Thursday, 31 December 2020

Happy New Year!

Thanks to everyone in Bucks, Berks & Oxon who has supported this blog during the year, either by posting, answering queries or even just lurking in the background, and here's hoping for a moth-filled 2021!

Wednesday, 30 December 2020

Westcott, Bucks

So another seven day period has concluded, the final complete one for the year, and just three adult moth species were recorded in the garden here during the course of it (Epiphyas postvittana, Winter Moth & Chestnut).  The light was run on just four nights and two of those proved to be blanks, so the only ones to produce a result were the 23rd and 26th!  Hardly surprising really thanks to the weather and I don't see things improving until we're into January.
Another caterpillar put in an appearance on a wooden bench near the light on the 28th.  At 12mm in length it was obviously not a final instar and I have been unable to tie it down to species, although I suspect it may have been one of the lichen-eaters (either a Footman or one of the Cryphia species).  

Caterpillar, Westcott 28th December

Dave Wilton Westcott, Bucks    

2020 In Numbers Tilehurst Berkshire

Number of nights trap run = 19

Number of species caught = 130

Nights with 100+ species = 0

Best night for moth numbers = 12th Aug (146)

Highest counts for a single species = 30 (Chrysoteuchia culmella 23/6) & 20 (Lunar Underwing 26/9)

New for the site in 2020 = 24 species including Tree-lichen Beauty, Jersey Tiger & Elegia similella.

Total number of moths caught in the garden = 540

Notes: I live on a typical housing estate with just a few surrounding trees such as Oak & Birch plus a Rowan in my garden.
I only usually run my Robinson MV trap once a month due to time constraints. However, due to Covid I have been able to devote more time this year.
Interestingly, the number of moths was down this year compared to 2019 when the trap was run only 12 times.

I really hoped for a Clifden Nonpareil as everyone else seemed to be catching it, but no luck. Still onwards and upwards for 2021.

Wednesday, 23 December 2020

Westcott, Bucks

Once again it has been a case of no blanks but just six adult moth species recorded here over the past seven nights.  In between bouts of heavy rain, last night (Tuesday 22nd) proved to be the best of the bunch, bringing in four moths of three species which comprised Epiphyas postvittana (2), Winter Moth (1) & Pale Brindled Beauty (1, first of the season here), while the other species seen during the week were Acleris ferrugana/ notana (one on the 16th), Mottled Umber (16th, 17th, 18th & 21st) and December Moth (one on the 20th, only the second this month).

Epiphyas postvittana male, Westcott 22nd December

Epiphyas postvittana female, Westcott 22nd December

Pale Brindled Beauty, Westcott 22nd December

I don't get anywhere near the numbers of Epiphyas postvittana in the garden that others do but its totals have been creeping ever upwards over the past few years, 2020 being the first where they've topped 100 individuals.  I've had records for every month in the year now.

Not a moth, I know, but worth mentioning from last night was the large diving beetle Dytiscus semisulcatus.  I get its even larger relative D.marginalis here regularly to light (for example, six in 2018, nine in 2019 and three in 2020) but on flipping this one over to check the coxal process I found that the undersides were entirely black rather than yellow.  Like marginalis I think that it is supposed to be relatively common locally but this was a first record for the garden.

Dytiscus semisulcatus, Westcott 22nd December

Dave Wilton Westcott, Bucks 

Tuesday, 22 December 2020

Acleris species

 Hi there,

This turned up the other night. I'm only just getting into micros (not that great on macros either!) but I'm thinking this might be an Acleris - either ferrugana or notana, which I understand are hard to distinguish between.

 Am I anywhere near?

Happy Christmas to all (if that's possible this year!)


2020 in numbers; LED vs. actinic part 4

During 2020, I have been conducting an experiment to compare a 15W actinic light with a roughly 18W LED light. This was a continuation of something I started in 2019, but this year I have run a more disciplined study. The initial article here has a photo of the LED light - although I've made changes to the configuration, it still looks similar. My update at the end of 2019 is here. I wrote a 2020 half-year update (here) which describes the experimental method I've used in 2020 and some of the changes I made to the LED in April and May; the light hasn't changed since then.

