Friday, 29 January 2021

Westcott, Bucks

There's been very little activity here in the garden over the past week.  Pale Brindled Beauty, Early Moth and Chestnut have all appeared again when the weather has been suitable, but only as singletons.  The only new species for the year was the flightless female shown below which I happened to notice on our conservatory roof this morning.  She was very much on her last legs.

Westcott 29th January

As far as I can see the two bands on the vestigial forewing make this a female Scarce Umber, which seems very late indeed for that species still to be around.  The males are regular in the garden but almost without exception in November only.  Out of some 500 records for Bucks the latest believable one for an adult is 3rd January 1974 (from Howe Park Wood, Milton Keynes).  Only a couple of those records are of females and they seem to have been reared from larvae, so finding the female in the wild appears to be quite unusual locally.

Dave Wilton Westcott, Bucks

Moths to the rescue

I will put out the trap tonight for the first time in ages to celebrate the role of moths in fighting the pandemic (on which score, I hope that everyone and their friends and families are keeping safe, well and in good spirits).

You have probably seen the references in reports today or recently on the Novavax vaccine and its use of moth cells - actually a method which goes back a long way as per this detailed article in the American magazine Science which contains the diagram above.

I won't go beyond my limits in such a specialist subject but I think that we can cautiously say Hooray for moths!

Martin Wainwright, Thrupp, Oxon

Friday, 22 January 2021

Westcott, Bucks

It has been a slow start to 2021 so far but that's nothing unusual for January.  I had to wait until the 10th for my first moth of the year, a Mottled Umber, then had Early Moth two nights later before getting Pale Brindled Beauty, Chestnut & Dark Chestnut together on the 13th.  There would have been another addition on the 18th but a likely Acleris ferrugana managed to escape as I was trying to pot it up for a better view.  Finally, last night brought in a rather dark Spring Usher. 

Spring Usher, Westcott 21st January

I've also had caterpillars of Angle Shades, including a fully-grown example which was the only visitor to the light on the 20th.  In the sunshine this morning after last night's frost I paddled around our partially flooded garden to have a quick look for the leaf-miners which are active here through the winter and, as usual, managed to find live examples of both Stigmella aurella (on bramble) and Phyllonorycter leucographella (on pyracantha).  It beats me how they manage to survive at this time of year.   

Stigmella aurella, Westcott 22nd January

Phyllonorycter leucographella, Westcott 22nd January

Dave Wilton Westcott, Bucks

Sunday, 17 January 2021

Go back to bed

I haven't run a trap since mid-December, The reasons are partly weather-related, but also because of a lot of tree work in the garden: I put everything away to give space for this, but then the work was postponed twice at the last moment: the final tasks should be finished tomorrow.

On the other hand, there have been quite a few moths indoors. There have been several Mompha subbistrigella, some more of the now-resident Nemapogon granella, and a single Agonopterix heracliana.  A splendid Herald appeared in the kitchen yesterday evening.

Herald, Newton Longville 16 January 2021

This set me wondering why it had come out of hibernation early. The heating has been on in the kitchen and connected utility room since the end of October, so it seems unlikely that the moth has only just been woken by the warmth after hibernating in the house since the autumn.  In the winter months we don't keep the outside door open any longer than it takes to go in or out, so I don't think it flew in recently.  It's possible that it had been disturbed by the tree work and had somehow come in on my clothing, but I think it's more likely that the moth came into the kitchen inside a box that I brought in from the garage two days ago.

I kept the moth in the fridge last night, took it out briefly for photography today, and will put it into the garage tonight. I will try to put it somewhere where the resident mice won't find it.

Tim Arnold
Newton Longville, Bucks

Wednesday, 13 January 2021

Early Moth

Early Moth is hardly one of the most exciting moths to look at, but the main flight period is January and February and the species never seems to appear in any great numbers, so if you want to see it now is the time to keep your eyes open.  It comes readily to light but is just as likely to appear at a lit window as it is in the moth trap.  This one came to the actinic light in the garden last night, the only moth to do so. 

