Thursday, 30 April 2020

Nothing exciting!

It was another quiet night here last night with a grand total of just nine moths to the actinic trap.  However, the one saving grace was a Heart & Dart which was new for the year.  Apart from four records during the final week of the month in 2011, this is my only April sighting of the species.  It usually starts in early May.

Heart & Dart, Westcott 29th April
Dave Wilton
Westcott, Bucks

Wednesday, 29 April 2020

Puss Moth

I ran only the actinic light in the garden last night and the catch by dawn this morning was just eight moths, including three micros potted up from the white vanes.  In fact moths risked being out-numbered by caddis flies, hardly surprising in all that rain!  However, the trap did contain a very welcome Puss Moth.  For a long time the species wasn't regular here at all, but since 2016 I've managed to get at least one in the garden every year. 

Puss Moth and friends, Westcott 28th April

Dave Wilton
Westcott, Bucks

Tuesday, 28 April 2020


It looks like I will have to buy the new caterpillar book, but in the meanwhile I need some help with this little chap. It was near the top of an aspen at a site close to Beaconsfield. It was c 1" long.

Dave Ferguson

Unidentified Noctuids, Botley, 27/28 April


I've only been trapping for a week so definitely still learning the ID ropes. With that in mind I'm hoping someone on the blog can help me with these two moths, which I think are Noctuids, which came to my actinic light trap in Botley, VC23 last night. Thanks in advance.

I've since learned that these are both Pale Mottled Willow. One fresh, and one quite worn.

Agonopterix sp?

Nothing exotic in my trap in Merton so far this year, but this micro appeared on Monday night. I'm sure it's an Agonopterix, maybe yeatiana? Sorry the photo is not sharp.

Hanging caterpillar

I found this caterpillar the other day suspended from a foxglove leaf. Within a few minutes of taking the photo, it disappeared - presumably it dropped to the ground ready to pupate.
I think it may be a Lesser Yellow Underwing?

Steve Trigg, Cookham

Here we go again...

The Emperor Moth eggs laid in the garden trap overnight 15th/16th April (see here) emerged this morning, a day or so earlier than expected - they normally take a good two weeks.  The tricky decision now is what to feed them on.  There's plenty of bramble locally but it can be painful acquiring it, especially when you need so much in the final stages, so I'll probably just go for sallow (the broader-leaved Goat Willow Salix caprea) of which I've also got an almost inexhaustible supply.

1st instar Emperor larvae, Westcott 28th April

Dave Wilton
Westcott, Bucks


I thought last night I'd managed to bat a flying Chamomile Shark into the trap as it turns up every few years..however it seems it was a Mullein. Last year I found some caterpillars on our verbascum plants, so this is the first time I've seen the adult.

Mark Griffiths, Garsington, Oxford

ps still can't post on comments so if I don't thank anyone or reply that's why.

Monday, 27 April 2020

March Moth caterpillar

Out on our daily walk today, my wife paused to photograph some Horse Chestnut "candles". After a while, my attention drifted to the adjacent small cherry tree and soon enough I found two leaves lightly spun together.

I thought to myself "a green caterpillar on cherry - I bet there are lots of species matching that description", and I nearly came to the conclusion that it would be too difficult to try to identify it. I've got less than two years' experience with identifying adult moths, never mind caterpillars.  Nevertheless, I picked one of the leaves with the caterpillar on it and took it home. I started to work through the new caterpillar book from Henwood, Sterling and Lewington, using the index by host plant as my starting point.

Sure enough, the book contains forty-two entries (moth species) against Cherries spp, Bird Cherry, Dwarf Cherry and Wild Cherry, although there are two or three duplicates. So I worked my way through these entries, looking up each of them in the textual pages and the plates and eliminating species not matching the description, distribution, season or appearance. I made an initial mistake in thinking the caterpillar was not a looper, so I skipped all of those entries whose ABH code starts with 70 - until the caterpillar started to move and proved me wrong, which was just as well.

Somewhat to my surprise, after a couple of hours I ended up with a single match. I believe that it's a March Moth. It's a good match in appearance - not only to the illustration in the book, but also to photos on, and elsewhere.