I now present the results for the whole of 2020. Apart from three nights on which I ran a single light, I have run the two lights simultaneously in two different (and non-interfering) parts of the garden. I trapped twice a week, alternating the lights between the two places. The data cover the whole year: I didn't run any traps in my garden for the first three weeks of January, nor for the last 2½ weeks of December, nor for a six-week period covering the second half of July to late August.

In the table above, the "Together" column refers to the two traps combined. The data are only for moths taken at light in my garden and exclude other locations and moths found indoors, etc.

As I wrote in my half-year post, the LED started off performing slightly worse than the actinic striplight. There were two reasons for this: it initially used less power - around 8W - and the UV LEDs weren't very efficient. I changed the configuration in April and early May, since when it has out-performed the actinic light. The full-year data in the table show that it has attracted about 6% more species - particularly micros - and about 30% more individuals. When I look at the period since early May with the improved LED, these figures are strengthened in the period between late spring and early autumn. Since mid-autumn it's harder to see a difference in effectiveness between the lights, but naturally the numbers are much smaller anyhow.

My garden list has grown this year by a deceptively-impressive 205 species (126 macros and 79 micros). However, I only started trapping in the middle of 2018 and my trapping effort in 2020 (number of traps x number of nights) has been four times as much as my total trapping effort before 2020. Consequently I have continued to find the learning curve rather steep, especially as I also trapped in France during the summer and found almost one hundred additional species there. There were 27 species (14 macro, 13 micro) which I found in the garden in 2018 or 2019, but which I haven't seen this year.

New for the garden list:
Spuleria flavicaput
Newton Longville 7th May 2020
(first night with the better LED)

One of the "problems" with a database is the temptation to spend a lot of time slicing the data in different ways. Just for myself, during these dark days I may take a look at the relative numbers of moths found in the two parts of my garden where I run the traps, to see which has the most, and I may see if there are any differences between the effectiveness of the two lights for different families - as I noted above, the LED seems rather more effective amongst micros.

I haven't decided on my plans for 2021. I may experiment with LED vs. LED as I want to try different combinations of wavelengths (colours). Allied to this, I would like to produce a somewhat lower-powered version (around 12W) that I can run off a battery. At home I use mains power, but in theory, during the summer the current 18W version should be able to last all night on my 12V 16Ah battery. However, the nights are too long for the battery before the spring equinox and after the autumn equinox. As I wrote in my mid-year post, heat dissipation is a challenge - specifically the fact that it's produced in such a tiny area - and I have some ideas about how to address this. Finally, the LED light has spent its whole life in part-finished form, held together with elastic bands: this makes it easier to change its configuration, but at some point I should produced a finished version!

Tim Arnold
Newton Longville, Bucks

Saturday, 19 December 2020

Nemapogon granella and friends

Back in March, I posted here about finding Nemapogon cloacella indoors. I found a total of four moths in March and another in May. After a gap, I found some similar-looking moths in the kitchen on several occasions in September, including this mating pair which I put down as N. cloacella without much thought. I also found more in November.

Nemapogon sp.,
Newton Longville 11 September 2020

I've gradually learned to pay more attention to what is written in the field guides and in other sources, and that some species can appear very similar to other species. My suspicions about the IDs of what I was finding in the kitchen were already beginning in September and I started to wonder if there was a chance that at least some of them (including the pair above) might be Nemapogon granella - but by the time I got sufficient doubts I no longer had the moths. When another couple of moths appeared in November, I sent them to Peter Hall to have their bits examined and they both came back as N. granella. This month, I've found a couple more in the kitchen and I'm fairly confident that they are also N. granella.

Initially, I believed that I'd only started to see N. granella in September. This made me wonder whether they were accidental imports: in the summer we managed to spend 3½ weeks in France (before quarantine was introduced: those were the days!) and returned with a large amount of vegetables from a local market gardener, including plenty of drier material such as shallots. However, in going back through some of the photographs I had taken in March, I'm no longer so sure that they were all N. cloacella. So perhaps the N. granella didn't come back from France in my car.

