Tuesday, 30 June 2015

More from the moth trap

One of my next door neighbours is away on holiday, so I took the opportunity to set the moth trap in the more open area of the garden last night. I usually avoid this as the light would shine right into my neighbours bedroom window. As with other recent sessions, there were plenty of new moths and some real crackers amongst them. So straight down to business.

I am a sucker for a good looking tortrix, and this Aethes cnicana was just the ticket. One of the Tortricinae, this is a species that uses thistles (Cirsium).

Aethes cnicana

There was a Barred Yellow Cidaria fulvata, a species that I have been hoping for in the garde,n but as it is only locally distributed I thought I may have to wait a while. This moth decided not to pose nicely, so an 'in-the-pot' picture will have to do.

Barred Yellow Cidaria fulvata

Another new micromoth was Phycitodes binaevella, and I was pleased to find three of these in the trap. They were also pleased to find each other, as the below picture shows. The Phycitinae is a new family for me, and this is another thistle feeder with larvae using Spear Thistle Cirsium vukgare

Phycitodes binaevella

The absolute star of the show was this cracking little moth Sophronia semicostella.  I was delighted to see this. This is one of the Gelechids, identifed through the furry palps, white costal streak and banded cilia. It is thought to use Sweet Vernal Grass Anthoxanthum odoratum, which grows plentifully in my garden and on the Long Mynd. In Shropshire this species has never been recorded away from the three locations, and on only one occasion since 1987 when 14 came to light at Prees Heath.

Sophronia semicostella

Running a close second for moth of the day was this Sallow Kitten Furcula furcula. I have never really noticed any sallow (Salix) around the garden, though there are some further up the valley, so perhaps this is a slight wanderer. In whatever case it was quite unexpected.

Sallow Kitten Furcula furcula

There was also my first Swallow-tailed Moth Ouraptery sambucaria of the year. Though this is a moth I have recorded many times before, I have not seen one so fresh and undamaged, with both of the 'swallow tails' intact.

Monday, 29 June 2015

A bad day for Shieldbugs

A Garden Spider Araneus diadematus spent most of this afternoon dealing with an unfortunate Hairy Shieldbug Dolycoris baccarum. I took occasional trips outside to catch up with its progress, and by the evening the prey was secreted away.

Garden Spider Araneus diadematus with Hairy Shieldbug Dolycoris baccarum

I also managed to clear up a mystery today. I have been regularly seeing a fawn-coloured and quite hairy beetle in the garden, and thinking that I should to have a stab at identifying it (even after recent trials with trying to get beetle identificaiton to species level), afterall, perhaps there were not too many beetles of a similar colouration. I found one today on a Wild Carrot (Daucaus carota) and in the end identification seems to be relatively straightforward as an Orchid Beetle Dascillus cervinus. This is a locally distributed species, and one I will ask the county recorder about to confirm my identifcation.

Orchid Beetle Dascillus cervinus

Sunday, 28 June 2015

Whixall Moss

I took a trip away from Batch Valley yesterday afternoon to Whixall Moss. This is an absolutely fabulous site, and though I have been several times before I have not been at quite the right time of year for my main target - White-faced Darter Leuchorrhinia dubia. The trip proved to be highly successful and I had fabulous views of a male, though it avoided my best attempts to photograph it.

I did manage to photograph some of the other species on show. Raft Spider Dolomedes fimbriatus is a real speciality of the site. A species with a very restricted distribution in the UK, this is quite easy to find here and I found one in the first place I looked for it. They have a habitat of sitting motionless on the waters surface, waiting for prey to come past them.

Raft Spider Dolomedes fimbriatus

Another of the real specialities of the site is the Large Heath Coenonympha tullia, which is restricted to boggy habitats in parts of Britain and Ireland. These are abundant at Whixall Moss, but virtually impossible to photograph as they move away at the slightest approach or nestle down in treacherous bog. Eventually one settled in some bracken for a reasonable, if slightly obscured, photograph.

Large Heath Coenonympha tullia

Around the dragonfly pools I found some Round-leaved Sundew Drosera rotundifolia. This carnivorous plant is covered with glues and acids to trap and then dissolve insect prey, and it seemed to be working out badly for this unfortunate insect attracted to the sugary, sticky solution on the tentacles.

Round-leaved Sundew Drosera rotundifolia
I also found this nice little fly Broad Centurion Chloromyla formosa. Though a common species, I was pleased to get a photograph of it.

