Monday, 24 July 2017

Westcott, Bucks

On 19th July I had another small collection of new arrivals for the garden year-list, comprising Athrips mouffetella, Endothenia gentianaeana, Pammene aurita, Oncocera semirubella, Latticed Heath and Gold Spot, but then nothing further new until last night when Yponomeuta sedella, Elachista maculicerusella & Barred Rivulet appeared.

Oncocera semirubella, Westcott 19th July

Gold Spot, Westcott 19th July

Yponomeuta sedella, Westcott 23rd July

Barred Rivulet, Westcott 23rd July

Oncocera semirubella is a very smart micro and appeared here for the first time last August when it was considered to be a wanderer from the Chilterns.  With this second visitor it would be nice to think that it has now become established somewhere closer to home.  Its larvae feed on bird's-foot trefoil and other vetches and there's no shortage of them around here.  The completely grey Yponomeuta sedella was last seen in the garden in 2013 and seems quite uncommon in the county as a whole (there are fewer than 20 records for VC24).  It certainly made a change from the ubiquitous evonymella which I get here in some numbers.  Of the other Ermines, plumbella hasn't visited the garden trap since 2011 while the remainder (which in any case can't be safely separated without knowing the food-plant) generally only put in three or four appearances annually.  Barred Rivulet is an occasional visitor to Westcott but this is another moth last recorded here in 2013.

Migrants so far this month have been limited to Dark Sword-grass (1st, 15th & 18th) and Small Mottled Willow (10th, 17th & 19th), along with more regular visits from Plutella xylostella, Udea ferrugalis and Nomophila noctuella.  Silver Y has been seen but not regularly nor in any significant numbers, while during the daytime Hummingbird Hawk-moth is currently appearing every day on the buddleias and on several occasions there have been two at once.

Dave Wilton
Westcott, Bucks



  1. Nice collection Dave! I asked this on a previous post -maybe you didn't see it, (or maybe you don't want to reveal). I was curious about how you get these great photos. It looks like you have a light source and how do you get the moths to behave, especially the usual frenetic species? I think we have the same old Nikon Coolpix which is excellent for macro photos, but mine don't usually come out as well as yours

  2. Hi Adam, sorry - I must have missed your previous request. There's nothing secret about the method. My Coolpix is on a mini-tripod and I just snap the subject on a sheet of paper on a north-facing windowsill then crop and lighten a little in Photoshop to give the set a roughly consistent background brightness. Of late I've tried to take images with and without flash, then brightening the one without flash to the same consistency as the one with - that gets rid of a lot of the irritating reflection that you can get from flash on some moth scales. In any case the flash itself on the Coolpix is too harsh so I cover it with something like a plastic pot lid to reduce its intensity (nothing too technical here!).

    Getting the moths to behave can require a good deal of patience and a bit of thought about pot size. Just tapping them out onto the paper works well in a lot of cases and that's how I start every time, provided that the pot is large enough so that the moth isn't touching the sides when it has landed on the paper (or there's sufficient room to gently manoeuvre the up-ended pot over the moth so that antennae or wing-tips are straightened out). Of course, something like a Large Emerald would require a massive pot, but I find generally that the larger the moth the more co-operative they are. I usually then "stun" it with the full flash while the pot is still over the top and that is often sufficient to keep it still while you remove the pot and take a couple of pictures.

    Some moths (particularly micros) simply don't like being on a horizontal surface and they might need a bit of fridge or freezer time first. Using the freezer might seem a bit drastic but we're only talking about 60 seconds or so to calm down a small micro - any longer is likely to have terminal consequences. A (very) few moths simply refuse to sit still whatever you do so a picture inside a clean pot is a last resort, but I've usually given up on them before that point is reached!

  3. Thanks Dave - not massively different to my approach, though I haven't tried flash or lightening. Looking at your results, I still think of you as a bit of a moth whisperer!


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