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.
Early in November Roger visited
woodland in central Gloucestershire in search of the Plumed Prominent, a moth
that flies from late October and on through November into December. On his first
attempt he did not find it despite catching plenty of moths. These included several
Red-green Carpet, a Dark Chestnut and a Northern Winter Moth.
On his second trip on 17th
November he caught several Northern Winter Moth, a Chestnut, a
Satellite (the form with a white stigma and satellites), Acleris
hastiana (the streaked form) and a male Plumed Prominent.
Plumed Prominent Ptilophora plumigera
The Plumed Prominent Ptilophora
plumigera is a species that is found locally in the central south and
south-east of England. The only northern records seem to be three late 19th
Century larva records for Northumberland.
The moth has a national status of Na,
but may be more widespread as it
is likely to be under recorded. This is because it flies at a time when few moth traps are
being run other than in gardens. This means a concerted effort would be needed
to find it.
The larvae of this species feed mainly
on Field Maple, but also on Sycamore. The specimen in the picture had a forewing
length of 17mm.
Although not really a 'travel note' as
the title at the top of the page says, the following beetle had obviously
travelled, even if I had not.
On 26th June this year I was
about to leave our garage through a door which leads into the house when I
noticed a beetle standing up on its hind legs and leaning against the bottom of
the window pane, obviously attracted to the light of the kitchen.
I put the beetle in a glass pot and
took it into the light of the kitchen so that I could have a look at it. It was
about 9mm total length (jaws to tip of abdomen) and orange brown in colour with
two cream coloured spots on each elytra (wing cases). I recognised it as a
longhorn beetle, but I had never seen a similar species. I checked the books I
have, but still had no clue to what it was except that it might well be an alien
species introduced accidentally into the house.
This was a mystery in itself as the
wood that I had stored in the garage had been there for six or seven years and
although the lifecycle of longhorn beetles may take a while, I thought that this
was too long a period for the wood to be the likely source.
After taking a few pictures I decided
to give it to Ray Barnett who is the
collections manager for
Bristol Museums, Galleries & Archives. He checked it against the
Museum coleoptera collection, but did not find anything similar. Ray decided to
send one of my pictures to the Natural History Museum in London, so that they
could identify it.
This message came back from Max Barclay
the Collections Manager and Senior Curator of
Beetles (Coleoptera) and True Bugs (Hemiptera) at the
Department of Entomology.
"Your beast is
Stenygrinum quadrinotatum Bates
1873: Cerambycinae: Callidiopini
It is from the Russian Far East, China, Korea and Japan; I have not heard of
invasive populations though it has been listed a pest in Japan I think; probably
like Agrilus planipennis and Anoplophora glabripennis (both now
serious pests in USA). It was imported with wood products as larvae.
I don't suppose you have a spare
It is likely that the species is new to
Britain and that is why there was an identification problem.
I have given further thought to its
source and have decided that it may be from a wooden shelter that my partner
Carolyn uses for her Guinea Pigs when they are in their run in the garden.
The shelter forms an arc and is made
from sticks (of several species) wired together. On inspection a few of the
sticks (which looked similar in colour and texture) had exit holes in them. The
shelters are imported into the UK by a company based in Germany, but I do not
know from where.
Bordered Straw Heliothis
peltigera is a regular migrant (although not found every year) often
reaching as far north as Yorkshire and Lancashire and occasionally as far north
as the Shetland Isles and Northern Ireland. They usually arrive between June and
September, but may be earlier or later. In years of high migrant activity,
larvae are sometimes found, especially in the southern coastal counties. They
feed on a wide variety of low growing plants. The moth in the picture below had
a forewing length of 16mm.
