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.

28th August 2012

This moth trapping session took place in one of the many small disused quarries on the Mendips. We used two traps with twin 20w compact blacklight blue bulbs. The lights were on from 9.10pm.

Our usual experience in late summer is that a few moths such as Green Carpets and Orange Swifts arrive at dusk, then there is a lull for up to an hour, then the moths gradually increase in number.

On this night most of the moths arrived during the first hour and a half, then it was very quiet with only about half a dozen species arriving in the next hour and a half, by which time we were getting a bit bored and decided to pack up at about 12.25am. We do not know why this happened, as there was no noticeable wind in the quarry and the temperature did not drop.

We recorded 40 species in total, with Shaded Broad-bar and Acrobasis suavella being the most abundant moths at the trap. Other species included Aspilapteryx tringipennella, Gracillaria syringella, Prays fraxinella, Monochroa cytisella, Acleris rhombana, Dusky Thorn and Pale Eggar.

Acrobasis suavella is one of several similar species in the family Pyralidae. It differs from the usually smaller and more common Acrobasis advenella in that the dots in the centre of the forewing are aligned at near right angles to the leading edge of the forewing rather than sloping backwards, and it lacks the distinct straight broad white bar at a quarter from the base of the wing.

Acrobasis marmorea is also similar, but is usually smaller and most of the base of the forewing of that species is red, rather than just part of the dorsal. The dorsal of A.marmorea is marked with a broad white bar at about half way along the length, and the dots in the centre of the wing are usually joined.

Acrobasis suavella is found locally on downland in southern England and even more locally in west Wales and the east of northern England. It feeds mainly on Blackthorn, but also on Cotoneaster spp., Hawthorn and perhaps other members of the Rose family. The moth in the picture had a 10mm forewing.

Acrobasis suavella      Copyright Martin Evans@WGUK

Acrobasis suavella

Two male Pale Eggar Trichiura crataegi arrived at the trap. This is a common species throughout most of Britain, although more local in southern Wales, south-west Scotland and very local in Ireland. It is found in a variety of habitats including woodland, moorland and even gardens. It flies in August and September, which is later than most of the other eggars.

The adults show little variation, unlike the similarly marked, but more variable Lackey. The larvae feed on a variety of deciduous trees and shrubs including Blackthorn, Hawthorn, birches, Hazel, sallows, Heather and Bilberry. The specimen in the picture had a forewing length of 13mm.

Pale Eggar Trichiura crataegi       Copyright Martin Evans@WGUK

Pale Eggar  Trichiura crataegi

10th August 2012

The Wye Valley has plenty of ancient woodland and is known for several rare moths such as Salebriopsis albicilla, Scarce Hook-tip and Pauper Pug that feed on the Small-leaved Lime. These species fly earlier in the summer and most of our previous visits have been around the time when they are flying. We decided to see what we could record at this time of year as it is obviously a rich habitat.

We trapped from 9.15pm until 1.20am using the two twin 20w traps. During this time we recorded 72 species of moth, plus a few other insects such as a Forest Bug, Leiopus nebulosus and two common horseflies which were Tabanus bromeus.

The moths included Roeslerstammia erxlebella, Zelleria hepariella, Batia lunaris, Barred Hook-tip, Orange Footman, Clouded Magpie, Mocha, Blomer's Rivulet, Tissue, Lesser-spotted Pinion, Gold Spot and a rather worn White-line Snout.

The Tissue Triphosa dubitata is a large moth in the family Geometridae, that is found locally throughout Britain and Ireland as far north as southern Scotland. The adults live from August until May, overwintering in caves and dark, disused buildings, which is usually the only time that they may be found in numbers.

The larvae feed on both Purging Buckthorn and Alder Buckthorn in woodland rides and scrub. Unlike the Scarce Tissue this moth often has red streaks across the forewing, which has a shiny (not rough) texture.  The specimen in the picture had a forewing length of 22mm.

Tissue Triphosa dubitata     Copyright Martin Evans@WGUK

Leiopus nebulosus is a not often seen, but common, long-horned beetle that lives in the tree canopy. The larvae feed under the bark of a variety of deciduous trees, but commonly oaks. Adults are most often found from May until August. The specimen in the picture below had a total length of 8mm.

Leiopus nebulosus     Copyright Martin Evans@WGUK

Leiopus nebulosus

8th August 2012

In the West Country it took until August to get one of those hot humid nights with next to no wind that is absolutely perfect for moth trapping. This had been a hot day and with such good conditions Roger and I decided to search out a site on the Mendip hills where there was calcareous grassland on the edge of mature woodland. This gave us two good habitats that would bring in a large amount of moths.

Due to access we used our two portable twin 20w actinic traps, which were set up out of sight of each other, but only about 50 metres apart. The lights were switched on at 9.20pm and were turned off at 1.30am by which time it was still very warm, but becoming misty and the grass was very wet. We attracted 122 species of moth. It was our best trapping night of 2012!

