Moth Diaries ep.7

By the end of Moth Diaries episode six, I had confirmed a total of 48 species for the garden so far this year. Well, as predicted, with some 27c days and some 16c+ nights things have gone into overdrive (some would say chaos) and the total number of species for the garden now stands at an incredible 80. Owing to this drastic increase in number, forgive my lack of prose below and instead enjoy the gallery of some of the best new moths of the last couple of weeks. (Please note that most of the photographs below are stock photographs unless stated otherwise – much respect is given to those with the skill and patience to photograph such flighty, skittish creatures!)

Flame Carpet – Common, a brassica feeder on the wing in May, June and again in August
Mottle Pug, abundant in the trap at present, flying in May and June and feeding on a variety of trees, most notable Blackthorn and Hawthorn
Micro moth Phtheochroa rugosana disguised as bird poo! Note the weird ‘beak’ too.
Foxglove Pug, one of the more easier Pugs to identify and one of the prettiest. Flies May to July with the larvae feeding on the stamen of foxglove flowers

Below is the Peppered moth at rest on my finger, a beautiful large moth it has been extensively studied thanks to malanism. Often referred to as ‘Darwins moth’ it is an evolutionary instance of directional colour change in the moth population as a consequence of air pollution. During the Industrial Revolution with the rise of smog, this moth turned almost completely black, evolving to better blend in with it’s industrial surroundings. It is only more recently that the moth has reverted back to the standard white with black ‘peppering’ although in the industrial north, populations of all black peppered moths still exist.

A Green Carpet moth, one of my own and slightly worn. The green rarely lasts long and fades to yellow-brown. Examples of worn, nearly all white specimens are common later in the year. It flies from May to late July
Common Swift – a tiny moth and one of Britain’s oldest this moth belongs to a very primitive family, the Hepialidae. The adults do not feed at all as they never evolved a usable proboscis and so are relatively short-lived, flying from May to June.


Micro moth Scrobipalpa costella – rather dull and just 7mm in length the adults emerge in September and spend the winter as an adult
The Buff Ermine moth is a glorious sand-orange colour. Common throughout, the adults fly from May to July and the larvae feed in Autumn on a range of herbaceous plants, shrubs and trees.

Below is undoubtedly one of my favourite catches of the year so far. The gorgeous Poplar Hawk-moth. My first Hawk of the year, the Poplar is the most common of all of our Hawk-moths and also the most easily recognised owing to the strange resting position with hindwing protruding beyond the forewing. This unusual position arises from the fact that the Poplar Hawk-moth does not have a frenulum (a structure which normally holds the wings together). Like the Swift moth, it has no functioning proboscis and so the adult moth does not feed, existing only to mate and reproduce. Adults are on the wing from May to July and the larvae feed on Poplar, Aspen and Sallow.

The White Ermine – cousin to the Buff Ermine, its habits are almost identical. With the wings open, this pretty moth displays a bright yellow abdomen with a line of thick black spots, as per the picture below. 
White Ermine with abdomen on display
A Silver Y moth – no prizes for guessing how this moth acquired its name, the silvery-shaped marking on the forewing a dead give-away. The first Migrant moth in my trap this year, the Silver Y descends on the UK en masse from Spring right through to late Autumn, travelling from southern Europe and north Africa. They can be seen on the wing in the day and at night.
Oak-Tree Pug, yes another Pug! On the wing in May and June the larvae feed on Hawthorn and yes, you guessed it, Oak.
A Vine’s Rustic moth. When I first saw this moth I assumed it to be a Common Quaker, puzzled as to why it should turn up so late in the Spring (Common Quakers persist until late March, early April at best). It can be found from May right through to October.

The moth below is actually a micro moth, though seemingly larger than a number of macros I’ve seen. It is called a Large Tabby moth and is in rapid decline, owing possibly to a loss of habitat; it is a Barn and outbuilding specialist where the larvae feed amongst straw and chaff in such buildings, as well as on sheep-dung. It’s not the most beautiful of moths but I’m chuffed to see one; they are extremely rare in Leicestershire making this a valuable record both for myself and the county. The adults usually fly from June to August and only occasionally visit light.