Bordered Straw Heliothis peltigera - Portland
The Ni Moth Trichoplusia ni has also become a regular,
but not common migrant over the last decade. It looks similar to the Silver Y,
but has a more ornate outer forewing and often has the 'y' broken into two
separate parts. It occasionally breeds in Britain, but does not survive the
winter. The larvae feed on herbaceous plants such as Mouse-eared Hawkweed and
Sea Rocket, as well as cultivated species such as Cabbage, Cucumber, Tomato and
marigolds. The specimen in the picture had a forewing length of 16.5mm.
Ni Moth - Portland.
is an occasional migrant in Britain, arriving mainly from July to October from
southern Europe. It is widespread and is found in the tropics as far away as
Fiji and Australia. It is not known to have bred in Britain. The lifecycle is
unclear although the larvae may feed on plants in the Brassica family. It is a
micro-moth in the family Crambidae, with this moth having a forewing length of
Diasemiopsis ramburialis - Portland.
Two Small Marbled Eublemma parva
came to the light during the evening, one of them was the light form and the
other had dark contrasting markings. The larvae feed on plants such as Common
Fleabane and Ploughman's-spikenard. They have been known to breed in previous
years of high immigration, but 2011 seems to have produced quite a number of
breeding reports. Many of the moths produced from this breeding have been of the
There have been reports of the moth
being found in the day resting on the flower heads of Fleabane. The paler moth
that we caught had a forewing length of 6.5mm, the darker moth was larger at
Small Marbled Eublemma parva - pale form,
Small Marbled Eublemma parva - dark form,
The Mendip Hills in Somerset. We had
intended to visit some moorland on the Mendips, but as we got near to the site,
the sky got clearer and the air got cooler. Instead of staying at the 15C that
it was when we left Bristol, it was already down to 10.5C when we reached the
site. The speed that the temperature was dropping persuaded us that a more
sheltered place was appropriate, and for that reason we moved to a sloping area
of limestone grassland sheltered by some adjacent woodland. Here the temperature
was warmer at around 13.5C.
We only set up one trap, which had a
125W MV bulb. Due to our change of site we started late, so the light went on at
8.30 pm, about half an hour after it was dark. Moths arrived almost immediately.
During the evening we attracted 18
macro-moth species, but no micros. Not a large number even for this time of
year, but with a clear sky and a large moon appearing over the horizon at around
10.00 pm conditions were not ideal. By 10.30 pm the moths had stopped coming to
the light and it was getting cooler, so we decided to pack up.
We did get some typical grassland
species such as Hedge Rustic Tholera cespitis and
Feathered Gothic Tholera decimalis, so we were not disappointed. The
Feathered Gothic appears to have been very common in the West Country this year.
The moth is widely distributed in England and Wales, but is found more sparsely
in southern Scotland and across Ireland. It flies in late August and September
on downland and other grassy sites. The species overwinters as an egg, with the
larvae emerging to feed on grasses in the spring. The specimen in the picture
had a forewing length of 19mm.
Feathered Gothic Tholera decimalis
Another beautiful species that came to
the light was Autumnal Rustic Eugnorisma glareosa. This moth is
widespread but local throughout most of Britain and Ireland. Northern moths are
mainly grey and black, while those in the south often have a rosy hue like the
one in the picture. The moth is on the wing in late August and September and as
the larvae feed on a wide variety of plants including heather, birches,
bluebells and grasses, it can be found in a variety of habitats from woodland
edge to moorland. It overwinters as a small larva. The moth in the picture had a
forewing length of 16mm.
Autumnal Rustic Eugnorisma glareosa
Nearly twenty years ago, the late Ken
Poole told me of a wetland site in the Mendips area of Somerset where Fen
Wainscot Arenstola phragmitidis could be found. Those living
in Lancashire, Cumbria, the east of England south of southern Yorkshire, or
along the southern coast east of south Devon may say, "So what, this is a common
species", but in most of the west country and Wales this moth is scarce.
So for the last twenty years I have
been meaning to go and check it out. The problem was that July and August (when
it is flying) are the busiest months for those interested in moths, so I never
quite got around to it. I either forgot it altogether, or remembered it in
mid-August and thought I would leave it until the following year and catch one
early in its flight period when I could get a good specimen to photograph.
