Monday, 30 December 2019

Hardy Leaf-miners

On browsing through the list of moth species recorded here in the garden during 2019 I realised that Phyllonorycter leucographella was absent from it.  Somehow I'd managed to miss it while checking for leaf-mines in the autumn (probably a clerical error because the mines are "always there"!).  To remedy the situation I went out today to have a look at our Pyracantha and found 20+ young active upper-surface blister mines on its leaves.

Phyllonorycter leucographella mine, Westcott 30th Dec

Back-lit image of the same mine

In the second image above you can see the stripey larva inside the mine, resting against the mid-rib.  Species which mine evergreen plants seem able to survive the winter like this and now is a good time to seek out Holm Oaks (Quercus ilex) whose leaves are often covered in active mines of Ectoedemia heringella.  I've also found active mines of Stigmella aurella on Bramble leaves in January (there's an example here) although a check around the garden today produced only old vacated mines. 

Dave Wilton
Westcott, Bucks

Saturday, 28 December 2019

Rusty-dot Pearl

Found in the greenhouse today (28th December) in Wooburn Common, Bucks.
The greenhouse has been closed up since November, so I question if this is a migrant

Cookham 2019 - where have all the macros gone?

I get the impression from other postings on this blog that 2019 has generally been a good year for moth numbers. However, in terms of number of macro species recorded, this year in my Cookham garden has actually been rather poor. In fact, I have had the lowest number since I started moth recording back in 2013. The macro species total for this year was only 190, compared to 242 last year and 227 in 2017.
There are certain common moths that one expects to see every year, but this year all these moths were absent from my garden for the very first time: Early Thorn, Swallow Prominent, Straw Dot, Black Arches, Buff Ermine, Fan-foot, Miller, Cloaked Minor, Middle-barred Minor, Red-line Quaker, Flame, Flame Shoulder and Six-striped Rustic.
Trapping effort matches previous years, so I suspect the reason must be habitat loss and/or climatic reasons. I would be interested to hear if anybody else has had a similar experience this year.
Fingers crossed that 2020 sees the re-appearance of all my missing moths!
Happy New Year to everyone,
Steve Trigg

Tuesday, 24 December 2019

Black-spotted Chestnut

Last night Robin Knill-Jones in Denham, Bucks was lucky enough to get another Black-spotted Chestnut, his second garden record.  His first (see here), back in January 2019, was the first ever record for Bucks.

Black-spotted Chestnut, Denham 23rd December

This fairly recent arrival in the UK only seems to fly in November, December and January so that will hopefully encourage a few more of you to keep trapping during the winter months!  It seems to be spreading out from its original core area to the south-east of London.  There have been several records already this season from a known "hot-spot" in Bedfordshire and one was recorded in Hertfordshire on 19th December.

Sunday, 22 December 2019

Pale Brindled Beauty

Friday night's collection of moths to the actinic light in the garden here at Westcott comprised Winter Moth (1), Mottled Umber (2) & Satellite (1), while last night's were Winter Moth (2), Pale Brindled Beauty (1), Mottled Umber (1) & Dark Chestnut (1).  The Pale Brindled Beauty was the first for me this winter.

Pale Brindled Beauty, Westcott 21st December

Dave Wilton
Westcott, Bucks

Saturday, 21 December 2019

Psychoides filicivora

I found a Psychoides filicivora in the cloakroom this morning - a new species for me and one (along with P. verhuella) that I had been looking for earlier in the year amongst the many ferns, including Hart's Tongue, that we have in the garden. It seems that they can be found late in the year, but even so, this seems a tad late.

Record shot through the pot, as it was quite flighty once potted. It was also lit slightly as the day is so grey, so the purple sheen shows quite well.

Adam Bassett
Marlow Bottom

Thursday, 19 December 2019

Southern Chestnut confirmed in Berkshire

In 2018 Paul Black found what we thought was the first Berkshire record of Southern Chestnut. A big thank you to Peter Hall for providing the full confirmation of this via dissection, and for adding one of his immaculate photos to the Moth Dissection website.

As can be seen in the new moth atlas, prior to this Berkshire record Southern Chestnut was confined to an area around the New Forest heathlands, and it was a very welcome surprise when Paul discovered it at Snelsmore Common. Paul has seem several more of them in 2019, thanks to his dedicated late-season mothing (Southern Chestnut files in October and November)!

Late Brick

A rather worn Brick came to the garden actinic light last night.  Although I have had a couple of December records in the past, this one was my latest so I had a quick check on past sightings for the county.  There are actually 20 or more records for December, with the latest pair that I can find being on the 22nd (in Aylesbury in 2012) and on the 23rd (in the Burnham Beeches RIS trap in 2005).  However, what did surprise me was that there are also two records for the first week of January (one on the 7th in 2004 and one on the 1st in 2012).  If there are two from Bucks (0.1% of the county records) then presumably there will also be others for January from elsewhere, but their overall numbers must have been too few for them to have featured on the rather small phenology chart in the new Atlas!

