Thursday, 27 August 2015

A Swift one

This Orange Swift Triodia sylvina was new for the year in last nights moth trap.

Orange Swift Triodia sylvina

Friday, 14 August 2015


The moth trap is seeing plenty of action at the moment, and the new species for the garden keep on coming. This morning I found tow long-desired new species, as well as a mystery to be solved.

The first of the former was this cracking male Black Arches Lymantria monacha, a beautiful species of moth. I have looked on enviosuly as others have posted pictures of this species, and was delighted to find this resting on the wall of the house. This is a woodland species, which may explain why it has taken a while for it to find its way to me.

Black Arches Lymantria monacha

The second new species was the curious Pale Prominent Pterostoma palpina. This is one of those species that you need to look at closely to work out what is going on. The long 'face' is formed by the extended labial palps and the 'tail' is formed of two tufts at the end of the abdomen.

Pale Prominent Pterostoma palpina

The mystery moth was this species of pug. I did not recognise it, but close examination revealed this to be a Golden-rod Pug Eupithecia virgaureata. This is tricky species and I would not fancy having an attempt if it was not a fresh specimen. The tuft of white scales on the top of the abdomen, subtlety of wing shape and fine detail of wing marking help to distinguish it from the similar Grey Pug E. subfuscata.

Golden-rod Pug Eupithecia virgaureata

Wednesday, 12 August 2015

A Thorny issue

Today started with a quick check of the moth trap. There was a reasonable catch, not huge numbers but a couple of nice new species for the year. The first was this Purple Thorn Selenia tetralunaria, a species of woodland and heathland. Unlike the Early Thorn S. dentaria which resolutely holds its wings close, this moth rests with its wings slightly open. There are a few other plumage features that help to distinguish the pair. The half moon like crescent markings on the underside of both the hind and forewings gives the species name tetralunaria (four moons).

Purple Thorn Selenia tetralunararia

The other new species was this Six-striped Rustic Xestia sexstrigata. It feels a little early to be catching this species, as the last post said it is a sign that autumn is coming.

Six-striped Rustic Xestua sexstrigata

When I am working from home I both manage to go through the moth trp before starting work and half a wander in the garden over lunchtime. This lunchtime I found this species of fly in the front meadow. I popped it in the spi-pot and had a closer look. This is in fact a species of hoverfly and can be easilt identified as Chrysotoxum bicinctum by the two yellow, chocolate wing patches and long forward-pointing antennae.

Chrysotoxum bicinctum

Monday, 10 August 2015

Signs of Autumn

With the most promising overnight forecast we have had for several days I decided to put out the MV Robinson moth trap on Saturday night. It was clear when I turned the trap on, but with high temperatures and predicted overcast conditions I though it was looking promising.

I was proved right in the morning. Though not quite matching the 600 moths of 'Mothageddon' a couple of weeks ago, the final totals were still impressive - 474 moths of 84 species. A quarter of the moths were Large Yellow Underwings Noctua pronuba, but otherwise there was a nice mix of moths with three new species for the garden and several new for the year. There were also not too many identification headaches, just a couple of tortrixes that I managed to pin down today.

Straight to the new species, and the first was a moth that I suspect I have overlooked in the past. This was the Buff Footman Eilema depressa, with two individuals. This was one of four species of footman recorded, with 36 Scarce Footman E. complana, 23 Common Footman E. lurideola and four Dingy Footman E. griseola.

Buff Footman Eilema depressa

The seconde new species was another that I have potentially overlooked in the past, though I am usually quite stringent on checking all of the Common Marbled Carpets Dysstroma truncata I catch. This is of course the Dark Marbled Carpet D. citrata, which can be separated by the shape of the post-median line on the underside of the hindwing amongst other subtle characters.

Dark Marbled Carpet Dysstroma citrata

Posing much less of an identification headache was this beautiful Broad-bordered Yellow Underwing Noctua fimbriata. This moth shows some sexual dimorphism, with females typically being a more orangey-buff, as with this individual, as opposed to the darker brown of the males. This species is pretty common and the larva feed on quite a range of different shrubs, though it is not a moth that I typically catch in significant numbers.

Broad-bordered Yellow Underwing Noctua fimbriana

Continuing on the yellow underwing theme, I also recorded the most diminutive of the group, this Least Yellow Underwing Noctua interjecta. This is not a common species, indeed I have only caught one individual before, so was a notable record for the garden.

Least Yellow Underwing Noctua interjecta

As the title of this blog suggests, there were some signs that autumn is just around the corner. In the late summer and into early autumn the Antler Moth Cerapteryx graminis becomes a regular feature in my moth trapping sessions. This is possibly my favourite moth, so my first record for the year has to feature on this blog. A real little stunner.

Antler Moth Cerapteryx graminis

Another notable species on Saturday night was Tawny-speckled Pug Eupithecia icterata. This is a moth I have again only recorded on one previous occasion, but there were three found resting on the garden furniture by the trap. One of the foodplants of this species is Yarrow Achillea millefolium, which I have let grow in profusion in the garden. Will this become a more regular species?

Tawny-speckled Pug Eupithecia icterata

Amongst a couple of mystery micro moths that had to be held over to today, one of them proved to be a new tortrix species Zeiraphera ratzeburgiana. This is a worn individual, which slowed down the identification process as this species shows a lot of tawny and black colouration. But detailed examination nailed it. This moth gets its name from the German entomologist J.T.C Ratzeburg.