I could be mistaken and it may not be the final instar (especially at this point in the season), but there is one aspect that increases my confidence. The book mentions that in the final instar "there is a pair of vestigial prolegs on A5"; has a similar comment and I don't know whether this implies that in earlier instars the A5 prolegs are fully present or entirely absent: I suspect the latter. My caterpillar was not very cooperative when it came to photography in a bright light, so I only have one usable photo, but at full zoom I think I can just about make out a tiny bump on A5 where the proleg would be (it may be my imagination); otherwise there definitely is only a single pair of full prolegs.
March Moth caterpillar, Newton Longville 27th April
From what I thought was an unpromising start, I have a strong sense of satisfaction - unless anyone here is going to tell me I've gone wrong somewhere!

Tim Arnold
Newton Longville, Bucks

Radnage, Bucks

Last night's garden catch in Radnage included Red Twin-spot Carpet, Garden Carpet, Brindled Pug, Brindled Beauty, Lime Hawk-moth, Pebble Prominent, Lesser Swallow Prominent, Least Black Arches, Powdered Quaker, Hebrew Character, Nut-tree Tussock & Spectacle, but this was the star item:

Light Feathered Rustic, Radnage 26th April
Ched George
Radnage, Bucks

Westcott, Bucks

Last night's collection of moths in the garden took me up to 100 species for the year on exactly the same date that this milestone was achieved in 2019.  There have been a few more early moths over the past week, including Rhyacionia pinivorana (23rd) and Lime-speck Pug & Lime Hawk-moth (both 26th) which were my first ever April records of those species.  Other additions to the year-list have included Aphomia sociella, Maiden's Blush, Red Twin-spot Carpet, V-Pug, Waved Umber, Sallow Kitten, Lesser Swallow Prominent, Pale Prominent, Chocolate-tip, Shuttle-shaped Dart, Dagger sp & Angle Shades, so nothing out of the ordinary.  The Dagger will have to be inspected but my first examples each year always seem to be Grey Dagger.

Rhyacionia pinivorana, Westcott 23rd April

Lesser Swallow Prominent, Westcott 24th April

Lime Hawk-moth, Westcott 26th April

Another garden larval record yesterday afternoon was a smart mid-instar caterpillar of Green-brindled Crescent found on our blackthorn, one I've seen several times before so the field guide wasn't troubled on this occasion!  Larvae of Mottled Umber (on elm) and Winter Moth (on apple & hazel) have also been recorded here over the past couple of days.

Larva of Green-brindled Crescent, Westcott 26th April

Dave Wilton
Westcott, Bucks

Dewick's Plusia and Pine Hawk-moth

I was certainly not expecting these to be in the trap at Linford Lakes Nature Reserve, Newport Pagnell this morning.  A couple of  Dewick's Plusias turned up last year in August/September so had them filed away as late season moths.  Having checked books at home though it seems they have been recorded in May.  There was also a fine Pine Hawk-moth, the earliest I have ever recorded one by some 30 days. 

                                                                Dewick's Plusia

                                                                     Pine Hawk-moth

Sunday, 26 April 2020

Emperor pheromones use-by date?

Back in 2015 I purchased some Emperor moth pheromones from Anglian Lepidopterist Supplies, and used them with success in my garden that year. I carefully stored them afterwards at the back of the freezer, and then managed to forget all about them.

Until today - would they still be working? I hung them up in the garden at about 3pm and watched on and off for half an hour until I got bored and went back inside. My wife was in the garden after that but didn't notice any large colourful moths flying around. So eventually at about 6.30pm I went to collect the pheromones back in, wondering if they had gone past their use-by date. And that would have been that, until I suddenly noticed a male Emperor calmly sitting in the vegetation below where I had put the pheromones. I almost missed him! But very pleased I didn't, they are such gorgeous moths.

Silver Cloud and a Pug

A Silver Cloud appeared among the very few moths in my trap last night along with this Pug.
I do struggle with the Pugs so any help would be welcome.

Andy Newbold, Sibford Ferris, Oxon.

Help with a micro please

I'd welcome help with this micro caught in the Robinson trap in my Sonning garden last night. I've had a good look in Sterling and Parsons and online and can't even get it down to a single family. I think my options are Diurnea fagella, Carpatolechia proximella or one of the Crambids. Any help much appreciated. Also caught this lovely specimen of Phtheochroa rugosana.