This common micro moth Notocelia cynosbatella, just 8-10mm in length, is another ‘bird poo’ disguise specialist. On the wing from May to July the larvae feed on a number of wild and cultivated roses.
Another rather dull micro moth Hofmannophila pseudospretella or more commonly knows as the ‘Brown House-moth’. This little critter can thrive all year round in an in-home setting, with the larvae feeding on material that accumulates indoors behind skirting boards and other similar places.
Marbled Minor – One of a complex of three species, which can only be reliably separated by dissection of the genitalia. The other two species are Tawny Marbled Minor (O. latruncula) and Rufous Minor (O. versicolor). This is the most common, flying from May to July.
Green Pug – another Pug! Luckily, this Pug is usually quite identifiable as it is one of only two ‘green’ pugs, the other being decidedly different in patterning. It can vary in colour though, from vivid green to beige or brown which complicates things and can induce the usual ‘Pug blindness’ us moth’ers fear. On the wing in June and July the larvae feed on the blossom of fruit trees. 
a Rustic Shoulder-knot. A common moth of a range of grassy habitats and on the wing in May and June. The caterpillars feed through the winter on various grasses such as cock’s-foot.
Chinese Character – this peculiar little macro moth is another that favours the bird poo disguise to avoid the gaze of hungry birds. Two generations fly in May and June and then again in August.
The Small Fan-foot, this is the smallest of the Fan-Foot families. Fairly common, the adults fly from June to August. The larvae feed on the leaves of a range of deciduous trees, often on withered and fallen leaves.
Another uninspiring micro moth, Mompha subbistrigella is frequent in Leicestershire but not common. The larvae of this widely distributed species feed within the seedpods of Broad-leaved Willowherb and occasionally on other Willowherb species. The adults emerge in late Summer and can be seen on the wing any time through to late Spring the following year.
Yes, another Pug, this time Lime-speck Pug and one of only a few white-coloured Pugs. Yet another disguising itself as a bird-dropping this moth can have one or two broods with adults on the wing from April to September. The larvae feed on a range of low-lying plants.
Large Nutmeg resting in one of my egg cartons. Distributed throughout much of England, though most common in the south-east, it is local or rare elsewhere, to northern England and Wales. The adults fly usually in June and July while the larvae feed on a range of grasses.
2087 Turnip Moth, Agrotis segetum, Marlmount, Dundalk
The Turnip Moth flies in May and June and again in August and September. It varies widely in colour. The Larvae live undergroud feeding on a range of roots and root-crops. Their destructive habit of biting off the shoots of small seedlings gave rise to the name ‘cutworms’.
Another bland micro moth, Syndemis musculana is common everywhere including mountains, moorlands and woodlands. It flies in the late afternoon and evening in May and June, coming to light after dusk. Between July and October the larva feeds from a leaf spinning or folded leaf on Bramble, Birch, Oak and a range of shrubs, herbs and grasses.
A micro moth more pleasing on the eye (if you can see it, at just 5-7mm in length), Caloptilia alchimiella is on the wing from May to July in search of Oak on which to lay its eggs. When hatched, the larva at first mines the leaves in a gallery leading to a blotch. Subsequently the larva forms a succession of cones (usually three) by folding the tips of the leaves, and feeding within.
73_301 Shoulder-striped Wainscot, Leucania comma, Co Wicklow
Shoulder-striped Wainscot is on the wing usually in June and July only with the larvae feeding at night on a range of grasses.
Small Square-spot is so named for the square-shaped ‘spot’ above the kidney mark. Common throughout although preferring damper habitats, the adult is on the wing in two generation in May and June and again in August and September. The larvae feed on a whole host of herbaceous plants.
The ‘Varied Coronet’ is a recent colonist, first appearing the the south-east of Britain in the 1940’s. This mid-sized moth has slowly spread as far north as Lincolnshire. The Adult is on the wing usually from June to July and can be quite abundant in gardens; the larval food-plant appears to be Sweet William where the caterpillars consume the seeds. My own Varied Coronet is photographed below.
My first Varied Coronet

Finally, we have the arrival of the Large Yellow Underwing and it is ‘Large’ (though not as large as the Broad-Bordered Yellow Underwing). At rest, this moth looks fairly dull and innocuous, until, once disturbed, we get a view of the stunning Yellow hindwings. This can be said for all of the ‘Yellow Underwing’ family, most of which are rather abundant. In Fact, the Large Yellow Underwing is Britain’s most common moth (as our own inhabitants are joined in summer by a hude influx of migrants from southern Europe) and us moth’ers refer to them as ‘trap fillers’ and for good reason; they have an insatiable appetite for light and between July and September they can appear in the trap by the hundreds which can make them a bit of a pest in high-season. Adding to their sheer volume and size, their habit of rapid movement and ‘crawling’ can make for quite an intimidating experience, emptying the trap in the morning. This one is early, with the main flight period usually July to September though increasingly emerging in June and for now I’m content to see its beauty. Ask me how I feel again in August!




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