Saturday, 27 June 2015

Caring for God's Acre

Caring for God's Acre is a super charity, which is based locally in Craven Arms. Their objectives are very much what it says on the tin, they are about churchyards and burial grounds being managed for nature and heritage.

Churchyards and burial grounds can be wondeful for wildlife, often being quite significant areas of green space with little disturbance. A good example is the cemetary on Longden Road in Shrewsbury.  Here much of the site has been left uncut, with great results. The site is effectively a wildflower meadow, with Oxeye Daisy Leucanthemum vulgare and Orange Hawkweed Pilosella aurantiaca prevalent amongst the long fine grasses. A friend of mine was approached by the charity to do some moth trapping as part of a public event, and I was asked along to help.

We set up three traps and left them overnight - my MV Robinson safely in a garden across the road from the cemetary, and two actinic traps in the cemetary grounds (connected to a power source in perhaps not the safest manner). This did the goods, and we had a very nice selection of moths to show to people the following morning.

Somewhat predictably considering the location, the very first moth I saw when approaching the traps in the morning was a female Ghost Moth Hepialus humili, leading to many a humourous (if possibly in poor taste) comment throughout the morning. These moths get the 'ghost' part of their name from the white males, which hover over long grass to attract females.

Ghost Moth Hepialus humili

Continuing the gothic theme, the next moth I saw was a Blood-vein Timandra comae. I could not resist posing the moth on a memorial stone for this picture. The larvae of this species feeds on dock (Rumex sp.)

Blood-vein Timandra comea

One of the reasons I like to help with these events is that the opportunity to trap somewhere new often leads to me recording species I have not seen before. In this case I saw four new species. Two of these were closely related geometrid moths - Dwarf Cream Wave Idaea fuscovenosa and Treble Brown Spot Idaea trigeminata. Dwarf Crean Wave is common in the South of the country, but becomes more local going further north. Treble Brown Spot has distinctive patterning, though this one had seen better days, and is an uncommon species of woodland edges in the southern half of Britain.

Dwarf Cream Wave Idaea fuscovenosa

Treble Brown Spot Idaea trigeminata

There were also two new micromoths, though perhaps not the most inspiring species. Ephestia unicolorella is quite a scarce species, which took a while to identify. This is a scarce species and has only been recorded on a small number of occasions in Shropshire. The nominate species occurs in Europe, those in the UK are of the subspecies unicolorella.

Ephestia unicolorella

The other micromoth, a gelechid, was one I identified later at home. Though not a species I am familiar with, it is quite common and distinctive, and identification as Teleiodes vulgella is quite straightforward. The larvae of this moth feed on shrubs, particularly hawthorns (Crataegus).

Teleiodes vulgella

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