Phtheochroa rugosana

Bits and Pieces

In addition to the mines of Eriocrania sangii (see earlier post), Friday afternoon's dog-walk to the Westcott Venture Park entrance produced an example of Aspilapteryx tringipennella which was disturbed from the grass.  Yesterday's walk to the same area was taken later, at dusk, and I found activity from at least half a dozen small micros at one particular spot around some long grass beneath a line of poplars.  One was brought home and it proved to be Elachista rufocinerea which doesn't seem to be known from this part of the county, so that was a nice find (there are 24 records from nine different sites in Bucks and it is likely to be under-recorded).  The latter doesn't yet feature on my garden list so its nice to know that it is active only a few hundred metres away!  

Aspilapteryx tringipennella, Westcott 24th April

Elachista rufocinerea, Westcott 25th April

Yesterday in the garden I found a smart hairy caterpillar on blackthorn.  The chances are that at only 15mm it is a mid-instar, so despite being well-marked it is perhaps not surprising that, yet again, the new field guide failed to provide an obvious ID, but I think it may perhaps be Pale Eggar.  Does anyone recognise it?

Caterpillar, Westcott 25th April

Caterpillar, Westcott 25th April

Finally, another nice find in the garden yesterday was a very early web of caterpillars from one of the Yponomeuta species on our well-established spindle, the first occasion I've ever found larvae on it.  It was not possible to count them accurately but there appear to be about 30 altogether.  The chances are that they will be Yponomeuta cagnagella and I shall try to rear them through to be sure.  It would be a new species for the garden because I usually don't bother recording that group (padella/malinellus/cagnagella) which are indistinguishable as adults.  Apart from cagnagella, two others feed on spindle but I've only had plumbella in the garden a couple of times and the last occasion was nine years ago (that one is easily identifiable as an adult anyway) while irrorella is a rare species limited to the south coast.

Yponomeuta sp larval web, Westcott 25th April

Dave Wilton
Westcott, Bucks 

Carpet and Pug in Tilehurst Garden

Total of 8 with 6 Species last night.
Hopefully I have got these two right - Spruce Carpet (2 views) and Oak-tree Pug.
Also last night was a first Cockchafer in the trap.

Busy hawk and sleepy Emperor

My first hawk moth for the year came last night, the earliest I've had since starting my MV light trap here in 2013. All have been Poplars and the one in 2017 looked, like this one, as though it had already led a busy life. My previous debuts were:

2013:  22 May
2014: 2 May
2015: 1 May
2016: 12 May
2017: 6 May
2018: 7 May
2019: 10 May

My other interesting experience has been spotting a male Emperor late yesterday afternoon, flying slowly and rather clumsily in the warm sunshine around our Romneya poppy where he settled down. He has been there ever since - sequence of photos below - unmoved by light, dark, the moth trap (about 50 metres away) and a light frost, evidenced by the effect, left, of my early morning mug of tea.  Martin Wainwright, Thrupp, Oxon 

Saturday, 25 April 2020

Birch Eriocranias

While on your permitted exercise, now is a good time to check birch leaves for Eriocrania mines because they are usually quite obvious.  Yesterday afternoon, while walking the dog near the entrance to the Westcott Venture Park, I noticed a couple of active mines on some quite young birch.  All are relatively easy to identify provided that there is a larva present and in this case its colour, dark grey, is diagnostic for Eriocrania sangii.  This one also seems to have just shed a skin. 

Active mine of Eriocrania sangii, Westcott 24th April

The other species mining birch now will be cicatricella (often more than one larva to a mine), unimaculella, salopiella and semipurpurella, while sparrmannella will start to mine towards the end of May.  All of them are found in our area but will be under-recorded.  

Dave Wilton
Westcott, Bucks  

A hoplodrina hiding among the orthosias or something else?

The catches haven't been that great in numbers terms despite the warm days here in Longwick. However Shuttle Shaped Darts have started to appear and I had my first Bee Moth yesterday. I had three chocolate tips today which is rather more than usual. I assumed this was a Hoplodrina and therefore must be Vines Rustic given the time of year? I am aware there are several confusion species and I haven't seen one in a good while and the wing tips  looked wrong?

Catching up...

My garden had been pretty poor for moths thus far and I've been seeing people getting lots of Lime Hawk-moths and other interesting things, so I was pleased to catch up a little last night with this species (also the first time I've seen this colour form).

Also had nfy Muslin Moth and Purple Thorn, on Wednesday a Common Pug, and the same day a Bee Moth in the house.

Dave Morris, Seer Green

Carpet and Pug

Two that are beyond me this morning...

Any pointers appreciated


Barnaby Briggs, Iver

Friday, 24 April 2020

Early Buff-tip

Comparatively few moths came to the traps last night, but they were quite interesting all the same.  Fewer Orthosia, a couple of species - Least Black Arches and Waved Umber - that had only appeared once before, and three new moths for the year-list.