Brick, Westcott 18th December

Last night's Brick was joined by December Moth (1), the inevitable Mottled Umber (1) and the relatively common diving beetle Colymbetes fuscus (1), so it was a slightly more interesting catch than those over the previous ten days despite being so wet and windy.

Colymbetes fuscus, Westcott 18th December

Dave Wilton
Westcott, Bucks

Tuesday, 17 December 2019

Westcott, Bucks

I've had a couple of moth-less nights so far in December but generally speaking it has still been worth running the actinic light until at least 10pm.  Diversity is quite poor now, though, with last night's collection comprising Winter Moth (2) & Mottled Umber (4).  Those are the only two species I've had over the past week, my last December Moth appearing on the 8th, the last Dark Chestnut on the 6th and the last Scarce Umber on the 3rd. 

Mottled Umber, Westcott 16th December

Dave Wilton
Westcott, Bucks

Sunday, 15 December 2019

2019 review, LED vs. actinic pt. 2

A week ago, Dave posted his annual review of what he had caught in his garden. I'm just finalising my records before sending them in, so I thought I would do something similar. Since early July, I've been alternating the light I've used between a 15W actinic strip and a 13W LED light that I designed and constructed myself, so I have also broken down the figures by the type of light I've used. I've carried out a similar analysis to Dave, apart from the additional breakdown between actinic and LED light and the absence of a comparison with previous years because this is my first full year of mothing. Here are the results for the year, with apologies for some small formatting issues that aren't in my Excel originals, but which appear when I paste the tables into Blogger:

2019 Results
Nights run
Of which nights run before July
Species caught
Macro species
Micro species
Best night for species
Species on best night
Best night for moths
Individuals on best night
Total number of moths caught

Highest total counts for a species
Heart & Dart
Square-spot Rustic
Agriphila geniculea
Chrysoteuchia culmella
The figures above only cover moths caught at home, in the trap. They exclude 43 moths found indoors, attracted to a lighted window, etc. The figures also exclude other sites. The total number of species caught is less than the figures for LED and Actinic light added together, because many species have been caught by both lights.

As I only started to use an LED light in July, I performed a separate analysis of the second half of the year, when I've been alternating the two kinds of light - in a previous post, I mentioned that I don't run the two lights on the same night, and on many occasions weather conditions & lunar phase haven't been comparable from night to night. However, it's probably OK to compare them in aggregate. Here are the figures starting from July, when I began alternating the two light sources:

July 2019 onwards
Nights run
Total species caught…
… of which macros
… of which micros
Total moths caught…
… of which macros
… of which micros
I had a feeling that although they seem to be catching similar numbers of species, they might not be catching the same species. In fact, this is quite striking: of the 108 species of macro moth caught since July, only half of them (55 spp.) were caught by both lights: the actinic got 26 species that the LED didn't, and there were 27 moths caught by the LED and not by the actinic.  For micros, the figures are even more striking: 54 spp. overall, 20 by both lights, 19 actinic-only, 15 LED-only.

So I deepened the analysis to see if there was a pattern. I'm still working on this, but it would appear that there is no pattern related to families or to sub-families.  As an example, the actinic "missed" three species of Ennominae that the LED caught (including Canary-shouldered Thorn and Willow Beauty), but the LED "missed" five species in that same sub-family which the actinic caught (including Dusky Thorn and Mottled Beauty). Flight periods shouldn't be much of a factor, since I nearly always manage to run the trap with the two different lights within a week of each other.

What do I conclude? There's not much difference between the two lights, at least in terms of the numbers of species caught. I'll continue this next year to see if any pattern emerges about which light is better with specific species, but I suspect that this could be fairly random.  The LED did catch more individual moths, although in the case of the micros, this is largely down to one night with a huge number of Chrysoteuchia culmella coming in from the field 3 metres away.

Tim Arnold
Newton Longville, Bucks

winter moth

This moth came to light 28/29 November
Couldn't be persuaded to open its wings fully.
I think Winter moth?

29/30 November - Diamond back

Alan Diver

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 identified 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, so these appearances were very early and suggest that it might actually be continuously brooded when the weather is suitable (although on what they would lay eggs in February or March is open to debate!).  It is certainly a moth on the move now.  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

UPDATE:  Following dissection by Peter Hall the moth below, found indoors back in March, proved to be the nationally scarce Mompha bradleyi.  Good to know that it is still around after all.

Mompha bradleyi, Westcott 15th March

Dave Wilton
Westcott, Bucks