Saturday, 14 December 2019

Stigmella aceris

Peter Hall has just started work on some of my dissections for 2019 and of interest already are three adult nepticulids recorded in the garden here during February.  They proved to be one male, confirmed as Stigmella aceris, and two indeterminate females (nepticulid females often can't be done safely even by dissection) although one of the pair could well have been aceris as well.  Looking at my photos, all three were most likely the same species with black head, greyish collar, white eye-caps, golden brown fore-wing, silver fascia and purplish apical area.  My camera struggles with moths this small (wing length less than 2mm) but this is the male from 16th February:   

Stigmella aceris, Westcott 16th February

According to MoGBI Stigmella aceris is supposed to have two broods per year, the first in May and the second in August, but appearances this early suggest that it might actually have three when the weather is suitable - as it was in 2019.  It is certainly a moth on the move, because it didn't seem to progress beyond Kent until the late-1990s but has now spread northwards quite rapidly, arriving in Bucks by 2006 when an adult was found in the RIS trap at Burnham Beeches.  My first garden record as a mine was in 2016 but this year our solitary Norway Maple was infested with it, more than 30 mines being noted in just a few minutes on its accessible lower leaves on 11th August.

Dave Wilton
Westcott, Bucks  

Sunday, 8 December 2019

2019 in numbers: Westcott

Now that I'm finally up-to-date with my own records for the year, here are a few statistics from the garden at Westcott:

Nights trap was run (to 7th Dec):  305, of which 188 were Actinic alone and 117 were Actinic + MV.
Species caught:  621 identified so far (343 macros and 278 micros).
Nights with 100+ species:  19 (18 using both traps, 1 using Actinic alone), down from 26 in 2018.
Best night:  23rd July (1,217 moths of 158 species; 768 of 137 spp to MV & 449 of 97 spp to Actinic).
Highest count for a single species:  Heart & Dart for macros (4,975 individuals), Agriphila tristella for
      micros (1,995 individuals).
New for the site in 2019:  at least 20 species, 11 of them macros (Red-tipped Clearwing, Birch Mocha,
      Oblique Carpet, Netted Pug, Bordered White, Barred Red, Dewick's Plusia, Crescent, Twin-spotted
      Wainscot, Suspected & Oak Rustic).
Total number of moths caught in the garden in 2019:  55,212 (to 7th Dec). 

When complete, dissections will add to some of these totals, particularly the number of micro species seen in the garden during the year which should eventually exceed 300 by a fair margin.

The thing which stands out the most from these statistics is the final one in the list above, the overall number of moths caught.  The previous highest annual total here was 42,062 (in 2018).  There was a substantial increase in counts for most of the species which always appear in large numbers anyway, such as Large Yellow Underwing, Setaceous Hebrew Character and Dark Arches (perhaps surprisingly, the Heart & Dart tally wasn't actually a site record!).  In addition to the other usual suspects from which I've come to expect very high numbers annually, Common Wainscot, Black Rustic & Vine's Rustic also achieved totals above 900, which is way more than usual.

Ignoring the actual totals listed above (other gardens in different habitats, perhaps trapped much less frequently, will always produce vastly different counts), did anyone else experience such a noticeable increase in overall numbers of the most abundant species during 2019?  Most of those I've mentioned are noctuids which use grasses or low-growing herbaceous plants.  As larvae they would have started out feeding during the late-summer of 2018 when everything was absolutely parched so it seems a bit counter-intuitive that, far from suffering thanks to that hot weather, they've actually done better than they usually do.

Dave Wilton
Westcott, Bucks     

Wednesday, 4 December 2019

Moth Dissection Website

As many of you know, I use this website for reference and also contribute images to this excellent resource. It is quite expensive to run on a voluntary basis and so this is a plea for anyone that uses it, or knows of someone who uses it to identify moths for you or a colleague (like myself), to think about making a donation for its upkeep. The website is still rather short of funds for 2019, although there have been a number of donations recently from UTB folk. Please spend a moment thinking about whether you would like to contribute to its maintenance so it remains a free for all facility. Many of you take good photos of adults, don't forget that, despite its name, it welcomes images of all stages. Peter Hall

Small numbers, and a Dark Chestnut for confirmation

I haven't had a "nil return" yet, but 22nd October was the last occasion on which I had more than four species or more than five individual moths - I've run the trap six times since then.  Despite those small "hauls" (only sixteen individuals across those six occasions), I have managed to get 11 different species, of which the most interesting was probably Diurnea lipsiella: no sign of Sprawler or Oak Rustic, let alone Black-spotted Chestnut.  Interestingly, very few of the moths - probably only three - have come into the trap.  All of the others were on the outside of the trap or nearby, and all but one of them were found within 3 hours of sunset.  Apart from that one occasion, getting up before sunrise has not been rewarded with anything that I didn't see before bedtime!