This year Roger and I trapped for it
and were surprised how quickly we attracted one. We turned the light on at dusk
(which was about 9.25pm) and had one within ten minutes. In fact it was the
third moth to be attracted to the light. Another surprise was that the half
dozen we caught during the evening were nearly perfect. We expected at least
some of them to be damaged, as they were supposed to have been flying for
The Fen Wainscot larva feeds in the
stems of Common Reed Phragmites australis from April until June, then
pupates on the ground. The moth in the picture had a forewing length of 14mm.
Fen Wainscot Mendips, Somerset
Amongst the other fifty species we saw
that night were several Straw Underwing, the orange form of Tawny Pug,
Merrifieldia leucodactyla (a plume moth), Chilo
phragmatella, Catoptria pinella, Acleris emargana,
Acompsia cinerella and Depressaria pulcherrimella.
is widespread, but local in England, Scotland and Wales, but apparently very
rare in Ireland, with what appears to be a single record from Co.Clare.
The larvae feed on umbellifers such as
Burnet Saxifrage, Wild Carrot and Pignut. The adult moth has been recorded from
June until September. The specimen in the picture had a forewing length of 8mm.
Depressaria pulcherrimella Mendips,
Most people that get interested in
moths start off with the larger species known as macro-moths and many are quite
happy to stay with them. After all there are plenty of them and there are
several good books which allow a definite identification of all but a few which
need to have their genitalia checked. Why get involved with micro-moths that
require several more expensive books and because of the sheer number and variety
of forms are more difficult to identify?
Looking at it from a different view
point, perhaps it is this very difficulty and variety that keeps those that are
interested, 'hooked' on the subject.
While trapping in South Wales we
attracted a large number of Epinotia species. The variety of colours gave
the impression that there were several species involved. The similar size and
shape (7 to 8mm forewing length) gave us a clue that they were perhaps all the
Taking photographs of them in the same
pose and placing these photographs next to each other certainly helped, as this
showed the similarity in the markings despite their different colours and
The moths were Epinotia nisella
one of the more variable species. Four of the more pronounced forms we found are
shown in the pictures below.
The larvae of this moth feed from April
until June on Salix and Populus species, including Grey Willow,
Goat Willow, Aspen and other poplars. The habitat is therefore often wetland,
but they are also found in damp woodland, parks and gardens.
The moth flies during July and August.
It is found throughout Britain apart from much of the Highlands of Scotland.
South Wales near Abertillery. The large
hills that form the valleys of South Wales are in many cases clothed in Heather
and Bilberry forming large areas of moorland. Often the only shelter from the
wind is in the gullies formed by the water running off of these hills. It was
high up in one of these gullies that Roger and I decided to moth trap. As we do
not have a four wheel drive vehicle, the only way to get up there was to walk,
so we decided to use a portable trap that runs a 26W high UV bulb.
This was successful, as we saw hundreds
of moths during what was not a particularly warm night, although there were only
a couple of dozen species at the trap. This is not surprising as moorland does
not support as many species as other habitats such as woodland and botanically
By far the commonest moths were
Twin-spot Carpet and Northern Spinach, both of which can be found
commonly even in the day. They were resting on the heather in their hundreds
when we finished trapping at nearly 3.00 am in the morning.
One of the rarest moths that came to
the light was the Double Line Mythimna turca. This species
has a national status of Notable B, but appears to be declining. South
Wales does seem to be one of its strongholds, although elsewhere it is found
mainly in west Wales, Devon and North Cornwall with a more scattered
distribution across the Midlands and southern England.
The larvae feed on coarse grasses such
as Cock's-foot, and also Wood-rush. This is probably why we trapped it where we
did, as many species of grasses grow alongside the stream in the gully.
The moth is typically found in June and July in open woodland or parkland in the
south-east of England, or coarse, wet grassland in Wales. The specimen in the
picture had a forewing length of 21mm.