At least one of the moths from March may be N. granella and the other looks like a candidate for N. varietella (see the white hair on the head). As I didn't pay enough attention at the time to the possibility that they could be one of the rarer species and didn't send them for gen. det., I'll never know for sure, so where I have doubts, I'll change my records from Nemapogon cloacella to Nemapogon sp.

Nemapogon spp.
Newton Longville, 15th & 20th March 2020

As I've been looking into this, I have found at least three different descriptions of visible differences between N. cloacella and N. granella (and the other three similar species), but none of them seem to be very reliable when I look at photographs - including the photographs on the same websites as the descriptions of how to tell the difference! So gen. det. seems the only reliable method.

I have also noticed that N. granella has very few records in most counties. I wonder if it's under-recorded if other people are doing as I did earlier this year and defaulting to an assumption that they are finding the much more common N. cloacella

Tim Arnold
Newton Longville, Bucks

Friday, 18 December 2020

Northern Winter Moth?

 Please forgive the photo! This turned up at a friend's house (on the kitchen window!) the other night. We have been seeing Winter moth around here, but not the Northern version. I think this may be it, with the pale hindwing showing quite prominently below the forewing. Although the flash photo doesn't help, I'm told that the hindwing really was pale - almost white. Can someone please confirm or otherwise?

Many thanks, David Dennis

Holm Oaks

Following on from Will's post earlier, I did a little bit of winter leaf-mining myself yesterday, although came to regret it after an idiot tried to drive a 16ft high lorry under a 15ft railway bridge on the A41 which resulted in all the local minor roads becoming clogged with traffic!  I was looking for evergreen oaks and in the time available after sitting in queues managed to get to two trees not all that far from home here in Bucks, one near the church in Quainton (cut back since my last visit, so only a few leaves accessible) and a couple in a cemetery in Middle Claydon.  As expected, all were covered in mines of Ectoedemia heringella, mostly vacated or containing deceased larvae (the species seems to have a very high mortality rate at this stage), but I did manage to find one or two that were active.

Mines of Ectoedemia heringella, 17th December

Active mine of Ectoedemia heringella, 17th December

This is an easy species to record at the moment because I imagine every tree in our three counties must be infested with these mines.  The difficulty if anything is finding the trees themselves because there seem to be few in the wider countryside.  They're often found in churchyards or on country estates and do at least stand out at the moment now that most deciduous trees have dropped their leaves.

I also had a quick look around the garden yesterday and found active mines of Stigmella aurella on bramble and Phyllonorycter leucographella on pyracantha, two more species which can be found all year round.

Active mine of Stigmella aurella, Westcott 17th December

Active mines of Phyllonorycter leucographella,
Westcott 17th December

Dave Wilton Westcott, Bucks     

Thursday, 17 December 2020

Witney Woodland 17th December


Ypsolopha ustella ....I think...?

Having been inspired by Dave's post below, and taking his advice on lights etc, I put in two hours at my local woodland near Witney (V23) this evening (16.15-18.15) using a 20W actinic light. With pretty much 8/8ths cloud, little wind, and 8°C there was a fair bit of activity which I was quite surprised by given the date. Up to 25 Winter Moths, many resting on Oak trunks, rather than entering the trap. 3 Mottled Umber, a single Dark Chestnut, 4 Chestnut, and two Satellite. Just one micro, which I've identified as Ypsolopha ustella ....?? 

More Mines

I made a foray out into Berkshire last week, heading to Greenham Common to look for some of the winter-active miners. My main target was Phyllonorycter scopariella on Broom, and after much wandering around trying to locate the foodplant and the mines, I eventually found a single mine as the light was fading (ID kindly confirmed by Rob Edmunds). I found a couple of others that looked similar, but couldn't find the frass inside to be sure of the ID. I think this might be the fourth Berkshire record, following a few in Brian Baker's book?

