summer - shrubs clothed in silk

Yponomeuta evonymella silk over tree  Copyright Martin Evans

River Don from the bridge at Kirkton of Forbes - larger trees were also covered

Yponomeuta evonymella larval tent  Copyright Martin Evans

A cluster of larvae, probably consisting of thousands

Yponomeuta evonymella larvae  Copyright Martin Evans

A couple of the culprits on grasses

20th June 2010

My partner Carolyn and I took a holiday on the banks of the River Dee near Braemar. This worked out well for both of us. As an artist she had beautiful views that she could paint, while I was in an area that supported many rare species of moths and other wildlife.

One of the many pleasures of the holiday was being able to watch the Red Deer cross the river from the cottage. They went towards Braemar in the evening and back towards the woods and mountains in the early morning. As we were on holiday we had the time to see both crossings on some days.

The first few deer were always nervous on leaving the woods at dusk, but as it became dark the rest would follow. They crossed the river quite close to where we stayed. The pictures below were taken from the window of the cottage, with the camera hand held using just a 105mm macro lens .

Red Deer about to cross the Dee  Copyright Martin Evans
Red Deer at dusk, about to cross the River Dee near Braemar
Red Deer first steps across the Dee  Copyright Martin Evans
Still nervous but starting to cross
Red Deer almost across  Copyright Martin Evans
Almost across
Red Deer across the Dee  Copyright Martin Evans
Feeling safe and off to feed in the fields around Braemar

3rd June 2010

A visit to Orlestone Forest in Kent ended in a session of moth trapping. Unfortunately the evening was not very warm despite the hot day preceding it, so we only caught about 30 species of moths. Amongst these were several Peacock Moth Macaria notata. This is a species that is frequent in the south-east of England, but scarce in our home area around Bristol. The Sharp-angled Peacock Macaria alternata is frequent in the right habitat around Bristol and as they look similar are often confused. There are several features that can separate them, but most of these are variable. Only the width of the bands through the centre of the forewing appear to be consistent.

Peacock Moth  Macaria notata Copyright Martin Evans

Peacock Moth  Macaria notata

Peacock Moth Sharp-angled Peacock
'Paw print' in forewing is clear and complete. Paw print' in forewing is small and incomplete.
Narrow band across the forewing through inner side of the paw print, continuing across the hind wing. No narrow band, but broad band of grey background colour across paw print, continuing across hind wing.
Thin brown line edging large scallop on outer forewing. Dark line edging large scallop on outer forewing.
Large dark blotch at outer end of costa almost square. Large blotch at outer end of costa more triangular.
Line edging wing at base of cilia continuous. Series of dashes edging wing at base of cilia.


Sharp-angled Peacock Macaria alternata  Copyright Martin Evans

Sharp-angled Peacock Macaria alternata 

As already stated most of the features in the table are variable. You may find Peacock Moths with dotted lines around the wing or less distinct 'paw prints'. You may also come across Sharp-angled Peacocks with an almost rectangular blotch on the costa or a large, clear 'paw print'.

Although we did not trap many moths that evening, we were rewarded with an evening of Nightingale song, with at least a dozen males encountered while walking around the woods. We also heard the continuous "churr" of a Nightjar not far from the trap and saw a Woodcock 'roding' at dusk.





            Click for other Travel Notes