Saturday, 21 July 2018

Saturday July 2018

I've just finished the identification process in relation to the moths caught on Thursday night. The total score was 158 moths of 47 species, many of them new to me. The total was bumped up by the bodies of 72 Water Veneers found with a similar number of small Water Boatmen in the bottom of the trap. I don't know why these tiny moths and the other insects seem unable to survive the experience. I can only assume that they need to be close to or in water to remain alive.

The remainder of the catch was hale and hearty, and I spent a pleasant couple of hours sorting through them. One of the commoner moths in the trap are a micro called Bird-cherry Ermine. These are little white moths covered in tiny black dots. However, there are several other species of Yponomeuta species, all of which have fewer dots, and all of which can only be identified with reference to their genitals. I had been looking out for them, and caught at least one.

Yponomeuta sp (possibly padella)
Fortunately most of the moths were macros, and so theoretically easier to identify. The only one to appear in the bathroom had been a Yellow-tail. I released it first and watched as it spiralled high into the air until lost from view. I hadn't expected it to do that.

The only pug of the morning, a Double-striped Pug, had chosen to rest on the garden chair I wished to sit on. I shooed it off and got down to business. Clinging to the side of the trap was a large fat bodied moth of the type I suspect people mean when they say they hate moths. It was a Broad-bordered Yellow Underwing and was the first of two to turn up.

Broad-bordered Yellow Underwing
A beautiful Black Arches was resting on the side of the trap, while I could see several Thorn moths in the trap. These turned out to comprise three species; two were Dusky Thorns, but the other two were new ones. A Purple Thorn and a Canary-shouldered Thorn, the latter a particularly attractive species.

Purple Thorn

Canary-shouldered Thorn

The last moth before I started going through the egg boxes an interesting looking one. I ruled out Sycamore and Knot Grass on size, and concluded it was my first Poplar Grey.

Poplar Grey

One of the first egg boxes contained arguably the best looking moth of the morning, an Iron Prominent. Certainly the first for the garden, but I think I may have been shown one at a moth-trapping event once.

Iron Prominent
I decided to pot it so that Lyn could see it when she got up. Unfortunately this did mean that my only shot of it was from above looking into the pot, and it didn't resume its distinctive resting position.

Another candidate for moth of the day was Ruby Tiger, my first tiger moth for the garden. I actually found three in the trap by the end of the morning.

Ruby Tiger
A moth which I am familiar with from bathroom captures in previous years was Common Rustic ag. This annoying species manages to combine being highly variable, common, and impossible to split without reference to its genitals, hence the abbreviation ag (which I assume means aggregate) after its name. To show its variability I am showing the one I caught in the trap (which bore a similarity to a species called Double Lobed) and a darker one I caught in the bathroom last night.

Common Rustic ag

Common Rustic ag
Continuing with the theme of tricky macro moths, I caught another one which can't be safely identified from a photograph, Marbled Minor ag, and a similar species which I was tempted to identify, Cloaked Minor.

Marbled Minor ag

Cloaked Minor
Once again the problem is the extreme variation shown in the appearance of the Marbled Minor group. However, Cloaked Minor is distinctly more slender at the pointy end than the others. I am pleased to say that JS has concurred with all of the macro identifications I sent him.

Another moth which caused me difficulty, but shouldn't have, was a fairly distinctive looking moth in one of the egg boxes. I casually noted it as "Wave sp" in my notebook and photographed it for later identification. The macro moths are split into several groups in the same way that birds might be waders or warblers. The two largest groups are the geometers (the ones that flatten themselves out at rest with wings outstretched), and the noctuids (the ones with wings like cloaks which scuttle about and flutter a lot). My error came when I decided it was clearly a member of the former group. After going through page after page of geometers I couldn't find its likeness. A quick flip through the rest of the book also came up with nothing, so I emailed a picture to John. He quickly responded "try looking at Oak Hook-tip". And there it was, nestling among a small group of other Hook-tips in a different section to the geometers. A very easy to identify moth !

Oak Hook-tip
This is why you need a phone-a -friend option.

One last macro year-tick was a Lesser Broad-bordered Yellow Underwing. I can't help thinking that whoever invented the English moth names was deliberately trying to confuse inexperienced moth-ers like me.

Lesser Broad-bordered Yellow Underwing
I have largely ignored micros so far, but you shouldn't overlook the little blighters which typically perch on the perspex sheets or on the edges of the box, and I have to try to identify them. Most were ones I had seen before, and as I haven't heard back from JS yet some of these identifications could change. I think I have got them right though.

Acleris forsskaleana

Agriphila straminella

Clepsis consimilana
Cydia splendana
Hedya salicella
Zeiraphera isertana
Regarding the above I will only add that I caught seven Agriphila straminella and I know them to be a very common grass moth which emerges at about this time. They also look very similar to several other Crambidae moths, so JS may tell me they are something else. The rest are all from the enormous group Tortricidae which contains over 300 species. Fortunately most can be identified, and I am fairly hopeful for the ones shown.