Early Moth, Westcott 12th January

Dave Wilton Westcott, Bucks

Tuesday, 12 January 2021

A good night in Denham

Robin Knill-Jones ran three traps in his garden in Denham, Bucks last night.  The actinic produced nothing but the trap using an LED strip caught Pale Brindled Beauty (1), Spring Usher (1) & Mottled Umber (1) while the 125wt MV managed Acleris kochiella (1), Spring Usher (1), Mottled Umber (1), Chestnut (3) & Black-spotted Chestnut (1).  A double-digit garden catch this early in the year is quite an achievement!  The Acleris kochiella and Black-spotted Chestnut are illustrated below.

Acoustic camouflage in moths

A recent publication describes how certain moths have evolved highly efficient acoustic camouflage in their arms race against echo-locating bats - see T R Neil et al., Proc. Natl. Acad. Sci. USA, 2020, 117, 31134 (link below). The discovery may have useful practical applications: the paper describes how the resulting ultra-thin sound-absorbing materials provide "enticing ways to design high-performance noise mitigation devices".

Moth wings are acoustic metamaterials | PNAS

John Clough, Marlow

First of the year

Jan 11th last year was the first time I had ever used a moth trap, so with the weather relatively mild last night, it seemed appropriate to put it out for the first time this year. 

The result was two Chestnuts and a Pale Brindled Beauty, which was new for me.

Phil Tizzard

Monday, 11 January 2021

Off the mark at last

January is always a slow month for moths, although more often than not I've seen my first adult garden specimen of the year sometime during the first week and quite often on the night of New Year's Day.  That's certainly been the case for most of the last 15 years, which is as far back as I've looked, with the only later initial sightings all being on the 17th (in 2009, 2010 & 2014).  For 2021 the first visitor proved to be a rather small but very smart Mottled Umber which turned up here last night. 

Mottled Umber, Westcott 10th January

Dave Wilton Westcott, Bucks

Sunday, 10 January 2021

 Hi there,

A query for you experienced moth-ers. 

At this time of year, what is the minimum temperature that makes it worth putting a trap out. I've tried a couple of times since NewYear's Day with no success at all. Also, I have recently seen moths in the car headlights when it's drizzling. Is a night with rain forecast a definite waste of time or not?

All guidance welcome!

Thanks and best wishes, David

Friday, 8 January 2021

Your data and iRecord

In the absence of any moths to talk about yet, this is another reminder for those of you who have yet to send in your 2020 records that NOW is the time to do so please!  Full details of what is required can be found on the "Your Records" tab under the Blog heading above.

In 2020 I became a verifier on iRecord for moth records in Bucks and have just downloaded and sorted the year's data for inclusion into the Bucks moth database.  A very big THANKYOU goes to the 18 or so people who each entered a substantial quantity of records there as the year progressed (you know who you are!), especially those who included pictures of the more difficult species which made verification so much easier.  Certainly not to be forgotten, though, are the additional 80+ individuals who each entered ten or fewer records, particularly of daytime sightings which we might not have received at all if it wasn't for iRecord, so our very grateful thanks go to you too.

If you haven't previously considered it, why not try using iRecord in 2021?  All three of our County Moth Recorders actively encourage the use of iRecord and are more than happy to receive records that way.  The web-site is here, run by the Centre for Ecology & Hydrology, and it costs nothing.  You do need to register with the site but that's all.  The main benefits for you are that you'll always have access to (and can download) your records and you can enter data as the season progresses (and thus ignore our pleas to send in records at the end of the year because we'll already have them).  The main benefits for us are that photos can be included and if there's a query we can raise it with you when you might actually remember the moth in question (always assuming we can keep up with the verification process!).  

For those of you who might now consider contributing regularly via iRecord, or who already do so but aren't yet aware of this much easier and preferred way of entering lists, under the "Record" tab please choose "Species group forms" and then "Moths" and use the data entry boxes there which should ensure that we get all the appropriate information in the correct format.  Where relevant, please use the Comment section to add any appropriate additional information, such as identifying pheromone lures if they were used or for adding plant species for leaf-mines or on which caterpillars may have been found.

Many thanks!

Dave Wilton Westcott, Bucks