Wednesday, 26 December 2012

200 not out

It has been a quiet time for moth recording of late, with the usual slow-down in species on the wing combined with poor weather for running the traps. This is the time to get our records in order for the year, and an opportunity for me to update our Strettons Moth List page on this blog for the first time in a couple of months.

A quick count up shows that we have recorded 200 species of moth in the Strettons since July, when we first started to run our traps. Imagine 200 different types of moth in just five months in two small gardens in the middle of Shropshire. When I first started trapping moths I couldn't name 20 species, let alone identify 200 of them. It just shows how fascinating these creatures are, and that once you start you are hooked. As a minor celebration, here is a picture of one of my favourite moths of 2012.

September Thorn

Sunday, 23 December 2012

One for the pot

In spite of running the trap on the 2 nights when we were promised a reasonably high overnight temperature, there was not a lot about.
But there was one new moth that made it worthwhile, an Early Moth, though they can appear much earlier than this.

Early Noth

Monday, 17 December 2012

A thing of beauty is a ......

A couple of warmer nights led me to put the trap on and I was rewarded by a new moth to the site last night.  Not only is it new, but it seems to be a very early record for this moth in Shropshire.

The moth, shown below, is a Pale Brindled Beauty, and I would not normally have expected it before the new year. It was one of only 5 moths in the trap this morning. On Wednesday there were 17 moths, but only Mottled Umbers and Winter moths.

Pale Brindled Beauty

Although there has not been much flying, there are still things to look out for, namely leaf miners, so a walk up the lower part of the Mynd, where there are still a few trees with leaves on, revealed some interesting mines and blotches.

Here is a photo of an oak leaf with a mine and 3 blotches and a second photo showing the mine more clearly.

Mine/blotches on oak leaf

Stigmella mine + Phyllonorycter blotch

There was a small larvae in one of the blotches and a pupa in the other. There are confusion species for both these types so one can only be certain by keeping the leaves over winter and hoping for adults to emerge. These two are likely to be S. atricapitella and P. quercifoliella.  The mine and blotch shapes and pattern of the frass (larval droppings) are both pointers to the species within, as is the host plant. There is a very good leafminers web site.

Monday, 10 December 2012

Subtle as a Brick

It has been rather quiet here on Stretton Moths in recent weeks. What is our excuse? Well, as you may have noticed, the weather has turned decidedly cold overnight, and the moths have noticed this too. Neither of us have been catching too much of interest, I have only been finding Winter Moths, which seem to still be flying in the freezing conditions.

We are not the type to give up though, and with a milder night forecast I put out my trap on Saturday evening. By the time I went to bed there were no moths to be seen, but in the morning I was pleasantly surprised to find four moths in and around the trap. Three of them were, predictably, Winter Moths. The other was this.

A bit of head-scratching ensued. I was not sure what it was, except that it was a Noctuid moth which I had not recorded before. A bit of research and it all became clear, this is a Brick. It is not a rare moth, but it is new for us in the Strettons and a nice final 'hurrah' for the autumn-flying moths (the flight season for the species extends to early December).

Like all moths, this is an incredible creature. The adults have been busily mating and generating eggs in the last few weeks, these being laid beside the bud of the foodplant (such as Wych Elm or Poplar). The larva will emerge in April and spend a few weeks munching on flowers. They will then descend and construct an underground coccoon and pupate. Next September the adult moths will begin to emerge, and the cycle starts again.

Tuesday, 13 November 2012


In 1949 Clement Atlee held the office of Prime Minister, George Orwell's Nineteen Eighty-four was published, Bruce Springsteen was born, NATO was founded and the average house price in the UK was £1,911. In the same year a moth enthusiast in Shropshire recorded a micro moth going by the name of Agonopterix umbellana. That was the last recorded sighting from the county until last night, when one turned up in my moth trap. Yet again, showing how much there is to discover about our microlepidoptera (and how much has changed in terms of the price of property).

Agonopterix umbellana

In fact last nights moth trapping session was my best since September. I caught 16 moths of ten species, four of these being new species for me in Batch Valley. The other highlight was four December Moths, and though Graham posted a picture of one a few days ago they are good-looking enough to deserve another one. These stunning moths are common at the moment, and are one to look out for coming to house lights.

December Moth

I also managed to catch up with a couple of common species which had previously eluded me, a worn Red-line Quaker and this beautiful Red-green Carpet. This is an incredible-looking moth, and lurking in many peoples gardens under the cover of darkness.