Broad Centurion Chlormyla formosa

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

Friday, 26 June 2015

Visitors to a Yarrow Plant

One of the fascinitating things about studying insects is seeing the interactions of different insects on one particular plant. I spent this lunchtime having a look at a garden yarrow (Achillea), and there was plenty to see. For several weeks this plant has been taken over by aphids, along with their very attentive ant 'guards'. These are still present, along with a quite a few other things of interest.

Green Hairstreak Callophrys rubi is one of my favourite butterflies, and one was fluttering around the yarrow and lnading regularly on it. This is a species that I had only seen on a handful of occasions before moving to the Shropshire Hills, where the Gorse Ulex europeus and Broom Cytisus scoparius covered slopes support healthy populations. I am also fortunate to regularly see them in my garden at this time of year.

Green Hairstreak Callophrys rubi

There were also a couple of micromoths skipping around the yarrow, a species which has previously been mentioned on this blog - Dichrorampha petiverella. I have now seen quite a few of these in the garden this year, and the yarrow seems to a be a favourite plant for them to investigate.

Dichrorampha petiverella

Joining the aphids were a couple of other bug species. The Common Flower Bug Anthocoris nemorum is a predatory species, which is very common in the garden and also often found climbing on the walls of the house.

Common Flower Bug Anthocoris nemorum

The Alder Spittlebug Aphrophora alni is one of several species of large froghopper that we find in the UK. This species has a distinct keel running the length of the midline, from the head and down the body, along with distinctive pale patches near the margins of the wings. This combination of features allows well-marked specimens, like this one, to be identified.

Alder Spittlebug Aphrophora alni

All this shows that yarrow is fantastic plant and one that should be in every garden. I will be continuing to check mine for new discoveries.


Another good mothtrap session with two new species for the garden. I really liked this Agapeta hamana, a common species which utilises thistle (Carduus) as a larval foodplant.

Agapata hamana

There was also a Small Magpie Anania hortulata in the trap. I actually recorded one of these on my previous session, but failed to get a photograph. This individual was more obliging.

Small Magpie Anania hortulata

There was also this macro moth, which caused a little confusion. Identification as The Rivulet Perizoma affinitata was not that straightforward, as there is another similar species, the Small Rivulet P. alchemillata. This moth is interesting in that the wing pattern matched P. affinitata, having less projections on the white cross band, though it was in the size range of P. alchemillata at 15mm wingspan. In the end, patterns wins and this is a Rivulet which has presumably not been eatings it's weetabix.

The Rivulet Perizoma affinitata

Thursday, 25 June 2015

A new Longhorn

This Black and Yellow Longhorn Rutpela maculata was on an Oxeye Daisy this afternoon in the wildflower meadow. My third longhorn beetle species for the garden and a beautiful insect.

Black and Yellow Longhorn Rutpela maculata

Tuesday, 23 June 2015

High violet

This Violet Ground Beetle Carabus violaceous was a welcome first record for the garden. It looked like it had been in the wars, with damage to the left side of the elytra, but was still an impressive insect.

Violaceous Ground Beetle Carabus violaceous

This is one of our largest beetles, they can measure up to 30mm. Identification is not that straightforward, as there is a similar species - Carabus problematicus. In C. violaceous the elytra (wing cases) are smoother with fine punctures but no ridges, and the shape of the promontum also differs.

Sunday, 21 June 2015

Slender margins

The outside kitchen wall of the house is turning into a rarity hotspot. Whenever I walk past I have a look to see if anything is there, ready to grab a pot and have a closer a look. A few days ago I caught this curious looking fly. My limited experience meant I needed a bit of help with this one, having not been able to make a satisfactory identification.

I turned to local fly expert Nigel Jones, who was as helpful as ever in his response - "It is a rather nice robberfly - Leptarthrus brevirostris - not at all common. Good record".

This fly sometimes goes by the common name of Slender-footed Robberfly, and the dark legs with orange tibia are a helpful clue in determination.

Slender-footed Robberfly Leptarthrus brevirostris

Slender-footed Robberfly Leptarthrus brevirostris

Slender-footed Robberfly Leptarthrus brevirostris

Every cloud

Some more moths from the trap last night. Firstly, this Bramble Shoot Moth Notocelia uddmanniana, one the easiet of our micromoths to identify with the very distinctive chocolate brown blotch on the joined forewings. Unsurprisingly, the larval foodplant is bramble (Rubus).

Bramble Shoot Moth Notocelia uddmanniana

How about this Clouded Silver Lomographa temerata, surely a contender for one of the smartest moths on the wing right now.