Phyllonorycter scopariella mine on Broom

Phyllonorycter scopariella mine on Broom
(opened up to show the frass left by the larva)

By chance, I also spotted another mine of Phyllonorycter ulicicolella on Gorse while checking some Broom, and found a total of 8 mines all on the one bush. Trifurcula immundella was also quite abundant on Broom across the site too, with some bushes having 50+ mines on. This species forms quite subtle black mines that can be separated from the similar looking mines of Leucoptera spartifoliella by the distinctive egg-shell, which remains on the outside of the mine.

Phyllonorycter ulicicolella mine

I found both of these species up at Bagley Woods a few weeks ago with Marc Botham as well, alongside 40 or so other species of miner, including Ectoedemia rubivora (on Bramble), Phyllonorycter comparella (Grey Poplar) and Coleophora albicosta (gorse) and laricella (Larch).

Trifurcula immundella mine - the distinctive egg shell is shown in the inset.

Wednesday, 16 December 2020

Westcott, Bucks

There's very little to say about the last seven nights in the garden.  There were no blanks but it came close to that on three of them with just a single moth turning up.  Altogether six different adult species appeared, of which the macros comprised December Moth, Winter Moth, Mottled Umber and Chestnut, while another Angle Shades caterpillar was found on the 14th.  The two micros seen were Mompha subbistrigella and an Acleris species, the latter appearing on the 13th which was the night that produced the best result of the week (a whole five moths of four species!).

Acleris species, Westcott 13th December

I imagine this will turn out to be the infinitely variable Acleris hastiana because there is the vaguest hint of concavity along the costa and there are some rough scales there too.  However the moth is definitely on the small side for hastiana so I've kept it back in case it might be the rather rare Acleris umbrana, another variable species which isn't yet known from Bucks although has been found in some of the surrounding counties.  Whichever one it turns out to be will be new for the 2020 garden list, a welcome event so late in the year.   

Dave Wilton Westcott, Bucks 

Tuesday, 15 December 2020

Moths to LED lights in SE Bucks

Robin Knill-Jones also had traps out in woodland last night, with LED lights placed in two adjacent small woods on the west side of the Colne valley near Denham which each brought in 53 individual moths.  Great Halings Wood produced Winter Moth (31), Northern Winter Moth (7) & Mottled Umber (15), while Northmoor Hill Wood produced Ypsolopha ustella (1), Winter Moth (47), Mottled Umber (2), Spring Usher (1), Chestnut (1) & Satellite (1).

LED strip-light,14th December

Spring Usher, Northmoor Hill Wood 14th December

Finemere Wood, Bucks

Fed up with seeing Winter Moths but very little else at home, I went out to Finemere Wood last night for a quick December "moth fix".  Not helped by a single short, sharp but heavy shower mid-way through the usual three hour session, there actually weren't too many moths flying, just over 100 individuals of 11 species altogether and not a single Scarce Umber or December Moth amongst them (both should be going over around here now anyway, if they haven't already done so).  However, amongst those that I did see were a couple which definitely lifted the spirits.  Two weeks ago (see here) I mentioned the uncommon tortrix Exapate congelatella.  Well, like London Buses, you wait 15 years and then two come along at once.  Neither one was in tip-top condition but beggars can't be choosers!

Exapate congelatella, Finemere Wood 14th December

So far as I'm aware these will be the fourth and fifth individuals for VC24 following one in my garden in 2005 and examples from the Burnham Beeches RIS trap in 2006 and 2013.  

Of the other species seen, Winter Moth (72) and Mottled Umber (15) achieved the highest numbers and the Winter Moth count would undoubtedly have been higher still if I could have been bothered to check all the nearby oak trunks.  The other moths comprised Caloptilia stigmatella (1), Acleris ferrugana/notana (1), Emmelina monodactyla (1), Chestnut (5), Dark Chestnut (1), Oak Nycteoline (1) and, as I suspected might be the case, two of next year's species out already:  Pale Brindled Beauty (2) & Spring Usher (2).

Oak Nycteoline, Finemere Wood 14th December

Pale Brindled Beauty, Finemere Wood 14th December

Dave Wilton Westcott, Bucks     

Saturday, 12 December 2020

Very Unseasonable...

