Monday, 28 September 2015

On the rampage

A regular sight resting on the walls of the house at the moment are these craneflies, with distinctively patterned wings held closed over the body. There are a few species flying at this time of year, but this species is Tipula confusa.

Tipula confusa

This is a late flying species, typically found from September to November. The larvae live in moss across a variety of habitats, which I suspect are not in short supply around the Shropshire Hills. There has been a lot of talk in the press in recent weeks about 'rampaging' craneflies. Not sure that I am too worried.

Friday, 25 September 2015


One of the typical autumn moths is the Lunar Underwing Omphaloscelis lunosa. For a few weeks in September and October this species will dominate the moth trap, sometimes being the only species.

A trap for the unwary or inexperienced, this moth comes in a wide variety of flavours, with colours ranging from yellowish-orange to dark brown, as this mornings catch demonstrates.

Lunar Underwings Omphaloscelis lunosa

This species is one of those that overwinters as a larvae, feeding on various grasses. This may be somewhat surprising, given the late appearance of this species in the year.

Tuesday, 22 September 2015


A couple of days ago Jo found a Red Admiral Vanessa atalanta caterpillar embarking on its pupation. This transformation was remarkably rapid. I photographed the caterpillar in the evening and the following day the chrysalis had formed, and by today it has hardened.

Inside that chrysalis the caterpillar will be breaking down and then reforming into a butterfly, in what is surely one of the most remarkable processes in the natural world. I think that it will take a couple of weeks for the adult butterfly to emerge. Whether I will be lucky enough to see it is another matter, but I will provide an update whatever the outcome.

Monday, 21 September 2015

In the pink

This Pink-barred Sallow Xanthia togata was new for the garden this evening. Now that I have started studying for my Entomology MSc, finding time to trap in the week is becoming more difficult. As a compromise I left on the front porch light, and just before turning in I checked and found this beautiful moth. It is typically a species of damp habitats.

Pink-barred Sallow Xanthia togata

Saturday, 19 September 2015


I had Frosties for breakfast this morning, or to be more accurate a Frosted Orange Gortyna flavago. This long-awaited first for the garden was part of a very productive trapping session, yielding 84 moths of 25 species.

Frosted Orange Gortyna flavago

The more surprising garden first was this Dark Sword-grass Agrotis ipsilon. This is a migrant, which appears in varying numbers between years. Unlike some of our other migrants, it has never been reliably proven to breed in the UK. The black 'sword' mark through the kidney marking helps to give the species it's name.

Dark Sword-grass Agrotis ipsilon

Other welcome moths included the first Black Rustic Aporophyla nigra of the year. This stunning moth is a species of heathland and downland, the larva feeding on plants including heather (Caluna) and dock (Rumex).

Black Rustic Aporphyla nigra

After a couple of years absence, I was also reacquainted with The Anomalous Stilbia anomala. This moorland species is one the specialities I have caught in the garden, with the moth being enticed down from the slopes of the Long Mynd.

The Anomalous Stilbia anomala

A much more familiar species is the Silver Y Autographa gamma. Another migrant species, it has been a very productive year for Silver Ys in the garden, with this year heading for the highest annual total I have recorded.

Silver Y Autographa gamma

Sunday, 13 September 2015

Old Pine

I held the annual All Stretton quiz night last night. A combination of asking quiz questions in a noisy room, drinking a few bottles Old Speckled Hen and a late night meant I was not at my best this morning. Consequently I was a bit late turning off the moth trap, and not quite awake when I went through the contents.

There were mercifully few moths, and amongst the catch there were no tricky identifications and lots of nice colourful moths to ease my hangover. The best moth was, as it so often is, outside the trap rather than inside it. In this case it was resting on the outside of the trap and a took a photograph and potted it for later identification as it was an unfamiliar species. It did not take long to identify it as a Pine Carpet Pennithera firmata, a new species for my Batch Valley garden. This moth occurs wherever there is Scots Pine Pinus sylvestris, which is a bit of a mystery as there is no Scots Pine I know of locally. I have already come across this conundrum, when I caught the gelechid Exoteleia dodecella back in July. There must be some Scots Pine trees lurking unknown in nearby gardens.