At around 11 p.m., I checked the traps and found a smart-looking Knot Grass settled on the sheet behind a trap. That's my first of the season, "on time" according to the books. Much more of a surprise was the Buff-tip that I found in the egg cartons: it was a spanking-fresh specimen when I potted it, but seems to have battered itself quite a lot overnight before I could photograph it today.
Buff-tip, Newton Longville 23 April
The phenology chart in the Atlas of Britain & Ireland's Larger Moths has an almost-invisible bar for the last week of April as does the chart on the Norfolk Moths site, and the Waring, Townsend & Lewington field guide says it appears in late May. I suppose that it's worth bearing in mind that there will be a large number of records for this species, so even a tiny percentage will correspond to quite a few early records.

The third moth is definitely one that I haven't seen this year, but it can't go onto the "new-for-the-year" list just yet because I can't give it a name: can anyone help?

Tim Arnold
Newton Longville, Bucks

Scarce Tissue?

Scarce Tissue rather than Tissue?
Either would be a new record for the garden.
Unfortunately it got a bit squashed as I hadn't seen it when I moved the trap.

Andy Newbold Sibford Ferris Oxon

Incurvaria masculella?

Have this down as the above due to position of costa white spot. Is this correct. Thank you

Steve Lockey (Garsington)

Maple Prominent

I had a Maple Prominent in my actinic trap this morning - see photo. This is the first I have had in my garden, in my third year of trapping. It came to the trap quite early in the night, and was already there when I went out with a torch for a sneak preview at 22.30 yesterday. The flight period is reported as mid-May to August, so this seems to be an early sighting.

John Clough, Marlow

Thursday, 23 April 2020

Coleophora lineolea

While looking for shield-bugs in our garden today I noticed some mining activity in new leaves of Hedge Woundwort (Stachys sylvatica).  A quick search soon produced the culprit with one active larval case of Coleophora lineolea.

Case of Coleophora lineolea, Westcott 23rd April

Case of Coleophora lineolea, Westcott 23rd April

It is not a particularly rare species and I've had the adult moth in the garden half a dozen times over the last twelve years or so (all dissected to confirm), but this is the first occasion that I've noticed the larval stage.

Dave Wilton
Westcott, Bucks    

Wednesday, 22 April 2020


Last night's catch was poor - the two traps only yielded eight moths in total - but it has some relevance to a couple of things in this blog.  In both cases, I'm able to include some side-by-side comparisons.

The first - and uncontroversial - is Martin Wainwright's item earlier today about pale male Muslin Moths. One of the two males that I found in the traps this morning was noticeable paler than the other, though less pale than the one in Martin's photographs, and nowhere near as pale as others on the web. They were very compliant this morning, and I was able to place them side by side to be photographed. The photograph seems to show less difference between them than I saw: to the naked eye, the black dots on the paler one were much more noticeable than on the dark individual.
Muslin Moths, Newton Longville 21st April

Head-on view of Muslin Moths (paler one on the left)
The other couple of moths that caught my eye were both Orthosia. One is plainly a Common Quaker, and when I potted the other this morning, I thought "Powdered Quaker", but it brought to mind the recent discussion over the moth that Steve Lockey shared. I managed to photograph both of the moths together - though they were less cooperative than the Muslin Moths - and I've electronically glued Steve's Quaker beside them for comparison. Steve's has the pink background, though pay no attention to the relative size as I haven't got a basis to make it to the same scale.
Quakers - L and C: Newton Longville 21st April (Tim Arnold)
R: Garsington 17th April (Steve Lockey)
You can see that my Quakers were initially showing their antennae. The moth on the right only showed one antenna, and it then stowed even that away when I tried to take a closer photograph: hence its undignified position in the photo below.
View of possible Powdered Quaker, showing antenna
After reading the various sources, including Chris Lewis's site to which Martin Harvey referred, I think mine is a Powdered Quaker. It is slightly larger than its cousin; the forewing seems more pointed, the ground colour is paler (though Common Quakers are very variable); there's a fine speckling of black dots; the trailing half of the kidney is darker even if the stigma are large, and it has the line of dark dots beyond it. I'm only a novice and sometimes it feels like the more I read, the less I think I know! I've retained the moth, just in case.

Tim Arnold
Newton Longville, Bucks