 Haven't had a lot of moths of late, but last night's trap for the Garden Moth Scheme had 3 seasonable December Moths and an unseasonable Lesser Yellow Underwing...

Dave Morris

Seer Green

Friday, 11 December 2020

Epinotia sordidana

 This photo which I first posted on 8th October has now been confirmed as Epinotia sordidana. Thanks to Peter for doing the necessary dissection. Rather a dull looking moth but a pleasing addition to my garden list.

Andy Newbold, Sibford Ferris, Oxon.

Wednesday, 9 December 2020

Westcott, Bucks

Another seven nights have passed by but the garden actinic light was only run on three of them thanks to freezing fog here over much of the period.  Wednesday night of last week brought in Winter Moth (1), Mottled Umber (1) & Silver Y (1), on Thursday night I had Mompha subbistrigella (1) & Winter Moth (6) then, after four nights off, last night (Tuesday) the light attracted Winter Moth (3) and a caterpillar of Angle Shades which was found climbing up the conservatory wall nearby.

Mompha subbistrigella, Westcott 3rd December

Silver Y, Westcott 2nd December

Silver Y is normally around from May until October (and ever more increasingly into November now) but I've only had a couple of December records previously - plus one from January in 2019.  It can theoretically be found in any month of the year but winter records will generally be of migrants so more likely on the coast than this far inland.

Angle Shades caterpillar, Westcott 8th December

Angle Shades caterpillars are quite regular sightings in the garden throughout the winter, although here at least they're usually of the green form rather than this quite dark brown one found last night.

Dave Wilton Westcott, Bucks  

Tuesday, 8 December 2020

2020 in numbers Sibford North Oxfordshire

 Using Dave Wilton's format here are my 2020 results

Number of nights traps were run (1st Jan to 30th Nov):  195, of which 125 were 125w MV and 70 were 20w Black light (mainly in the Winter months.)  Only one trap was run on any one night.

Number of species caught:  516 (232 micros, 284 macros)  

Nights with 100+ species:  2 (4 in 2019 and 1 in 2018)

Best night for moth numbers:  14th August (474 moths of 68 species); the best nights for species were 25th June and 7th August (102 and 100 respectively) but the individual moth counts were lower than on 14th August 

Highest counts for a single species:  Common Wainscot (869) for macros, Chrysoteuchia culmella   (463) for micros

New for the site in 2020:  73 species, of which 55 were micros (including Agnoea flavifrontella, Ectoedemia decentella, Ethmia bipunctella, Haplotinea insectella and Mompha langiella and 18 were macros (including Blossom Underwing, Cypress Carpet, Netted Pug and Scarce Tissue) site tally now 650 species 

Total number of moths caught in the garden (1st Jan to 30th Nov):  16,293

Species numbers were up considerably compared to 2019 although despite increased trapping effort overall numbers were very slightly down. The most notable difference was Dark Arches where only about one third of the number caught in 2019 were recorded. Common Footman and Common Wainscot both had a remarkably good year here as well.

The increased number of species recorded was helped considerably by Peter Hall’s efforts in splitting some of the aggregate species and identifying many of the smaller micros that I had taken more time to search for in the midge dust at the bottom of the trap.

Andy Newbold, Sibford Ferris, Oxon.

2020 in numbers North Bucks

I'm afraid I can't work out how to post a comment to another post so I'm posting separately!

I certainly cannot match the Westcott numbers, and as this was my first year, I have no comparison data. However, interestingly my best night for species was also 26 June, though the best night for numbers was 22 Sept. 

Lunar Underwing was also the species with the highest total count followed by Common Footman and Treble Lines; similarly Chrysoteuchia culmella was the micro with the highest total count.

Most frequently recorded species was Large Yellow Underwing followed by Common Wainscot.