Clouded Silver Lomographa temerata

Then there was a Clouded-bordered Brindle Apamea crenata. The name may be a bit of a mouthful, but the subtle colours and patterns make this a rather nice moth. It is a species whose caterpillars feed on grasses, a good reason for people to leave more of lawns and verges uncut.

Clouded-bordered Brindle Apamea crenata

I regularly catch Coleophora species in my garden, but usually let them go straight away. This large family of micromoths is notoriously difficult to identify as adults, with the cases on foodplants being a better guide. However, as a rule, anything that looks shiny and furry is worth a check. So a Coleophora with shiny green wings and a furry base to the antenna caught my eye. This is Coleophora mayrella, a species of grassy areas. The larvae feed on White Clover Trifolium repens, which now grows in abundance in my garden.

Coleophora mayrella

Finally a Pebble Prominent Notodonta ziczac, a long awaited garden first and a species with one of the best scientific names.

Pebble Prominent Notodonta ziczac

Saturday, 20 June 2015

Old friend

There was a return visitor to my Batch Valley garden today. With the Oxeye Daisy now in flower, I had a look at the front meadow today and found a couple of this lovely micromoths. I recognised it as a species I had recorded here a couple of years ago.

Dichrorampha petiverella

A quick check in the book reminded me of its name, Dichrorampha petiverella. This species is one of the Tortricidae and is associated with meadows, rough pastures and hedgerows. The larvae feed on the roots of Yarrow (Achillae millifolium), which is a component of the meadow.

Thursday, 18 June 2015

Lobster pots

There was a fabulous selection of moths last night, with the largest catch of the year. The total of 180 moths included seven new species for the garden, all of them fantastic looking insects. The commonest moth was Brown Silver-line Petrophora chlorosata, with 60 individuals in the trap. This is potentially the highest number of a single species I have recorded in a trapping session.

As soon as I got outside I saw a large moth on the outside wall, and immediately knew it was a Lobster Moth Stauropus fagi. This impressive looking moth actually gets its name from the appearance of the caterpillar, which is remarkably crustacean like.

Lobster Moth Stauropus fagi

Following on a similar marine theme, the next moth I noticed outside the trap was The Shark Cucullia umbratica. This is a tricky species to identify from the similar Chamomile Shark Cucillia chamomillae, with the fine detail of the fringe of the hindwing needing to be studied to be sure.

The Shark Cucillia chamomillae

Scorched Wing Plagodis dolabraria was another new species, with two individuals caught. This is a reasonably common moth, which utilises several common deciduous trees as a foodplant. A moth that can easily be mistaken at a glance for some dead vegetation, this is a great example of camouflage. See also the beautiful purple colouration on the wings.

Scorched Wing Plagodis dolabraria

The next species caused me a slight problem in identification. I have previously caught many Willow Beauty Peribatodes rhomboidaria in the garden, but I could immediately see that this was different. A check of the crosslines showed that these did not converge, and it was a bright specimen compared to previous Willow Beautys I have caught. A quick check led me to Mottled Beauty Alcis repandata, which is quite a common, though variable, species.

Mottled Beauty Alcis repandata

I also caught two moths that I have seen many times before on trapping sessions in the Strettons. In fact, it has felt that my garden was the only one that these moths were not being recorded in. These were Iron Prominent Notodonta dromedarius, a common species that uses birch (Betula), a tree which is not exactly in short supply locally. The other was Peach Blossom Thyatira batis, which has an even more common larval foodplant - bramble (Rumex).

Iron Prominent Notodonta dromedarius

Peach Blossom Thyatira batis

As I was packing away the trap and associated kit, something caught my eye in the long grass some way from the trap. I was delighted to see that this was a Green Silver-lines Pseudoips prasinana, another birch feeder and a welcome final addition for the morning. One that I nearly missed!

Green Silver-lines Pseudoips prasinana

Sunday, 14 June 2015

Orchids reprieve

We stopped off at Tebay services on our long journey home from North Uist. This meant we could get a decent meal compared to most motorway services. We also found some Northern Marsh Orchids Dactylorhiza purpurella that had been spared the mower, along with an area of uncut wild flowers. Nice the see this management, though perhaps they could have left a little more grass.

Northern Marsh Orchid Dactylorhiza purpurella

Norther Marsh Orchid Dactylorhiza purpurella

Wildflowers spared the chop

Saturday, 13 June 2015

Small creatures from North Uist

A selection of some of the invertebrates I saw on my week on the North Uist machair.

Green-veined White Pieris napi

Nephrotoma submaculosa

Garden Tiger Arctia caja larva

Eupoecilia angustana

Moss Carder Bee Bombus muscorum

Rhingia campestris