Finally, after what seems like an age of waiting, warmer nights have finally made an appearance and with them a huge increase in both the number and variety of moths visiting the garden trap. Here is a quick run-down of the best of a large bunch that I have recorded in the garden since the last Moth Diaries.
It might not be the prettiest moth, but the Ochreous Pug photographed above was an unusual visitor to the garden. Just a handful of records are submitted from the county each year and it’s no surprise as in Leicestershire and Rutland this moth has been given ‘C’ status; very scarce resident. With the larvae feeding on the new shoots of Scots Pine or Larch, it’s not difficult to understand why it’s scarce – the nearest pine woodland from my garden is, well, who knows?
Next in was the Garden Carpet moth and since the first one landed just under two weeks ago they have become a daily feature of the morning count; the trap now seems to be drawing in three or four most nights and I’m not complaining, their intricate pattern is much finer than my blurry photograph above can convey. This moth is a bit of a suburban specialist, hence the name, and the larvae feed on a wide variety of suburban ‘weeds’ such as Garlic Mustard, Shepherd’s-purse, Hairy Bitter-cress as well as cabbage. The numbers to the trap are unlikely to subside any time soon as the Garden Carpet is continuously-brooded from April right through to September, resulting in generation after generation emerging all summer long.
A rather different moth has also been making itself known in recent days. This large, placid moth is a Scalloped Hazel recognisable instantly from the central bar and single kidney spot. The jagged outer-edge is also diagnostic with this species and often gives the appearance of being worn or as if something had taken a few bites out of it. Unlike the Garden Carpet, this moth has just a single brood and is on the wing for a comparatively short time; just May and June. The larvae feed on a number of woody plants and by no means just Hazel as the name might suggest. Silver and Downy Birch, Hawthorn, Blackthorn, Oak and even some coniferous trees can just as easily be on the menu.
This micro moth, Bryotropha affinis was next in the bag and although it can be common it is widely under-recorded. I found out why pretty quickly. On first inspection, I thought this particular specimen (photographed – just some 7mm in length) had more the traits of Bryotropha basaltinella which, if correct, would have been the first ever record for Leicestershire and Rutland. The larger, more straightly aligned black spots are usually more diagnostic of basaltinella where as affinis tends to have a smaller, circular pattern of 6 or so spots. Bryotropha affinis is quite variable though. After consulting some expert moth’ers, they agreed that this particular specimen could well be that of the rarer basaltinella but the only way to actually tell the difference is by ‘Gen det.’ – dissection of the genitalia under a microscope. The Leicestershire County Moth recorder, Adrian Russell, offered to send this little beast off to be dissected but I couldn’t bring myself to give it the deep-freeze. Since trapping this initial critter, the Bryotropha have been a regular in the trap for a week or so, leading me to the conclusion to mark it up as the more common affinis to which Adrian agreed. It would be nice to get a new County record and I may consider sending another specimen for the deep-freeze; It is a bit of a moral quandary – I don’t like killing anything – but records such as these are invaluable for conservation and preservation, establishing distribution and finding the best way to help the rarer species thrive.
My first Cabbage Moth of the season arrived this week; a rather dull name for such an exquisitely marked moth. A very common species with a rather complex life-history, with two or three overlapping generations, and moths on the wing from May through to September. As the name would suggest, the larvae feed on a variety of brassicas, most notably cabbages, and when conditions are right they can be a notorious pest for allotment holders, veg growers and farmers.
Next in was one of my favourite moths of May, the Yellow-barred Brindle. Since it’s arrival in the trap on the 9th of May I have trapped two others on separate occasions over the last couple of nights. They are a sublime moth to look at although incredibly difficult to photograph (I’ve not yet met another moth so flighty).
You might be asking why they are called ‘Yellow’ when, as pictured above, this moth is actually a gorgeous moss-green. Well, they wear quickly and within a few days the initial green can rapidly fade to a pale yellow. The three I’ve trapped so far have all been lush green and so are obviously newly emerged but I suspect as the season goes on, the name will become more appropriate. Occupying woodland, scrubland and suburban habitats they are perfectly suited to the garden; the larvae feed on a number of flowers and leaves of various foodplants including Holly and Ivy. The Yellow-barred Brindle is on the wing in May and June although in the Southern half of the country a second brood may follow in August and September.
