Sunday, 28 July 2013

Land of the Tiger

We returned to the Land of the Tiger last weekend, or more accurately the site of the Scarlet Tiger, for another 'moths in your garden' survey. A few weeks ago Graham was contacted by Alison and Brian in Church Stretton, about an unusual moth. The resulted in Graham finding several freshly emerged Scarlet Tigers, the story is here. One thing led to another, and we returned loaded up with our mothtraps to see what else was lurking there.

It was a warm evening, and as we shared a bottle of wine we could already see a couple of Silver Ys in the garden, so the traps were duly set with good expectations. In the morning we returned to a good selection of moths. This included a Garden Tiger, though no Scarlets, plenty of attractive Poplar and Elephant Hawkmoths and a nice selection of other moths. How many can you name on the eggboxes below?

Selection of moths

One of the many pleasing things about the surveys is that I get to see moths that I have not recorded in my own garden. The moth highlight for me was one of those species, a Gold Spot.

Gold Spot

Another species that I have seen only once before is the Pebble Prominent, and this was another much welcome visitor. It is also a species that has not featured on the blog before, so an opportunity to put this right.

Pebble Prominent

There were also some of our 'regulars', species that we often catch in most sessions. Because they are so familiar we often do not look at them as closely as we should, but amongst them are some of my favourite moths. One of these is the Antler, which is often a favourite on our surveys.


Last of the pictures is of a moth that has seen better days, but a new species for us and so quite a notable one. This is a Buff Footman, one of three footman species that we recorded.

Buff Footman

It was overall a very enjoyable visit. We had excellent hosts and recorded some very nice moths - we caught a staggering 90 species. I will leave you with Graham giving Alison and Brian the benefit of his mothing wisdom!

Monday, 22 July 2013

The Lord of the Rings

On 4 August 2012, I set my garden moth trap for the very first time. I had never trapped before and with my limited knowledge I was overwhelmed when I opened the trap the following morning. Moths were escaping before I could identify them and I had no specimen pots to collect them. I took photographs of each moth for later identification, but I was not experienced in how to do this and the resulting photographs were poor.

On the very first eggbox there was a pug (which I have never identified) and a larger Geometrid. I took a photograph, the moths flew away and it was only  later in the day that I attempted to name them. Thanks to some assistance I realised the larger moth was probably an Annulet, a very uncommon moth in Shropshire with a just handful of records and none since 1998. Unfortunately the moth was worn and my photograph was so poor that it was not good enough for verification. For me to catch such a good moth and fail to confirm it was just so frustrating.

Fast forward to nearly 12 months later, and on Monday morning I was greeted with this moth, an indisputable Annulet, resting on the funnel of the trap.

The Annulet

Of all the moth pictures I have looked at over the last year, I have most frequently looked at pictures of the Annulet. I knew it immediately from the hollow rings that give the moth its name, the jagged cross-lines and the scalloped edge to the hindwing. It is a cryptic and unassuming moth (it's latin name is Charissa obscurata), but for me it is a wonderful creature and redemption for me in my learning of moths. Of course, the really interesting thing will be to see how often we catch this species in the Strettons, which may prove to be a county stronghold.

There were some other nice moths in the trap of course. One of these was a returning visitor from last year, the Dotted Clay. A common moth that we can expect so see visiting our traps over the next few weeks.

Dotted Clay

There are some groups of the large moth species that are very difficult to identify from each other, without resorting to dissecting them. One of the groups are the Daggers, with the Grey Dagger and Dark Dagger not able to be reliably identified in the field. One of these was resting outside the trap, and though we cannot name it, it does not take away from what a good looking moth it is.

Dark/Grey Dagger

I will finish with a couple of very attractive moths from Saturday night, that I found in the porch when I returned from the pub. Both are new species for me and have not appeared in the blog before. These are the Small Blood-vein and the White Plume Moth.

Small Blood-vein

White Plume Moth

Sunday, 21 July 2013

Neighbourhood Watch

The 'moths in YOUR garden' surveys hit the road again this weekend. On Saturday night we rigged a garden close to Church Stretton School with our mothtraps, and enjoyed a pleasant glass of wine with the homeowners as we talked about moths (before we both departed to the Bucks Head to talk about moths some more!).

When I arrived back at the house on Sunday morning, one look at Graham told me all I needed to know. The moths had arrived! The moths and us were then joined by a few of the neighbours, ending up with seven of us sat around the table emptying the traps and perusing the contents.

There were so many highlights, Poplar Hawk-moth, Burnished Brass, Garden Tiger, Buff-tip, Plain Golden Y, Phoenix and Buff Arches were among the crowds favourites. I have chosen to show a few of the moths that have not appeared on the blog before, starting with this Yellow-tail - shown here in it's typical (yellow) tail raised posture.