Last night I got one Winter Moth and one individual of another species:
Dark Chestnut(?)
Newton Longville, 3rd December
I think it's a Dark Chestnut (Conistra ligula), and not a Chestnut (C. vaccinii), because of the pointed forewing tip and the straight outer edge, but I'd appreciate confirmation of this.  I've had others that were extremely similar to this on two previous occasions (in mid- and late-November), but it seems that I've had no Chestnuts in my garden at all so far this year - the only one I've had was over the border in Northants.

I'm running the trap in the garden again tonight, and if the weather permits I'll probably run it on two more occasions next week, which will be the last for 2019.

Tim Arnold
Newton Longville, Bucks

Indoor Mothing

Mompha subbistrigella was found inside the house today.  I get quite a few micro-moths indoors over the winter months, most of them being the usual Endrosis sarcitrella (White-shouldered House Moth) or Hofmannophila pseudospretella (Brown House Moth).  The next most numerous, because we have huge amounts of the food-plant in ditches locally, are some of the willow-herb feeding Mompha species which hibernate.  Mompha jurassicella and Mompha epilobiella are those most frequently found, followed by Mompha subbistrigella and Mompha bradleyi (unfortunately there have been no records of the last one here since 2011).  Nemapogon cloacella, Acrolepia autumnitellaEsperia sulphurella and Agonopterix heracliana are also seen occasionally, sulphurella presumably brought in on logs destined for the fire.  Macro-moths rarely seem to venture indoors here over the winter, although I have found the occasional Herald inside the garage. 

Mompha subbistrigella, Westcott 4th December

Dave Wilton
Westcott, Bucks

Tuesday, 3 December 2019


The latest issue of E-moth from Butterfly Conservation is available here.  It includes details of the annual Moth Conference in Birmingham on 25th January 2020. 

Sunday, 1 December 2019

Your Records

Here in the garden the actinic light has brought in just a single moth for each of the last two nights, a Winter Moth on Friday night and a Mottled Umber last night.  Now that December is here the first "nil return" of the season must be looming because we are due a long run of cold days and nights now - apart perhaps from a temporary respite next weekend - so the next thing to look forward to is starting everything all over again in the New Year (a far more exciting prospect than elections or Christmas!).  Now is the time to start collecting together your records for 2019 in order to pass them on to your County Moth Recorder. 

I hope many of you will already have seen Butterfly Conservation's long-awaited "Atlas of Britain & Ireland's Larger Moths" which was finally published a week or two ago (if not, put it on your Christmas list!).  This hefty tome is proof of just how vitally important your records are.  It could not have been compiled and published without data from amateur recorders just like you.  For any of you unsure about how to pass on your records, select the "Your Records" tab at the top of this page and everything is explained there.

Dave Wilton
Westcott, Bucks

Thursday, 28 November 2019

First foray into mines

Hi all
Spotted these at Beaconsfield Service Station
First of all are they Mines and if they are what can you tell me about them

Wednesday, 27 November 2019

Above average November

These warmer nights are certainly bringing out the moths even if there is little to get excited about.  Going back ten years, the average number of species seen in the garden here during the second half of November (16th to 30th) is 12 but the last three nights alone have brought in 21, more than I've ever had before in this period:

Sun 24thPlutella xylostella (2), December Moth (1), Red-green Carpet (3), Winter Moth (6), Feathered Thorn (3), Scarce Umber (1), Mottled Umber (1), Yellow-line Quaker (1), Dark Chestnut (1), Satellite (1) & Oak Rustic (1).

Oak Rustic, Westcott 24th November

Mon 25th:  Agonopterix arenella (1), Epiphyas postvittana (1), December Moth (5), Red-green Carpet (4), Winter Moth (7), Feathered Thorn (1), Mottled Umber (2), Silver Y (1) & Sprawler (1).

Silver Y, Westcott 25th November

Tue 26thCaloptilia stigmatella (1), Caloptilia semifascia (1), Acleris hastiana (1, rather battered), Udea ferrugalis (1), December Moth (3), Red-green Carpet (2), Winter Moth (5), Mottled Umber (2), Red-line Quaker (1), Yellow-line Quaker (1) & Brick (1).

Acleris hastiana, Westcott 26th November

Amongst all the Winter Moths I keep my eye open for Northern Winter Moth which I've had here once or twice before, but so far there have not even been any candidates.  It looks as though the warmer weather will stay with us tonight and maybe the first part of tomorrow night will still be OK, then we're back to the cold weather once again with a frost on Friday night which will probably finish off most of the autumn hangers-on and ensure that the hibernators go back to sleep.

Dave Wilton
Westcott, Bucks