Similar to the Yellow-barred Brindle and other ‘Carpet’ moths, another recent visitor to the trap was the Common Marbled Carpet (pictured above). Despite the two vastly different looking moths in the photograph above, they are indeed both the same. In fact, the Common Marbled is somewhat of a moth’ers nightmare as many, many variations exist with some quite extreme difference in colouring. Once you’ve trapped a few though, you tend to get a feel for them; the patterning does remain the same across the variations and so it is the various cross and bar-lines that help to correctly identify the species. As per the name, they are common right across the UK and usually with two broods on the wing in May-June and again August-October. Their success lies in the huge variety of habitats in which they can flourish, with the larvae feeding on a vast array of low-growing flora.
Here’s a moth you might all encounter at one time or another this year. The White-shouldered House-moth is aptly named for its habit of residing indoors. This species has been accidentally introduced into many parts of the world with dried stored goods. The larvae feed on a variety of dried plant and animal debris and, where the moth exists indoors, it is continuously brooded meaning that you may find it in your home at any time of the year. I’ve trapped them nightly this week though so far from the outside only!
My first and only Bright-line Brown-eye arrived in the trap on the 11th of May and in looks is reminiscent of the Orthosia I was inundated with throughout March and early April. The stock photograph above shows a rather faded specimen but in those a little fresher the derivation of the name is a little more obvious. The white outer cross-line (just visible at the bottom of the wings above) makes the ‘Bright-line’ whilst the rust-brown oval marks make the ‘Brown-eye’. This moth varies very little in appearance, making them easily identifiable when on the wing in May through to July and they may be found anywhere where the foodplant is available, most notably Orache, Goosefoot and Redshank though allotments and waste-ground seem to be the most desirable abode.
Like the Bright-line Brown-eye, the above Heart and Dart moth is named from the obvious markings on the forewings. The think, dark ‘dart’ towards the top of the forewing points towards the ‘heart’ shaped kidney spot. A very common moth, the first arrived in my garden on 11th of May and has appeared again on both the 12th and 13th and will become one of the more common moths around the trap owing to their readiness to come to light. Flying from May to July in a single brood this moth can be found literally anywhere with the larvae feeding on a wide variety of wild and garden plants.
The Flame Shoulder is a lovely looking little moth, more so in reality than in photographs, owing to the shimmer of natural light on a forewings that range from rust-brown to deep claret depending on the light. They provide the moth’er with instant gratification as the Flame Shoulder is unlike any other species in Britain, saving the observer from the usual identification headache. The ‘Flame’ comes from the lighter beige-straw stripe that extends from the shoulder when in resting position emphasised by the jet-black streak behind it. A common moth of woodland fringes, gardens and meadowland the Flame Shoulder is on the wing in a double brood, first appearing in May to June and again in August and September. The nocturnal larvae feed on a variety of low-growing vegetation such as Dock and Plantain. Whilst not the most colourful of the moths at this time of the year, their striking appearance and subdued tones make for a very classy looking moth.
Last but not least, is, well, Least Black Arches, photographed above. This lovely little moth flies in May and June and is fairly frequent but not common in Leicestershire. The moth can be found most commonly in woodlands, parks and gardens but it might take some spotting; Least Black Arches could easily be mistaken for a ‘micro’ moth, with a wingspan just 16mm in length and a body topping out at just 10mm long. Despite the diminutive size and being smaller than some notable ‘micros’, Least Black Arches is in fact a ‘macro’ moth. The larvae feed on Lime, Evergreen Oak and some other trees and shrubs. The stock photograph shows a specimen which is slightly worn, usually the detailed patterning between and behind the arched black cross lines which give this moth it’s name are a little bolder, though the critter I trapped last night, for the first time this year, was in much the same condition as the one photographed. For a moth made up of just two simple colours with narrow forewings usually whitish, fine black cross lines, the innermost of which is elbowed or ‘V’ shaped, and the outer middle line strongly curved in the leading half and often shaped like a question mark, it is a very attractive, delicate moth and always welcome in my garden.
The Least Black Arches took my garden species total to an already substantial 48 different moths. Given that the real mothing season is at its very beginning, I’m expecting great things for June and July. Bring on the Hawk Moths!
For an updated list of all recorded species in my garden this year, click here: Garden Moth Species List