We had several brand new species for the area. Two of these are species with very similar names, the Barred Red and Barred Yellow. Whilst these are both Geometrids, they are in different groups and looking at the pictures below you can tell this. The Barred Red also has a green form, to further confuse matters!

Barred Red

Barred Yellow

There were a lot of micro moths, which caused some identification headaches. Armed with our magnifying glasses however, we were able to resolve most of the conundrums and appreciate the beauty of some of our smaller moths. A real favourite with the group was the Bird-cherry Ermine. Although this looks very distinctive, there are actually eight superficially similar Yponomeuta species and great care is needed for correct identification. Up close though, the Bird-cherry Ermine can be told by the large numbers of black spots on the otherwise white wings.

Bird-cherry Ermine

Another of the new species was one we almost let slip away. A cursory glance as it came out of the trap led me to identify it as a 'pale' Dark Arches. Graham then had a 'hang on a minute!' moment as he released the moths. With reference to the book my mistake was uncovered, as this proved to be a Grey Arches!

Grey Arches

By any measure it was a successful session. We recorded 141 individual moths of 67 species. Several of them were new for us, and many of them enthralled the assembled crowd. When we dreamt up the surveys this is just what we wanted, to see lots of moths and to meet and enthuse people in the community about moths and other wildlife. As the photo shows, this is just what we got.

Friday, 19 July 2013

Beauty and the Beautiful

And they keep coming. Whenever the moth trap is out in our gardens we find new species. On Thursday night I caught a modest 41 species, but 17 of these were brand new for me along with several first sightings for the year.

Most of the new ones were micro moths, but amongst the new macro moths there were a couple of nice surprises. Firstly I found this Lilac Beauty resting on the window. This moth has a distinctive posture with the wings curled on the leading edge.

Lilac Beauty

Resting near the outside of the trap was this Beautiful Hook-tip, not a particularly common species. Coincidentally Graham recorded his first examples of both these species within a day of me doing so.

Beautiful Hook-tip

Among the macro moths I also had the opportunity to compare and contrast two of the difficult noctuid species to identify - Double-square Spot and Triple-spotted Clay. Superficially identical, they very in some of the markings and structure. See if you can tell the difference.

Double-square Spot (l) and Triple-spotted Clay (r)

Onto a selection of the new micros. The first I identified was  this pretty little micro Zeiraphera isertana.

Zeiraphera isertana

I also had several of the 'bird poo' moths (seeing at them this description makes sense). This is a range of tortrix species which are very similar with only subtle differences between them. They are difficult to identify and this one I think is Gypsonoma dealbana.

Gypsonoma dealbana

Finally there was a Green Oak Tortrix (thanks to Graham for the ID).

Green Oak Tortrix

Wednesday, 17 July 2013

Awesome and Grewsome!

Starting with Puss catty news, it has of course grew some more! And here is a picture at 7 days, followed by one at 9 days old.

Puss larva (7 days)

Puss larva (9 days)

It is looking very much like how it will be when fully grown.

It is 9 days since my last post, and so much has happened that I do not really know how to represent the number of "goodies" that I have found.

I shall start with one that is truly awesome for us.  There is a quite common moth called a Narrow-bordered 5-spot Burnet. There were literally thousands of them at the wet fields on Ludlow road, several dozens on each flower head of the brambles, as shown here.

Narrow-bordered 5-spot Burnets

It was thus a total surprise that I flashed my net as one flew past me, (because it looked different) - and it was! It was the very rare, yellow form citrina.  This has caused a stir amongst some people.

The rare form citrina

If that was not enough, yesterday I found an Emperor Moth larva near Wildmoor pool - a species that has been declining, and in the trap was a (worn) Oak Eggar. .

Emperor Moth larva

Oak Eggar

With more than 60 species in the trap each time, there have been several new moths for us and no time now to include more.

Sunday, 14 July 2013

The 'Eyes' have it!

It has been a very hectic week, with opportunities for 'mothing' limited. I did manage to get out to Wild Moor on the top of the Long Mynd on Monday for an evening walk with Jo, and there were moths everywhere. The best was this Gold Swift that Jo found resting on bracken.

Gold Swift

Tuesday night saw the moth trap get an outing. It ended up being one of the best sessions of the year, with several new species. There were two definite highlights. The first was an Eyed Hawkmoth, a slightly worn individual but still a stunning moth.

Eyed Hawkmoth

The other was my first Garden Tiger. A moth I remember seeing as a child 25 years ago, but not since. It was a very welcome addition to the garden list.