Sunday, 6 December 2020

2020 in Numbers

Now that I'm up-to-date with records for 2020 and Peter Hall has kindly completed all the necessary dissections, here are a few statistics for this year from the garden at Westcott :

Number of nights traps were run (1st Jan to 30th Nov):  317, of which 118 were the actinic alone
    and 199 were actinic with MV
Number of species caught:  675 (345 micros, 330 macros)  
Nights with 100+ species:  11 (all using both traps, down from 19 in 2019 and 26 in 2018)
Best night for moth numbers:  16th July (1,020 moths of 114 species between the two traps); the
    best nights for species were 25th June and 11th August (134 on each night between the two traps)
    but the individual moth counts were lower than on 16th July 
Highest counts for a single species:  Lunar Underwing (2,758) for macros, Chrysoteuchia culmella
    (1,591) for micros
New for the site in 2020:  19 species, of which 16 were micros and three were macros (Lunar Hornet
    Moth, Toadflax Brocade and Cosmopolitan), site tally now 1,020 species 
Total number of moths caught in the garden (1st Jan to 30th Nov):  37,127 

Of the other macro species which generally put in really high counts, Common Footman (1,260) and Common Wainscot (1,297) each had their best ever year while Large Yellow Underwing (1,351), Square-spot Rustic (1,180) and Dark Arches (982) were all above the average even though it didn't seem like they were heading that way as the year progressed.  Only Setaceous Hebrew Character (636) was significantly below average.

It has to be said that thanks to COVID my garden trapping effort was higher than in the recent past because the number of nights on which both traps were used was up significantly.  I started running them both together in earnest at the beginning of April rather than from half way through May as is usually the case.  Not having analysed things thoroughly yet I'm unsure as to whether that extra effort early in the season was worthwhile, but it certainly is during the main summer period (May-August).  Having two traps to go through instead of one did give me more to do during the lockdown even if it wasn't that much!  The overall number of moths caught in 2020 was actually down to sensible levels after two really extraordinary years.  If you exclude 2018 and 2019, the number of species seen and the total number of moths caught were the highest ever here, so it has certainly been a good year at Westcott even if not an exceptional one.  

It would be nice to hear from anyone else who is able to comment yet on how their experiences in 2020 compare with previous seasons.  As the year progressed there seemed to be quite a lot of chatter on social media about how poor a year it was turning out to be but that wasn't borne out by the facts, here at least.

Dave Wilton Westcott, Bucks

Friday, 4 December 2020

UK Moth Recorders Conference January 2021

Bookings are now being taken for next year's UK Moth Recorders Conference which will be held virtually on Zoom.  It is free of charge and has been arranged for Saturday 30th January (10am-1pm).  Follow the link here if you wish to reserve a place. 

Thursday, 3 December 2020

Still hoping for Dark Chestnut!!

 Hi there,

Not at all sure that I've got this right - it seems to me to be mid-way between Chestnut and Dark Chestnut (a species that I have never knowingly seen!)

Can someone put me straight?

Many thanks


Wednesday, 2 December 2020

Westcott, Bucks

Two nil returns during the past seven nights made it all the more surprising that I still managed to get a dozen species to light in the garden over the week.  That total was mostly thanks to the one decent night (28th November) when 20 moths of nine species turned up:  Blastobasis lacticolella (1), December Moth (3), Winter Moth (2), Northern Winter Moth (1), Feathered Thorn (1), Scarce Umber (1), Mottled Umber (9), Satellite (1) & Dark Chestnut (1).  The other three to make up the dozen were Mompha epilobiella (29th), Agonopterix heracliana & Agonopterix alstromeriana (both 30th).

Agonopterix alstromeriana, Westcott 30th November

I may pick and choose when I run the light from now onwards although generally speaking it is worth giving the first few hours after dark a try even if it is going to be frosty. 

Dave Wilton Westcott, Bucks

Tuesday, 1 December 2020

Moth Dissection website

I send out this appeal every year, but it's that time again when I ask folk to consider donating to the upkeep of this website to keep it running. I do dissect for quite a few of you, don't normally charge anything although I do incur costs myself of materials to dissect with, but the website is my primary go-to place for identifications. It would be nice if those that benefit would consider donating something, or anyone else for that matter. It's not just a website for dissections, but now houses tens of thousands of other stages as well and I find it a very easy to navigate site to check out adults with ever more leaf mines and larval stages getting added too. With that in mind if you have good quality images of any moth stage, please consider uploading.

Peter Hall