I did photograph a very tiny moth which I think is from the group Elachistidae, and although it might be Elachista canapannella I am expecting to be told it is unidentifiable to species level on the basis of my photograph.

Elachista sp
Finally, I was sitting in the living room last night when I noticed a tiny white moth on my foot.  It was leaping about all over the place, but I finally caught it and observed it had a little yellow head and was probably a Common Clothes Moth Tineola bisselliella. I popped it in the fridge expecting it to calm down, but an hour later it was still too lively to photograph so I let it go...outside.

Thursday, 19 July 2018

Thursday July 18

A week of not mothing has passed, but with the temperatures remaining warm it was inevitable that a few would find their way into the bathroom.

On Sunday night they comprised the first Blastobasis adustella of the year along with a Twenty-plume Moth and a Small Dusty Wave.

Blastobasis adustella

Then last night I caught a tortix sp which this morning I identified as a Dark Fruit-tree Tortrix.

Dark Fruit-tree Tortrix
Both species have been recorded in the bathroom before.

As the sun came out from midday the Buddleia was attracting a good variety of butterflies. Two Commas, two Large Whites, a Small White, a Peacock, a Brimstone, and new for the year a Gatekeeper and a Painted Lady.


Painted Lady

The trap will be going out tonight, so I will try to get my next post done by Saturday evening.

Saturday, 14 July 2018

Saturday July 14

As usual its taken me a few days to figure out what the moths I caught on Wednesday night were; a total of 86 moths of 36 species. JS is on holiday in Wales, so his response to my identifications, whilst generally positive, is also a work in progress.

I had been waiting for an array of pots to arrive (for calming moths in the fridge...they apparently don't mind, making it easier to photograph them) but by Wednesday there was no sign of them so I decided, half way through the England match, that if England won I would wait another day.

So I got on with it with my original stock. Peering into the box I could immediately see a species of Thorn, and on extracting it managed to identify it as a Dusky Thorn. Further examination of the egg boxes turned up two more. A quick look at my moth book told me that this species needs to be looked at closely to rule out similar species. This was to become a theme of the morning.

Dusky Thorn
Among several Common Footman moths in the trap I noticed a couple that were obviously paler and browner. I suspected they were something different and further research led me to identify them as Buff Footman. Once again there is an array of similar Footman species which need to be eliminated.

Buff Footman
A well patterned carpet moth turned out to be Common Carpet, also new for the year.

Common Carpet
Turning over one egg box I found myself looking at another carpet moth-type, which I assumed would be easy to identify later. Never assume. After initially picking out White-banded Carpet, I then discovered they were Nationally rare, so I turned the page and discovered the Rivulet, and also the Small Rivulet. I hadn't bothered to measure it, but fortunately there were enough other subtle features to reach a positive conclusion that it was a Small Rivulet.

Small Rivulet

Another nice looking moth I could see clinging to an egg box was new to me, a Scalloped Oak.

Scalloped Oak
Several micros were captured and photographed, but I will come to them later. My second Miller of the year was recorded but not photographed, as were two Coronets. Two other "Coronets" looked wrong, and I eventually worked out they were actually a species I recorded in the spring called Knot Grass. Like many moths they have a second generation in late summer.

Knot Grass
Resting on the opposite side of the perspex in the trap was a white moth. This turned out to be a male Yellow-tail, another tick of course.

I moved on to the egg cartons on the other side of the box. So far in every catch there has been a stand-out moth due to its sheer beauty, and in this case it was a Sallow Kitten.

Sallow Kitten
A quick flip through my moth book pointed me to Poplar Kitten, and I confidently wrote the name down before potting the moth to show to Lyn. It was only after I let it go that I read the text in the moth book which mentioned a smaller species called Sallow Kitten and said they were best separated by size. Further reading gave me some salvation as it also stressed a difference in the shape of one of the cross-lines and sure enough my moth was actually a Sallow Kitten. You can't even take the striking ones for granted!

Ironically a much more boring looking moth caused me fewer problems. I had tentatively identified it as a Pale Mottled Willow, but reference to the book told me it wasn't that, and led to the conclusion it was Dingy Shears, another moth that was completely new to me.

Dingy Shears

None of these new moths appears to be especially rare in Warwickshire, and I'm pleased to say that John has concurred with all my identifications.

Not so with the micro-moths, although I didn't do too badly. On holiday in Wales and away from any reference material, John was only able to agree with the following ones which I have captioned.

Cnephasia ag

Euzophera pinguis

Phycitodes binaevella
Mother of Pearl
The last of these shows that not all micro-moths are microscopic. In fact its bloody enormous.

The following moths were identified by me as respectively Eudemis profundana, and Oegoconia ag (possibly quadripuncta) but were not accepted as such by JS subject to further research by him when he gets home.