None of the moths were particularly rare, but there were many attractive and several locally scarce species.

The list included Monopis laevigella, Batia lambdella, Caloptilia alchimiella, Recurvaria leucatella, Brachmia blandella, Grapholita janthinana, Rosy Veneer Oncocera semirubella, Cryptoblabes bistriga, Gold Triangle Hypsopygia costalis, Mecyna asinalis, Leopard Moth, Grass Emerald, Small Yellow Wave, Barred Rivulet, Sandy Carpet, Tawny-speckled Pug, Maidens Blush, Chinese Character, Slender Brindle, Svensson's Copper Underwing and Rosy Minor.

The most abundant moths were Blastobasis adustella (80 plus) and Large Yellow Underwing (40 plus), of which I had been concerned about the low numbers in the previous month.

Although common the Chinese Character Cilix glaucata is a favourite moth with its unusual shape and markings. It is surprising that a moth that imitates a bird dropping can look so attractive. It gets its name from the metallic markings in the centre of the wing. It is in the family Drepanidae. While resting it is not easy to see the resemblance to the other hook-tips. Only when it opens its wings to fly does it become obvious that the wing shape is similar.

The moth flies in two generations, late April to June and July until September. It is found commonly in most of England, Wales and Ireland, less frequently in northern England and very locally in the west of Scotland.

The larvae feed on Blackthorn, Hawthorn, Apple and other species in the rose family. The moth in the picture had a forewing length of 12mm.

Chinese Character Cilix glaucata     Copyright Martin Evans@WGUK

Chinese Character Cilix glaucata

Not all insects that arrive at light traps are moths. On this particular night there was also a variety of caddis flies, lacewings, a few flies and some beetles. Perhaps the most interesting of these was Odontaeus armiger an 8mm long beetle with three 'horns' on its head and thorax.

It is associated with dry habitats such as calcareous grassland and sandy heaths, especially in and around rabbit burrows. It is thought that it may feed on soil fungi, but the family Geotrupidae of which it is a member mainly feed on dung. It has been found under cow dung and rabbit droppings.

The beetle flies in afternoon sunshine and in the evening when it is hot. It also flies after dark, which is how it got into our trap.

This is a not a common beetle. It has a National Status of Notable A. It is mainly distributed throughout the south-east of England, but also at least as far north as Northamptonshire and west as far as Dorset and Somerset. It is found most frequently in June and July, but there are records from May and as late as November.

Odontaeus armiger   Copyright Martin Evans@WGUK

Odontaeus armiger

25th July 2012

This moth trapping session was in coastal South Wales and with some hot weather in the day and warm humid weather in the evening, it promised to bring in a larger number of moths than we had seen recently. We were not disappointed, as using two traps each with two 20w compact, blacklight blue fluorescents, we recorded 84 species between 10.00pm and 2.00am.

The moths included Argolamprotes micella, Calamatropha palludella, Chilo phragmitella, Donacaula forficella, Epinotia ramella, Large Emerald, Chevron, Round-winged Muslin, Crescent, Campion, Minor Shoulder-knot, Double Kidney, Double-line, Silky Wainscot, Pinion-streaked Snout and Marsh Oblique-barred.

Several of the above species inhabit reedbeds and this is the case with Chilo phragmitella which is a fairly large Crambid with sexually dimorphic adults. The female is usually large (up to 19mm forewing length) and pale, while the males are smaller (12 to 16mm) and darker with a more squared apex to the forewing.

They are locally widespread in the larger reedbeds across England and Wales becoming rarer in the north as far as south-east Scotland. They are found mainly along the east and southern coasts of Ireland. The females of Donacaula forficella are similar to the females of this species, but are usually slightly smaller (up to 17mm), with a broad dark streak the length of the forewing and lack the concave shape to the leading edge of the wing near the apex. The larvae of both species feed within the stems and roots of Common Reed and Reed Sweet-grass.

Chilo phragmitella - female     Copyright Martin Evans@WGUK

Chilo phragmitella - female

Chilo phragmitella - male     Copyright Martin Evans@WGUK

Chilo phragmitella - male

The Campion Hadena rivularis that came to one of the traps was fairly fresh and in this condition can easily be distinguished from the similar Lychnis Hadena bicruris because it has a purplish sheen across the forewings which the Lychnis lacks. This colouring fades with age and eventualy the moth becomes grey-brown like the Lychnis.

The larvae of both of these species feed in the seed pods of White, Red and Sea Campion. The Lychnis appears to more commonly use cultivated species such as Sweet William and is therefore more often found in gardens.

The Campion is a fairly common species and is found throughout Britain and Ireland including the Hebrides. The adult flies in May and June then again from late July until September. The one in the picture had a forewing length of 14mm.