Red-green Carpet

Thursday, 8 November 2012

Hydrated oxides of iron and manganese

What is he talking about!  Well, that is the dictionary definition of the word "umber" and another definition is a "grayling" - but my dictionary does not specify if this is the fish or the butterfly.

As readers will have noticed, both Mike and I have been catching Mottled Umbers and these are one of the most variable moths in the UK. We could fill pages with photos of the various patterns.

But there are other "umbers", most of which have still to come for us, except that last night I had 2 Scarce Umber moths, not as scarce as their name implies. They are distinguished from Mottled Umber mainly because of  the golden colour and that the kink in the outer crossline is much less noticeable.

Scarce Umber

I had another 30 Exapate congelatella in the trap too, but just to clear up the "New to Shropshire" possibility, I was mistaken. I received my copy of the Shropshire Butterflies and Moths book (AM Riley, 1991) this morning and there are 2 previous records from Preston Montford (RIS trap) in Nov. 1986 and Oct 1987.

Variation on a theme

A couple of nights ago Graham posted how he had found a new micro moth for the Strettons, Exapate congelatella, which according to records is a very rare species in Shropshire. What made this more interesting is that he caught 34 of them! Last night I caught eight of the same species, meaning that between us we have caught 42 individuals over two nights of a rarely recorded species. Of course it is unlikely that this is a truly rare moth, but more likely that, flying late in the year and being a tricky species to identify, it is just poorly recorded. But it does show how anyone has a  realistic chance of discovering a new species for the county record in their own back garden.

Moving on to the larger 'macro' moths, I also caught two new species for my garden. One of these was a Winter Moth, and other were two Mottled Umbers. The Mottled Umbers were particularly interesting, as I caught two quite different variations of this species. So much so that it took a while to identify them, but if you look carefully, the pattern of the dark spot halfway up the forewing and the 'cross-lines' is consistent.

Wednesday, 7 November 2012

They have brought forth juniper carpets

A very impressive haul from Graham last night. I did not trap myself (though the trap is on now), but I also found what I think is a new species for the Strettons moth list last night. This was a Juniper Carpet found resting in my porch.

Juniper Carpet

This posed a bit of a mystery. As the name implies, Juniper Carpets are associated with Junipers, both wild and garden varieties. I have not seen any Junipers of any description in Batch Valley, so where had this come from? Well, a bit of investigation suggests that the larva of Juniper Carpet will also feed on Leyland Cypress (commonly known as leylandii). This is in the same family as Juniper (Cypressaceae) and up until last moth I had about 30 leylandii trees in my garden, and though they have now been cut down there is still a lot of brash left and small levlandii in some of the hedges. So perhaps this is the answer to what has attracted this lovely moth. And a reminder of how what we plant in our gardens affects the range of wildlife we see there (though not many people would claim leylandii are that good for wildlife!).

A "freezer"

No, the night was not a freezer, in fact, it was quite mild, which is why I put the trap on for the first time in 2 weeks.  And, was it worth the effort? - well, judge for yourselves.

Firstly, there were 77 moths in and around the trap, the largest number for weeks. What is more there were three new species for the Strettons Moth list.

The first new moth, both to me, the Strettons and (I believe) to Shropshire - but to be confirmed - is a tortrix moth called Exapate congelatella - and now I can explain the title of this blog! In France, a kitchen freezer is a congelator! What is very interesting is that there were 34 of them.

Exapate congelatella

There were a dozen Feathered Thorn's and the same number of Mottled Umbers, plus Angle Shades, Black Rustic and Yellow-line Quaker, all of which have appeared on the blog Similarly, 4 Sprawler's and a dreaded "November moth"

The second new moth was a December moth, which although it looks like a noctuid moth is actually from the "eggar" family - and they regularly fly from late October to defy their name.

December Moth

And, last, but not least, a Dark Chestnut. This species is very similar to the Chestnut and is not always darker. The main clue to identification is based on the fact that the wings seem to be much more "square" and there is often a greyish-white band on the edge of the wing - quite clear on the photo.

Dark Chestnut

I spent a few days with a friend (Colin Plant)  in the south and visited the BEHNS annual exhibition in London where there was a selection of moths and other insects displayed.

