Monday, 20 July 2015


I had a busy weekend ahead and was working from home on Friday, so decided to set the moth trap on Thursday night. Whilst it was a warm and cloudy forecast, there was a fair breeze, so I thought I would have plenty of time to go through the trap before starting work.

As usual, I got out of bed at 5am to turn off and cover the trap, planning to get straight back into bed and then go through the trap after breakfast. As soon as I got outside, however, these plans were quickly shelved. There were moths all over the lawn, on the garden furniture, the wall of the house and the sheet I use to screen the trap from the road. One of the first moths I saw was this fabulous Scarce Silver-lines Bena bicolorana, brand new for the garden and a sign of what was in store. This is described on the UK moths website as possibly our most immaculate-looking moth, and I find it difficult to disagree.

Scare Silver-lines Bena bicolorana

The moths were not alone, with many other insects, in particular the numbers of Orange Ladybird and lacewing species were well into double figures. After an couple of hours picking up moths from the area around the trap and either potting the interesting species for later identification or photographs, I checked to see what the totals were. It was 180 moths, and I had not even looked inside the trap!

Sticking with the green theme, this mint-green coloured moth on the outside of the trap was my first Small Emerald Hemistola chrysoprasaria. This seemed an unusual species for me to find, as it is usually found around chalk downland and limestone with the larva feeding on Clematis vitalba. Not what I would expect on the sandstone of the Long Mynd.

Small Emerald Hemistola chrysoprasaria

If I thought that the Small Emerald was a good record, once I started opening the trap I found something even better. I potted this moth and had a look later on in the day, I did not recognise it and with the books it appeared to be a Silky Wainscot Chilodes maritima. However, this species is a reed (Phragmites) feeder, and though it is quite dispersive, there are no significant reedbed within tens of miles. I posted this on twitter to get confirmation that I was right, and this duly arrived quickly. It was a Silky Wainscot, and a first for Shropshire!

Silky Wainscot Chilodes maritima

Going through the trap was quite an experience. There were Chrysoteuchia culmella flying out whenever I tried to grab a new egg tray, I recorded at least 113 of these. Large Yellow Underwing Noctua pronuba were exploding off the trays, there were 30 of these. There were 32 each of Common Footman Eilema lurideola and Dark Arches Apamea monoglypha, along with 30 Heart & Dart Agrotis exclamationis. Most of the species were in ones and twos however, with only a dozen or other species breaking double figures.

In total there were 17 new moths for the garden. One of the species that is actually pretty common and I would have expected to have recorded before is Light Arches Apamea lithoxylaea. This species feeds on several grasses, which makes it quite widespread, but is more often attracted to sugar than to light.

Light Arches Apamea lithoxylaea

Though not a new species for the garden, one of the highlights was this wonderfully fresh Gold Spot Plusia festucae. This species prefers damp habitats, such as fens, river banks and wet meadows. It is a beautiful species.

Gold Spot Plusia festucae

I also had my first two Confused Apamea flava of the year. This is one of the specialities of my garden, as I record this each year in moderate numbers. It is not a common species and is accocated with coastlines and hills inland.

The Confused Apamea flava

Most of my new species were micromoths, some of which took quite a bit of effort to identify. In fact it was not until today (the following Monday) that I identifed the last couple of species. Quite a few of the moths were quite straightforward, such as this male Large Fruit-tree Tortrix Archips podana. As the name suggests, this is assocaited with fruit trees particularly Malus and Prunus species.

Large Fruit-tree Tortrix Archips podana

This distinctive species proved to be Blastodacna hellerella, found on hawthorn (Crataegus), where the larvae burrow into the berries.

Blastodacna hellerella

I also recorded this Notocelia species, one of three very similar species. I have caught these moths before, but they have been quite worn and I have not been happy enough to identify down to the correct species. This lovely, fresh example allowed me to determine this as Notocelia trimaculana, another species associated with hawthorn.

Notocelia trimaculana

Another new tortrix species was this Epagoge grotiana, a distinctive speces associated with broad-leaved woodland. This was probably my favourite micromoth of the morning, and an easy one to identify.

Epagoge grotiana

The final two species to identify proved a lot more challenging. This rather worn tortrix appears to be Epinotia abbreviana, a highly variable species that is tricky enough when it is fresh. This species requires elm (Ulmus sp.), as with the White-letter Hairstreak I blogged about yesterday. I will need to confirm this one with the county recorder.

Epinotia abbreviana

Last were a couple of the Gelechids, which defeated me. I sent the pictures to Stephen Palmer at the Gelechid Recording Scheme, who was happy to identify these as Exoteleia dodecella. The larvae of this species feeds internally on the needles of pine (Pinus sylvestris), which is a bit of a mystery as this is not a tree I have noticed in the vicinity of the garden.

Exoteleia dodecella

My totals for the session would end up as a straggering 600 moths of 128 species! All in all it was a remarkable experience. I spend at least ten hours going through the trap and identifying species after the event, the sheer number of unfamiliar moths made it a real challenge. I would be quite happt with a few less next time, or I am going to need ot order a lot more pots!

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