Double Line Mythimna turca
Easily the most spectacular moths of
the night were the seven Garden Tigers Arctia caja
that came in at exactly 12.30am and flew around the light at intervals until it
When moth trapping in the summer, if
you are not going to trap all night, then it is always worth keeping the light
on until about 1.00am, as many species do not fly until after midnight and the
majority of these seem to arrive at about 12.30am. If there are Garden Tigers
around, they tend to be quite punctual.
Garden Tiger Arctia caja
The moths are variable in colour and
pattern. The one in the picture has slightly broader white markings on the
forewings than 'normal' and no two moths have exactly the same pattern. In
captivity it is possible to produce even more forms by keeping them warm and
continuously breeding and selecting what you breed. Dark specimens with brown
rather than white forewings can be produced like this.
The moth flies in July and August. It
usually rests with its wings closed, but if disturbed opens its wings and bends
its head forward to show the red collar. It can also produce a fluid from
openings behind the head. The moth in the picture had a forewing length of 27mm.
Like the Double Line this moth is
declining in numbers. When I was a child in the early 1960s the larvae (known as
'woolly bears') were a common sight in warm weather, rapidly crawling across the
garden path or pavement. Nowadays, although they are said to be found commonly
in some coastal sites, on our trips we have found them only occasionally. The
moth is still considered a common species, as it is widely distributed over most
of Britain and Ireland, but it has suffered a massive decline in numbers.
The larvae feed on a variety of low
growing plants including dandelions, nettles and docks.
Garden Tiger Arctia caja - last instar
larva (length 45mm)
While visiting the Gordano Valley
National Nature Reserve in North Somerset, Roger and I searched the Grey Willows
for signs of Lunar Hornet Clearwing moth. On one of these trees we found signs
that a bird of prey was regularly using the tree as a place to rest while
plucking its prey. The branches were covered in rabbit fur and feathers.
I climbed onto the lower branches of
the tree to get a better look and to see if there were any clearwings that had
climbed up from the holes lower in the trunk.
Not long after that the rain came in
quite heavily, so we returned home. On the way back, I thought I felt something
inside the collar of my shirt and a bit later near my waist. I could not find
anything and dismissed it, although it did cause a conversation about moths that
had got inside our clothes while moth trapping, but then I forgot about it.
When I was at home I sat down to have
something to eat and felt something on my shoulder, then near my waist,
and then my side, all within a few seconds. A slight panic came over me
and I ripped of my tee shirt and shook it out on the floor, but found nothing.
I then looked down and an insect dashed
rapidly across my stomach which I caught in my hand and managed to get into a
pot. A more than slightly creepy experience. Although it creeped extremely fast.
The insect was a small 5mm long fly
called Ornithomyia avicularia which is a parasite of birds. I had
probably attached itself to me when I had climbed the tree. As a small child I
can remember my mother telling me not to climb trees. I had thought it was
because I might fall!
The fly had lost a wing. Whether this
had happened while down my shirt I don't know, but I found it hard to feel sorry
As can be seen in the pictures below,
the fly has a squat form and specially adapted feet with large claws so that it
can crawl between it's hosts feathers while gripping tightly to avoid being
shaken off. The mouth parts that are used to suck it's victims blood can also be
seen. These adaptions are similar to those of the Deer Fly that was shown on
this site in
Of the three British species of
Ornithomyia, this is the commonest. The slightly smaller Ornithomyia
lagopodis is usually found on Red Grouse, other game birds and waders, while
Ornithomyia fringillina (which is slightly smaller again and thought to
be rare in Britain) has been found on smaller birds such as Robin and Dunnock.
Ornithomyia avicularia has been
recorded from several birds of prey including Sparrowhawk and various owls, plus
a variety of other birds from Pheasants, to Starlings and Blackbirds.
Ornithomyia avicularia - dorsal
Ornithomyia avicularia - underside