Garden Tiger

On Wednesday night my moth trapping was restricted to turning on the porch light for twenty minutes at dusk. There were plenty of moths flying and I quickly picked up two new species. On was a Common White Wave and the other was this Purple Clay.

Purple Clay

Everything went quiet after this until Saturday night, when I was finally able to get the trap out again. The catch was a little disappointing, with only a few new moths. One of the most interesting was this tortrix, which I think may be Hedya ochroleucana.

Hedya ochroleucana

Monday, 8 July 2013

Cats, Cats? Cats!

Todays blog is all about cats, although there are several other subjects I would like to write about.

Cats, as in caterpillars, cats as in 'Puss' and cats as in Tigers - but in fact Puss and caterpillar are the same in this case!

The story begins on the  morning of the 5th, when I found a very small 'cat' on the sallow bush in the garden. It had a body of about 4mm and two tails a bit shorter, as you will see below. And the connection between this cat and Puss, is that it is a very young cat of a Puss Moth.

Puss Moth larva

As you can imagine, a cat of this size is very vulnerable, but if something approaches it, it has a defence mechanism - it extends its tails to double the size and waves them furiously. So here it is when roused - the red flags flying!

Puss Moth larva 1

To paraphrase a well known song, "Thank heavens for little cats cos' little cats grow bigger every day" and only two days later, the cat has changed. As it gets bigger it needs to become more frightening to its predators, as you can see here. I hope you will be able to follow its progress.

Puss Moth larvae 2

So, let us move on to some bigger cats - Tigers in fact. I got an email on Tuesday from Alison, who lives in Woodcote Edge, with the photo of a moth found outside her house. It was a Scarlet Tiger Moth. From my information on Shropshire moths I found that it has not been recorded here since 2009.
Yesterday morning she told me the moth was still there and I walked down to see it for myself. When I arrived, she told me it had gone, but I was able to say "No, I just saw it down there and took a photo".

Scarlet Tiger

A few moments later I was told it was on the wall, but this was a second one, and this one was newly emerged and was "drying" its wings. 

Scarlet Tiger
A few minutes later we found two more, leading to the fact that these moths are actually breeding here.

Thursday, 4 July 2013


It has been a bit of a hectic week and even though a few good moths have been recorded, I have not got round to putting together a blog until now.

The trap went out on Saturday night and I had a nice catch of 43 moths from 27 species. And, as the title of the blog may suggest, there was a ghost in the moth trap, or rather a female Ghost Moth. The species gets it name from the pure white males, which 'lek' over grassland to attract females.

Ghost Moth

Another new macro moth in the trap was the Bright-line Brown-eye. This species is named after the pale brown 'eye' mark and the 'bright' white cross line. Other new species for me included Barred Fruit-tree Tortirx (see recent posts) and a Cydia ulicetana.

Bright-line Brown-eye

Daytime searches for moths have revealed a few nice surprises in the garden. On Sunday there was a Cinnabar roosting on the garden steps, but the real highlight was a small tortrix I found in my long grass meadow. After a bit of research it proved to be Dichrorampha petiverella. This is a new moth for us in the Strettons, and according to the county micro list the first record since 1996. It is generally a common moth in the UK, so I suspect it is overlooked.

Dichrorampha petiverella

I also put out the trap last night, recording 25 moths of 14 species. Not as good as the weekend, but there were still several new species. There was one new macro moth, the beautiful True Lover's Knot.

True Lover's Knot

The most interesting moth, however, was probably this micro moth Dioryctria abietella. Another first record for us in the Strettons and a species which is probably not particularly common.

Dioryctria abietella

Not a bad week then, and with the weather warming up I hope to be reporting more new moths soon.

Monday, 1 July 2013

I stand corrected!

In my last post, I showed a photo of what I claimed to be E dodocella, but I was wrong. The moth was in fact Teliopsis diffinis. What is worse, is that when I checked it out on Ian Kimber's website, UKMoths, the photo is MINE, from France.

I am quite sure about all the photos I am going to show below, which were in the trap this morning, starting with a Bee Moth, a female, very much bigger than the male. They do not resemble bees in any way, but are so named because their larvae live in bumble bee and wasp nests.

Bee Moth
I was confused by the next one, as the Raspberry Moth usually has far more tiny spots on it than this one. Its larvae eat young raspberry type buds and shoots. The moth is only about 5 mm long.

Raspberry Moth

Some weeks ago I commented on finding some Lozotaenia forsterana larvae on Ivy in the garden and a couple of them have hatched out this week, as shown below.

Lozotaenia forsterana

 66 moths in the trap of 26 species, well down on Fridays catch of 86 and 39 species.