Pine Carpet Pennithera firmata

One of our finest autumn carpets is the Red-green Carpet Chloroclysta siterata, and it was very pleasing to find this individual on the inside of the moth trap lid. This is a species associated with deciduous trees, and is only a very occasional visitor to my trap.

Red-green Carpet Chloroclysta siterata

Amongst the noctuid moths, the various 'sallow' moths are a real treat. I was pleased to find this beautiful Sallow Cirrhia icteritia outside the trap. Again, this is a species I have caught on very few occasions. As the name might suggest, the larvae feed on the catkins of Salix species.

The Sallow Cirrhia icteritia

A typical micro moth of the late summer and early autumn is the Garden Rose Tortrix Acleris variegana. This is a really common moth in much of the UK, but in Batch valley it is a rarity. I think this is a species I have only caught once before, and two of these last night was therefore a bit of a surprise.

Garden Rose Tortrix Acleris variegana

Finally, I do not usually need much encouragement to post a picture of an Angle Shades Phlogophora meticulosa.

Angle Shades Phlogophora meticulosa

Thursday, 10 September 2015

Game of Thorns

If there was previously any doubt that autumn was now in full swing, it arrived last night in the moth trap. The first Lunar Underwing Omphaloscelis lunosa of the year always appears when the nights begin to draw in, the leaves begin to turn and the temperatures drop. This species will not be with me for a few weeks, and should become the commonest species in the moth trap. In previous years I have had double figure hauls of this moth with nothing else amongst them.

Lunar Underwing Omphaloscelis lunosa

There was also a 'Game of Thorns', with two well marked individuals of the Ennomos species. These were a Canary-shouldered Thorn E. alniaria, the Minion of the moth world, and a September Thorn E. erosaria. It has been a good year so far for September Thorn, I have recorded more so far than in the previous three years put together. There is plenty of birch Betula and oak Quercus close to me, two of the caterpillars food plants, suggesting a healthy population in Batch Valley.

Canary-shouldered Thorn Ennomos alniaria

September Thorn Ennomos erosaria

Tuesday, 8 September 2015

Beat It

I had a walk around the garden with some non-technical entomological kit today - a stick and a cardboard tray. A quick and easy way to find some fantastic species is to do some beating of tree and bushes, and i was not disappointed with the results.

This Pale Tussock Calliteara pudibunda larva was a great find in the front hedge. This is the first time I have seen the larvae of this species in the garden, whilst the adults are a regular feature of spring moth traps.

Pale Tussock Calliteara pudibunda

From the birch tree in next door garden was this Parent Bug Elasmucha grisea.

Parent Bug Elasmucha grisea

From the same tree was this harvest man Dicranopalpus ramosus.

Dicranopalpus ramosus

Sunday, 6 September 2015


The September Shropshire Invertebrate Group meeting took us to Prees Heath, the fantastic Butterfly Conservation reserve close to Whitchurch in the North of the county. Whilst we were too late in the season for the famous invertebrate attraction of the site, the Silver Studded Blue Plebejus argus, this was a site where we were bound to find plenty of late season interest.

It ended up to be a very enjoyable day. The weather was markedly better than it had been for several days, and as the sun shone the sweep nets and beating trays were deployed to good effect. I recorded several good species, including five species of ladybird, four species of bug, several moths and caterpillars and some nice diptera species.

The commonest shieldbug was the Gorse Shieldbug Piezodorus lituratus, though this individual was found on a Common Broom Cytisus scoparius, which seems to be preferred by the species. In fact, I am not sure I have ever seen seem on gorse (Ulex). This is an adult, though there were also some late stage instars to be seen.

Gorse Shieldbug Cytisus scoparius

A new species of bug for me was swept from some long grass on the site, these Myrmus miriformis. This is one of the Rhopalidae and is found in two colour forms, though I only found the green form on the site.

Myrmus miriformis

It was not just insects that were in evidence. There is also a large population of the spider Araneus quadratus. This adults of this spider appear in late August and early September, and it is often found in well scrubbed grassland habitats with plenty of gorse, which are robust enough for the webs to hold. This is an attractively patterned spider, and though colours can vary the basic pattern is always the same.

Araneus quadratus

Some of the more interesting finds was a good selection of moth caterpillars, with the larva of an impressive six moth species found on the site. The crowd-pleasers were these showy Poplar Hawk-moth Laothoe populi caterpillars, found on sallow (Salix). Though they were quite obvious and easy to find, I suspect that potential predators think twice before tackling them.

