Sunday, 16 February 2014

Not a moth, but moth related...

There was another nil return in the actinic trap last night so far as moths are concerned here at Westcott, Bucks.  However, I did get two examples of the common nocturnal parasitoid wasp Ophion obscuratus which usually starts appearing in moth traps at this time of the year.  As the larvae of these wasps feed on the larvae of noctuid moths, we should at least take a passing interest in them! 

Ophion obscuratus, Westcott 15th February

There are hundreds of different species but almost none of them are identifiable in the field.  Ophion obscuratus is an exception thanks to the creamy yellow markings on its thorax and the creamy yellow wedge either side of the orangey-brown stigma on each forewing.  There is only one other species like it in the UK, Ophion forticornis which is rare, associated with sand dunes and has the ocelli and eyes merged together in a single area of black rather than being separate as can be seen in the picture of obscuratus below.  Dave Wilton

Ophion obscuratus, showing ocelli and thorax


  1. Thanks Dave. I've got a few photos of this species that were lurking in my 'to ID' folder and now I nkow what it is.


  2. I would have thought that the majority of Noctuid larvae would be at their most inaccessible at this time of year (tucked-up in their hibernacula or not hatched from their eggs yet). So why does it emerge now?
    I suppose, any larva it does find will not be lively and defensive, but that doesn't sound very convincing.
    Andy King.

  3. Hi Andy, I do find Angle Shades (in particular) and other noctuid spp larvae wandering across my lawn towards the moth trap occasionally during the winter months so those that "hibernate" in that stage presumably do come up to feed when the weather is suitable. Another thought is that there's an autumn generation of Ophion obscuratus so maybe they over-winter as adult wasps. Maybe we should ask Gavin Broad! Dave


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