Zeiraphera ratzeburgiana

There was also a new generation of Teleiopsis diffinis, a speciality in my garden, This species feeds on Sheep's Sorrel Rumex acetosa, which I let grow commonly in my garden and there were four of these moths in the trap.

Teleiopsis diffinis

So another good moth trapping session, and the yearlist has moved up to 275 species. I am hopeful of breaking the 300 barrier for the first time this year.

Sunday, 9 August 2015

Wollerton Wetlands

This months Shropshire Invertebrate Group meeting took place at Wollerton Wetlands. This site is to the west of Market Drayton and was created when the bypass around the village of Hodnet was built. As it was a site I was unfamiliar with I was not sure what to expect, but it ended up being a super little site with a large pool surrounding by a good variety of plants and scrub and with bountiful nectar sources.

A few species were particularly abundant. Now is the time of year to check ragwort plant for the caterpillars of the Cinnabar Moth Tyria jacobaeae. There seemed to be dozens of these juicy orange and black caterpillars clinging onto every ragwort plant around the site, with a population of a few thousand individuals. This is a great species for people starting out on entomology, as they are so attractive, distinctive, common and easy to find.

Cinnabar Moth Tyria jacobaeae

They other species that seemed to be on site in the hundreds was the Harlequin Ladybird Harmonia axyridis. This invasive species was present in every conceivable variation of markings, just one of which is shown here. The brown legs and wide keel on the elytra appear to be consistent features for this species, which can often catch people out with some of the variations looking similar to native ladybird species.

Harlequin Ladybird Harmonia axyridis

Amongst the common species, there were some that were new for me. This included the impressive four-banded longhorn beetle Leptura quadrifasciata. This is actually quite a common species, and is hopefully something I will begin to see more regularly.

Leptura quadrifasciata

As well a new beetle, I also saw a new bug. There were several species of shieldbug (Hemiptera) on one of the birch (Betula) trees, and this included several Parent Bug Elasmucha grisea. This is the final instar nymph, the streaking on the front half of the upperside is diagnostic of this species.

Parent Bug Elasmucha grisea

I was also able to pin down the identity of a tachinid fly that I have been seeing around the garden recently. I found a few of these on the site, and they proved to be Eriothrix rufomaculata, with the attractive red sides and spine on the abdomen. Whilst the adults are nectar feeders, the species is parasitic, with the larvae developing inside the larvae of moth species.

Eriothrix rufomaculata

Monday, 3 August 2015


I spend a happy hour in the garden yesterday afternoon observing the mating behaviour of the Conopidae (thick-headed flies), such are the passions of a Dipterist. The species in question was Sicus ferrigineus, a fly that we have been seeing in the garden over the last couple of weeks, favouring the scabious (Scabiosa) flowers.

The pairs of flies stayed latched together throughout. I assumed that the deed had already been done, and the male was ensuring that no other male could dislodge his sperm and mate with the female. The female was nectaring on flowers (she probably needed the energy), though her flight was not quite as agile as normal with the extra baggage.

Sicus ferrugineus

This was all very nice and romantic, but things were about to get a whole lot more interesting. There was another male taking close account of the goings on and he decided that he wanted to get involved with a bit of menage-a-trois action. He latched onto the back of the male, with the triple decker causing the female to become a bit more laboured. When trying to fly to another flower the group dropped like a stone, with the interfering male shaken off. He tried a couple more times, but did not manage to dislodge male number one.

Sicus ferrugineus

Sunday, 2 August 2015

Mint Condition

The weather has improved from mid-week, mainly in that it is a bit warmer. Having only caught three moths the last time I put out the moth trap, I decided to have another go on Saturday evening. Part of the spur was this lovely little moth found by Jo in the garden. It is a Pyrausta aurata, commonly referred to as a mint moth (though the larva feed on a variety of different herbs), and it is a new record for the garden.

Pyrausta aurata

This morning there were 102 moths of 51 species, quite a nice haul. This included a few new moths for the year, including five of this lovely little micro moth Carcina quercana. As the scientific name suggests, this is a feeder on Oak (Quercus), though it will also use Beech (Fagus) and both are found in and around the garden. This is the first micromoth I identified when I started moth trapping, partly helped by the fact that it features on the front cover of my micro moth book.

Carcina quercana

Another moth that I recorded on my very first trapping session was Scalloped Oak Crocallis elinguaria, but since then I have only caught one indivudal. That changed this morning with two nice examples in and around the trap.

Scalloped Oak Crocallis elinguaria

A moth which has proven to be a bit more regular in the high summer is Catoptria pinella. This was the first appearance of the year for this beautiful little moth. It is generally not a common garden species, as it is locally distributed and likes damp grassy habitats. I seem to do quite well for it here though.

Catoptria pinella

One of the commonest micro moths in the garden, and in fact in the whole of the country, is Celypha lacunana. There were two really fresh individuals in the trap of this smart little moth,  which I thought were worth getting a photograph of. This moth has catholic tastes, and will use a wide variety of herbaceous plants, which must be one of the secrets of it's success.

Celyp[ha lacunana

Another very common moth here is the Holly Tortrix Rhopobota naevana. Whilst this moth can appear to be quite variable between individuals, the basic pattern is always the same and it's flattened body makes it very distinctive once you are familiar with it. I have also recorded the larvae of this moth in the garden, in folds of holly leaves.

Holly Tortrix Rhopobota naevana

One of the moths that I caught for the first time in my bumper 600+ catch in mid-July was Small Dotted Buff Photedes minima. Unfortunately the moth escaped before I was able to photograph it, but this morning I was given a second chance with two individuals in the trap.

Small Dotted Buff Photedes minima