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.