Colin performed dissections of 5 the different looking "Ear moths" which I wrote about in mid-September. Although they all looked very different from each other, they all turned out to be the Ear Moth. He also confirmed for me that the small, greyish "elachista" moth featured here recently was Elachista canapennella.

Sunday, 4 November 2012

Slight returns

Having been away on holiday for a couple of (largely moth-free) weeks, and busy catching up with work since my return, I have gone nearly a month without running the moth trap. So despite the unpromising cold weather, I tried my luck last night. I had low expectations and this lack on confidence was justified when the trap was completely empty this morning, and I quickly got back inside to the warmth of the house.

I had, of course, committed a schoolboy error. Not every moth makes it into the trap, and particularly in the winter you may find more moths resting on surfaces close to the trap than actually in it. It was down to Jo to find this moth resting on wall close to the where the moth trap had been.

November Moth agg.
This is one of the tricky November-type moths, which I have previously written about on here. I suspect that this is actually a November Moth, rather than the other closely related species. I will be interested in Graham's thoughts on it.

So a largely unsuccessful session, but with temperatures due to creep up over the next few nights then I am hopeful of more success.

Thursday, 25 October 2012

Phoned a friend

Regular viewers will recall that I put up a photo of an unidentified micro-moth on Saturday, well, now I know what it is.

I did NOT however, phone a friend, I posted the photo on the UKMicromoths Yahoo Group site and got the answer - and it makes me look a bit silly, as I had put a photograph of such a moth, correctly identified, on the Southern France website (PathPiva) some time ago.  The moth is in fact called Diurnea lipsiella and I have amended the post to show it,

Only 25 moths in the trap this morning and nothing new for the site.

However, in the garden yesterday afternoon I caught a "plume" moth. This is probably the most common plume and it is called Emmelina monodactyla.. Until recently the plume moths did not have "English names" but one of the UK's leading experts (Colin Hart) has recently done so and of course this is  now known as the Common Plume.

Common Plume

The moth has 2 pairs of wings, but in its resting position it tightly curls the fore wings round the hind wings, as seen here.

Monday, 22 October 2012

Still plenty flying

Yes, the temperature did not drop too low, in spite of yet another wet night and there were 43 moths in the trap this morning.

Most of the usual suspects for this time of the year though some still to come, with a late Copper Underwing being a pleasant surprise.

Two more species to add to the Strettons Moth List, both of them micro-moths and both fairly common. The first was an Acleris sparsana, a grey coloured tortrix and the other was an Agonopterix arenella, which was actually on the porch door when the light was left on.

Acleris sparsana

Agonopteix arenella

Saturday, 20 October 2012

One who lies, falls or crawls with limbs spread out

This is the dictionary definition of a Sprawler. And there is a moth which has this name - I guess that this is because its caterpillar bends itself backwards so its legs stick out in front.
So, yes, there was one in the trap this morning.


Also, new to the site was a Winter moth - hopefully not an omen. - and this is, of course a male. How do we know that? Well, the females do not have wings (poor things). They hatch out and stay on the tree trunks, waithing for the males to arrive - and you know the rest.

Winter Moth

A micro moth which I have so far failed to identify was in the trap too.  Any offers please?

Diurnea lipsiella

If you walk down the hill from the Rectory wood car park, there are just 2 ragwort plants on your left hand side, both still in flower. I have looked at these several times recently, but yesterday there was a small larva feeding on the floweer heads. This is the larva of a Golden-rod Pug.

                                                               Golden-rod Pug larva

How do you identify an unknown caterpillar? Google "Larval foodplants", choose the Natural History museum listing, click on the foodplant box (unfortunately you have to know that Ragwort is called Senecio jacobaea) and there is a list of the moths which eat it. From there you can search the excellent site and there it is.

This post has been updated to add the name of the micromoth

Thursday, 18 October 2012

Surprise, surprise!

Yes, quite a surprise this morning. It had been a very wet and windy night, but the temperature stayed up at around 8° C, nevertheless I was very pleased to find 41 moths in and around the trap. In spite of the fact that 14 of them were "November Moths" there were moths of 17 other species, including, yes, you guessed, another new moth for the site.

Blair's Shoulder Knot

This is a Blair's Shoulder Knot, the first  British record was for one found on the IOW in 1951 and which has gradually extended its range northwards and reached this area in the 1990s. The "knot" is the blackish marking on its "shoulders" and a look at Mikes picture of the Grey Shoulder-knot last week shows a similar, but different feature.