Poplar Hawk-moth larva Laothoe populi

Poplar Hawk-moth Laothoe populi

This mystery caterpillar required a bit of help from county moth recorder Tony Jacques to identify. It is in fact the larva of a Burnet Companion Euclidia glyphica, and it becomes one of a small number of species that I have seen in larval bu not adult form. The larvae feed on clover (Trifolium) and trefoil (Lotus).

Burnet Companion larva Euclidia glyphica

A more expected caterpillar to find on a heathland site was the heather (Caluna) feeder Beautiful Yellow Underwing Anarta myrtilla. This is a very distinctive caterpillar, beeing a deep green with distinct white and yellow markings.

Beautiful Yellow Underwing Anarta myrtilla

We also found these young Buff-tip Phalera bucephala larvae. These caterpillars live gregariously and, as with this group, can quickly defoliate entire branches of a range of deciduous trees.

Buff-tip Phalera bucephala

This pretty pink and white caterpillar was one that I recognised, and a quick check revealed this to be the larva of the 'Ling' Pug Eupithecia absinthiata f. goossensiata. Once a distinct species, this is now thought to be the heathland race of the Wormwood Pug. The adults of the two forms look different, and the larvae look even more different.

'Ling' Pug Eupithecia absinthiata f. goossensiata

Finally, with some more identification help from Tony, I found this True Lover's Knot Lycophotia porphyrea larva. Unsurprisingly, this is another feeder on Caluna.

True Lover's Knot Lycophotia porphyrea

Saturday, 5 September 2015

Sweet like Chocolate

A decent haul of moths, with over three hundred in an around the trap. There were three new species for the garden, and several new for the year.

On the outside of the house was this Red Underwing Catocala nupta, necessitating a ladder to climb up and check it. This giant moth has been recorded twice before in my garden, both times resting on the frame of the living room window in the day.

Red Underwing Catocala nupta

Red Underwing Catocala nupta

The first new species was this first Chocolate-tip Clostera curtula for the garden. This is a species I have been hoping to catch, and I was delighted to find it resting on the sheet by the trap.

Chocolate-tip Clostera curtula

The second new species was this attractive Oak Hook-tip Watsonalla binaria. It is fair to say that this species has not really been on my radar, so it was a nice surprise to find this moth resting in the grass by the trap.

Oak Hook-tip Watsonalla binaria

The third new species was one that was definitely on my radar, the Small Square-spot Diarsia rubi. I have been looking out for this specied for some, and scratching my head to work out why I was not recording it. Was I overlooking it? Having caught a couple last night I don't think so, it just took its time to appear.

Small Square-spot Diarsia rubi

The new species for the year where the expected selection of autumn moths. These were Dusky Thorn Ennomos fuscantariaHedge Rustic Tholera cespitis and Rosy Rustic Hydraecia micacea.

Dusky Thorn Ennomos fuscantaria

Hedge Rustic Tholera cespitis

Rosy Rustic Hydraecia micacea

Thursday, 3 September 2015

Autumn harvest

It was a warm night and ideal for moth trapping, but an early start for a meeting in Bakewell meant that this was off the table. With the nights beginning to draw in, I decided to put on the porch light for an hour before I went to bed to see if anything was attracted.

This proved to be a successful approach. Amongst a couple of Flounced Rustic Luperina testacea and the first Autumnal Rustic Eugnorisma glareosa of the year, I found this attractive grey moth. I did not know what it was, which is always a cause of excitement with a macro moth. So I got out my books, and on a hunch looked up a couple of species. This enabled identification as a Grey Chi Antitype chi, the black mark on the middle of the forewing being diagnostic. This is a moth of moorland and grassy hillsides, similar habitat preferences to many species I record here. The only surprise is that it has taken me this long to find one.

Grey Chi Antitype chi

As a departure from lepidoptera, I have been seeing this attractive harvestman scurrying about on the walls of the house in recent days. When I arrived back from my drive this afternoon, I finally managed to get a photograph and an identification. This is a male Leiobunum rotundum, an attractive species with a globular orange body and black legs, often found on walls.

Leiobunum rotundum