The following evening I grabbed a tiny micro in the bedroom, and subsequently identified it as a Case-bearing Clothes Moth.

Case-bearing Clothes Moth
And finally, I wasn't at all well last night, but frequent visits to the bathroom did have an upside as I potted five moths; Bright-line Brown-Eye, Riband Wave, Marbled Minor ag, Dun-bar, and Uncertain. None was new for the year.

Tuesday, 10 July 2018

Tuesday July 10

Just one little moth in the bathroom last night. It was new for the year, but has occurred previously. The moth in question was the rather underwhelming Holly Tortrix Rhopobota naevana.

Holly Tortrix
I tried the fridge method to calm it down, but as I tried to encourage it out of the pot it made a break for it and I ended up crawling around the paving slabs trying to salvage a shot through the hand lens.

This evening I was about to start watering our dying plants when I realised I had an audience.

Newly-fledged Robin
I'm not the only one with an enthusiasm for moths.

Saturday, 7 July 2018

Wed/Thurs July 4/5

Another warm night produced the expected deluge of moths. My final tally was 151 moths of 45 species, and that doesn't include a dozen or so which escaped before I could look at them. I was again bothered by the local Robins which have got even bolder, now perching on the edge of the trap and having to be shooed away. As a result I had to be up at 05.00 am to beat the Robins to their breakfast.

The commonest moths in the trap were the micros Chrystoteucha culmella (24), and Bird-cherry Ermine (21), and the macro Heart and Dart (17).

New for the year was a Mother of Pearl which escaped before I could photograph it, a Dun-bar, and two Beautiful Hook-tips.

Dun-bar (on the right) with a Heart & Dart
Beautiful Hook-tip
Several species were new to the garden, and these included a male Vapourer. I have often seen small orangey-brown moths flying chaotically past at Morton Bagot and had concluded that they were probably Vapourers searching for a wingless female to mate with. So I was delighted to finally get a good look at one.

Also very noteworthy was a Black Arches. It is not only a stunning moth, one which I have seen on moth-night events, but JS informed me they normally appear until late July, so its a good record.

Black Arches
Next we come to several macros which were probably lifers for me. I certainly can't recall seeing any of them before. The best was a Blackneck. I actually knew exactly what it was as soon as I saw it, having seen pictures of them in magazines. I later discovered that JS has never seen one!

One I didn't recognise, but was a stunning moth anyway, turned out to be a Phoenix. I actually found two of them in the trap. They took a bit of identifying and I had to eliminate Water Carpet (flies in May) and Small Phoenix.

Another striking one was a Miller, although I gather from JS that he has been catching a few in recent days.

A much scarcer moth was one of only two pug species I caught (the other was V-Pug). As usual I had no idea which species it was, so was relying on a photograph and JS's input. However even John wasn't sure and asked me if I had measured it and whether I had any other photos. Fortunately one of my photos was taken inside the lid of my catching pot and by measuring the distance between the air-holes compared to the moth I was able to confirm it had a forewing length of 8mm. This was good for both Slender Pug and for Maple Pug.

Slender Pug
John emailed back that he was still not sure but was now leaning towards my identification. However there may yet be another twist as John suggested I email my pictures to David Brown, the county recorder.

Inevitably several of the micros turned out to be new. The one that caused the biggest headache, partly because my photos weren't that good, turned out to be a Juniper Webber.  As is often the case with micros, the issue was trying to work out which family it was from. I had turned straight to the crambidae group assuming it was some kind of grass-veneer. I eventually discovered its image among the gelechiidae moths.

Juniper Webber (with Black Ant for scale)
Other ticks were Agapeta hamana, Hedya ochroleuchana, Cydia splendana, and Acentria ephemerella aka Water Veneer. If you are really astute you may have noticed that this is the second time I have ticked Water Veneer. This is because one I had had identified by JS a month ago was a much bigger moth (poor John usually fails to get size details given to him when challenged to identify moths from my photos and it is also only fair to say that he only said that the moth showed an antler pattern similar to Water Veneer). Today's moths were tiny, and were all found dead, so arguably shouldn't be a tick anyway.

Agapeta hamana
Hedya ochroleucana
Cydia splendana
One micro species I thought I might have caught was rejected by JS, mainly because the photo was so crap. Luckily I got a second chance when I caught another one in the bathroom (not that I knew what it was), and this time the photo backed me up. The species was the highly variable Blastobasis lacticolella.

Blastobasis lacticolella
Relegated to also rans purely because I have seen at least one before this year were some excellent moths such as Poplar Hawkmoth, four Coronets, Clouded Border, Peppered Moth, Spectacle, Buff-tip, Sycamore, Marbled Minor ag, and Dark Arches.

During the day I also added a new butterfly to the garden list, a Marbled White. The Buddleia is now starting to flower and is proving a great attraction to the local butterflies.

Marbled White
The bees in the bee hotel are also causing headaches, but that'll be covered in another posting.