One of the commoner moths, of which I have already had several, is the Red-Green Carpet and I thought it was about time for its picture to appear here.

Red-green Carpet

Similarly for a micro-moth, a regular visitor here -
this is called a Garden Rose Tortrix (Acleris variegana) -
one of a large family of moths which roll up or spin together leaves. 

Garden Rose Tortrix

Tuesday, 16 October 2012


Merveille du Jour is translated into English as the "Marvel of the day", and as such this moth lives up to its name.  Stunningly beautiful in shades of green, black and white. They can be found feeding on Ivy blossom and sometimes on ripe ivy berries
It makes it well worthwhile to put the trap on when it is raining and blustery and find one of these in the trap next morning.

Merveille du Jour

In my post a few days ago I spoke about the plain brown form of the Green-brindled Crescent - which I had never seen - well, now I have, and it was well worth the wait.

Green-brindled Crescent f. capucina
In the garden I have still been finding Pug larvae on the heathers and lately they are of slightly different colours from the original ones. Three of the original ones appear to have pupated.

Friday, 12 October 2012

Potty training!

One of the unwritten rules for moth'ers is never to go out without a pot in your pocket. By pot, we mean a small, clear glass or plastic container, in which you can put a moth or a larva whenever you come accross them.

So, during the week, in the garden, I managed to pop one small moth and several larvae into pots, and one of the reasons why I am so late in putting up this post is that I have been struggling to identify the larvae.  I will wait until I get positive IDs before I show them on here.

The moth however was easy to find in the superb, new "Micro-moths of Great Britain and Ireland" (Sterling and Parsons). It was a pretty little tortrix moth called Acleris hyemana, its larva feeding on heather - and completely new to me. The moth was a little damaged, but managed to fly off on release.

Acleris hyemana

Had the trap on on Wednesday night and, like Mike the night before, got my first Epirrita of the year. I believe them both to be November Moth on the basis of wing markings on relatively plain wings.

November Moth

I had my first Feathered Thorn of the year and my first Red-line Quaker, "neighbour" of the Yellow-line, featured in a previous post. In total, only 20 moths of 11 species.

Red-line Quaker

Wednesday, 10 October 2012

Knots landing

A cloudy night was forecast, so out went the trap. I had attracted a Barred Sallow to my porch the night before and given Graham's productive session felt there may be something new in the offing. I was right. Three new species for me, and two new ones for us in the Strettons. Well, sort of, as one of the moths I cannot identify to exact species, but more of that later.

Before I went to bed I checked around the trap and was pleasantly surprised to find a Grey Shoulder-knot. This was not a moth on my radar, so was a very nice surprise. It is a good looking moth, as I am sure you will agree.

Grey Shoulder-knot

When I opened the trap this morning there were another ten moths in the trap. This included the usual suspects, a couple of Flounced Rustics and four Lunar Underwings, along with two Eudonia angustea, which is a micro moth that I regularly catch.

There was also a Satellite, a moth that Graham has caught a few of in recent weeks, but the first time I have recorded it. I also had an Epiritta species, a group of moths which includes three very similar species - November Moth, Pale November Moth and Autumnal Moth. Of the three, the November Moth is the most likely to occur, but all are possible and there appears to be some debate as to how easy it is to distinguish the different species. On well-marked individuals the forewing markings can help, whilst males can be identifed through their genitalia when viewed under a hand lens. Alas, my specimen was a poorly-marked  female, so it has gone down as November Moth agg. for my records, unless Graham can shed some more light!

November Moth agg.

Tuesday, 9 October 2012

Cool, real cool!

Yes, a cool night in more ways than one, as, in the trap, there were 3 new species for the site, amongst 27 moths of 13 species.

There were two different sallows, a Pink-barred Sallow and a Barred Sallow (and I know Mike had one of these as well) I had Centre-barred Sallow and The Sallow last month. Lunar Underwings are considered as Sallows too.

Pink-barred Sallow
Barred Sallow

Then there were 2 Green-brindled Crescents - moths with a subtle shade of metallic green which is not always obvious - and there is a  more plain brown version, which I have never seen.

Green-brindled Crescent

Sunday, 7 October 2012

From Dawn to Dusky!

Of course the trap is on from Dusk to Dawn, but in the trap this morning was a Dusky Thorn - new  to the Strettons Moth List, which is another new feature of our blog, thanks to Mike. 