Campion Sideris rivularis   Copyright Martin Evans@WGUK

Campion Sideris rivularis

18th July 2012

Early in the season Roger and I usually plan our trips for the year. They are based around the species that we want to photograph. Unfortunately these plans have not gone well this year due to the weather, but we have had a few successes.

Back in late May - early June we searched for the leaf mines of a micro-moth with the rather long name of Acrocerops brongniardella. This was mainly because we saw a picture of the moth on the website 'UK Moths' and the species was attractive with a wide distribution, and yet neither of us had ever seen it. We were unfortunate in that our searches drew a blank.

A few days later I decided to take a walk in a Bristol park which is managed by local people as a nature reserve. There was a brief period of sunshine, but it was rather disappointing as not much was flying and I had to wade through the mud in some areas due to the heavy rain.

I justified my wasted trip by collecting a few leaf mines from a sapling oak. I was fortunate that one produced the Acleris ferrugana in the earlier post (below 26th June), and some leaves with large blister-like mines produced the moth we had been looking for Acrocercops brongniardella. It was smaller than I had expected and without a magnifying glass looked like a brown wood splinter, but when magnified it was beautifully marked and had bright red eyes.

The moth is closely related to the Parornix and Caloptilia species and rests on its long legs with the same 'head up' pose. It feeds on a variety of oaks including the invasive Holm or Evergreen Oak. It is locally distributed across southern England, becoming scarce in northern England. It is scarce and perhaps under-recorded in Wales and locally distributed in Ireland.

Acrocercops brongniardella    Copyright Martin Evans@WGUK

Acrocercops brongniardella   Bristol

The main emergence appears to be in late July, but this is probably extended into the autumn. It overwinters and is found occasionally in most months of the year.

As it is difficult to find as an adult and as it is scarce in light traps, it may be under-recorded. The best way to find it appears to be a search for the large silvery blister mines which cover most of the upper surface of the oak leaf by early June.

14th July 2012

From the 7th to the 14th July, my partner Carolyn and I took a holiday in a woodland cottage in the Snowdonia National Park in north Wales.

Hafod Cottage is set in a clearing in mature woodland on a south-facing hillside west of Maentwrog, which is about half way between Porthmadog and Llan Ffestiniog.

The rain did not stop just because we were on holiday, but by dodging the showers we did manage to have an enjoyable week. Luckily from the mothing angle it was not too bad, as it often rained in the day and cleared up by late evening. I managed to use the moth trap on four of the nights, usually between 10.00pm and about 1.30 to 1.45am. Due to the seasons weather, the number of species was low for such a good habitat, with only about 40 or 50 moths recorded each night.

Although I did not record any great rarities, I did attract several moths that are nationally 'Local' or I had not seen for some time. These included regular visits by several Satin Lutestring, Triple-spotted Clay, Plain Wave, Barred Straw, Scalloped Shell and good numbers of  Satin Beauty.

We did not find many day-flying moths, although on two occasions we recorded Incurvaria praelatella on a woodland path. This is a small brown, metallic micro-moth with a cream bar across the wing, a cream triangular blotch on the tornus and another opposite on the costa. It is separated from similar species by a short white mark at the base of the forewing. The larvae feed on Wild Strawberry. I could not find previous records of the species in this part of Wales.

Perhaps my favourite moth that I saw during the week was a Scalloped Shell Rheumaptera undulata. This is a moth of wetland and damp woodland that is widespread, but local across Britain and Ireland as far north as southern Scotland. The larvae feed on sallows,  Billberry and Aspen. I did not notice Aspen, but the other species were frequent in the woodland. This specimen had a forewing length of 15mm.

Scalloped Shell Rheumaptera undulata      Copyright Martin Evans@WGUK

Scalloped Shell Rheumaptera undulata

The wet weather this year has affected the numbers of moths visiting traps, perhaps because they are actually low in number or perhaps because they are not moving very far within their habitat. Which ever it is, some species such as Hearts and Darts and many of the yellow underwing species appear to be less common in our traps.

In a 'normal' year, a dozen or more Heart and Darts or Large Yellow Underwings would have been recorded during a trapping session, but this year singles or perhaps two or three are being recorded.

There have been some exceptions to this. We have recorded more Satin Lutestrings this year and Buff-tips seem to be doing well.

It is amazing how well the adult Buff-tip has evolved to imitate a section of broken birch twig. For this reason I took the following pictures.

Buff-tip Phalera bucephala    Copyright Martin Evans@WGUK

Buff-tip Phalera bucephala

Buff-tip Phalera bucephala    Copyright Martin Evans@WGUK

Buff-tip Phalera bucephala

The Buff tip Phalera bucephala was a regular visitor during the week. The larvae feed on a wide variety of broad-leaved trees including birches, sallows and oaks. It is widespread and often common throughout Britain and Ireland, but less common in Scotland apart from the west. It flies throughout the spring and summer, and is very variable in size, from 22 to 34mm forewing length, with the smaller moths being males.





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