Dusky Thorn

As in Mikes photo of the Feathered Thorn, this moth is also a male and has the large, feathered antennae.

Whilst searching the garden for larvae this afternoon, I managed to catch a Beautiful Plume moth. Mike put up a photo of the underside of one in his porch the other day, but here is a full frontal view.

There are around 40 different Plume moths in the UK which characteristically hold their wings out at right angles to the body and most of them are easy to identify.

Beautiful Plume

Saturday, 6 October 2012

Quality, not quantity

My last couple of trapping sessions have been a bit of a disappointment, with only two species recorded. So expectations were low when I put trap on last night, and this morning there were only six moths in the trap. However, of these six were three new species for me in Batch Valley.

First out was a Lunar Underwing, I have now caught nine of these in the last few weeks. Following this was a new insect in this lovely Feathered Thorn, this one is a male with the feathery antennae. This is a distinctive moth and at this time of year there is nothing else like it on the wing.

Feathered Thorn

I also had three carpet moths. One was a Common Marbled Carpet, quite a regular feature in the trap. The other two were different and new for me. It took a bit of investigation before I identified these as Spruce Carpets, another new species. Very attractive moths and a species that Graham has recorded recently.

Spruce Carpet

This final moth was  a real mystery. It was quite worn and also an unusual shape, being long and thin but obviously one of the noctuids. I was at a bit of a loss until I remembered that Graham had caught two Anomalous moths, and this is what it proved to be.

The Anomalous

Friday, 5 October 2012

Wet and Frosted!

Well, yes, it was very wet yet again last night, but it was NOT frosted I hear you say - but one of my moths was!

Yes, another new moth for the site was a Frosted Orange, this one looking as though it has been around for a week or two, judging by the wear and tear. The caterpillar of this moth lives inside the stems of plants like Foxgloves.

Frosted Orange

Quite a surprise too was the fact that there were 30 moths of 13 different species in and around the trap - not bad for a chilly and wet night.

Yesterday in the garden I spotted a caterpillar on the flowers in our Heather bed. I was very pleased as I have often searched for caterpillars there to no avail. You will see from the photograph that this is very pretty and not the colour you would expect larva to be. From the size and shape of it and the fact that it was eating heather (or ling) I guessed it was a Ling Pug. The food plant is right, the time of year is right and the colour is right too.

But life is never so simple as I now discover that there is another possibility, as a Midlands variety of the Satyr Pug also feeds on heathers, can be of a similar colour and also can (just) be around now.

Ling Pug, or Satyr? (l)
So, now the hope is that it will pupate and overwinter and reveal its true identity next Spring.

So, speaking of larvae which are in the process of pupating, I was delighted to hear from a near neighbour (how do you define near?). 0h well, about half a mile away, that they had found a Pale Tussock larva on their doorstep. They photographed the catty (see below) and later, I went to photograph it myself, only to find that it had commenced the process of pupation (metamorphosis for film buffs!). So, here are photos of the larva and its start of pupation. This is one of the most spectacular of British moth caterpillars, unique with its pink tail. I hope to take further photos as it progresses. Thank you Liz and Nigel Strachan. 

Pale Tussock (l)

Pale Tussock (l) starting to pupate

Monday, 1 October 2012

Oh what a night .....

-- late September (yes, I know it should be December back in '63), but it rained and rained and did not look like there would be ANY moths in the trap this morning. So it just goes to show that the moths (which are of course waterproof) came out to celebrate Europe's Ryder cup win!

First of all there was a Yellow-line Quaker another moth which I never caught in 9 years of mothing in France.  
Yellow-line Quaker
Then there were 2 Chestnuts, fairly common, but new for this site - well, that is not difficult as recording only started in mid-August.


Also was the more common form of the Mottled Umber, clearly different from my post dated 23 September.   

Mottled Umber

and another Anomalous, a Black Rustic and a total of 21 moths of 12 species. In addition there was a funny looking Common Marbled Carpet, which refused to open its wings. It has refused to do so throughout the day, so my photograph is not too good, BUT, it does show why I thought it was "funny looking". The reason is that it is actually a Spruce Carpet.

Spruce Carpet

Also, you may recall the photos I posted showing a Lilac leaf which had  leaf mining moth caterpillars in it, well, these have grown too big to still live inside the leaf and have made silken pockets in which to pupate.

               "Lilac leaf-miner"