Wednesday, 31 March 2021

Finemere Wood, Bucks

Compared to Bernwood on Monday I had better results from three hours in woodland last night thanks to the temperature staying up roughly as forecast this time.  The two MV traps at Finemere brought in 381 moths of 23 species but there was nothing unexpected with Water Carpet and Engrailed being the only species I hadn't already seen this year.  Small Quaker was again the most abundant moth with 227 counted between the two lights.  Lead-coloured Drab was just into double digits but again there was only the one Blossom Underwing and no sign yet of White-marked which I'd hoped might be out here by now.

Water Carpet, Finemere Wood 30th March

Dave Wilton Westcott, Bucks   

Tuesday, 30 March 2021

Bernwood Forest, Bucks

Last night I took a couple of MV traps to Shabbington Wood in Bernwood Forest, more to celebrate the lifting of restrictions than because I was expecting much, especially as the forecast low temperature was very optimistic under that clear sky with a full moon (at home it was only just above freezing by 6am).  The traps were run for the usual three hours and were busy at first but the arrivals soon tailed off as the temperature plummeted.  The combined final score was 190 moths of 16 species, of which Diurnea fagella (18), Oak Beauty (26), Red Chestnut (15) & Small Quaker (94) were the most numerous.  Of interest were my first Frosted Green, Brindled Pugs and Pine Beauty of the season, while just a single Blossom Underwing suggests that their main emergence is still to come. 

Frosted Green, Bernwood 29th March

Dave Wilton Westcott, Bucks

Tilehurst, Berks Query

Rather a disappointing catch last night.
8 Small Quaker, 1 Common Quaker, 1 Early Grey and the species below.
At least Small Quakers are beginning to recover slightly for me, but I've a long way to go to beat 48 on 9th April 2010.
The same moth in both pictures showing slightly different resting positions. I guess it is some sort of Chestnut? Help please!

Sunday, 28 March 2021

Yellow Horned, Worminghall

 A new species for our garden list in Worminghall last night. 

Yellow Horned 

Micro-moths for beginners

 A guide designed for those starting out on moth identification and recording in our area has been available over the past year at the BC-UTB website: The guide can be freely downloaded as a set of PDF files. Initially the guide covered only macro-moths, but recently I have added a further PDF file giving a short introduction to micro-moths. This illustrates aspects such as where to find micro-moths and some tips on how to start identifying these, as well as listing other resources available to help the beginner. So have a look at this if you are tempted to go beyond macro-moth identification and recording and/or let others know if they would potentially benefit from the guide.  

Additionally, Peter Cuss has recently written a 'Beginners guide to moth trapping' which is similarly available and listed alongside these files.

John Thacker, Harwell

Saturday, 27 March 2021

Oak Phyllonorycters

With apologies to Phil for the delay, here are some pictures of the mines of Phyllonorycters on fallen oak leaves to help others planning to search for them. 

For completeness, here's a picture of where these were found, in Bernwood.

I collected sets of 20 or so mines from a couple of areas in Bernwood and Sydlings Copse in the first couple of weeks of the month, bringing them basically straight indoors but so far it's been fairly slow going with 5 quercifoliella (from 2 sets) and 1 harrissella emerging along with a number of parasitoids. The first emergences were all after a couple of weeks, but apparently the last ones can emerge as late as May with this approach, so I'll keep waiting. With this in mind, I'm not sure how profitable this approach is - the mines are tricky to spot at this time of year, and many of them are probably damaged by the vicissitudes of winter. The advantage to getting mines from fallen leaves is that it's something to record at the moment, and it also enables you to potentially find the rarer species that apparently (?) mine higher on the trees. Probably the best approach would be to collect the leaves in autumn when the mines are more obvious and less likely to be damaged.

Phyllonorycter harrissella

Phyllonorycter quercifoliella

Another thing to look out for around Oaks are the mines of Zimmermannia (formerly Ectoedemia) longicaudella/atrifrontella. After Dave's prompting, I've been keeping an eye out in Bernwood and have found them wherever I've looked (in the Oxfordshire part of the forest too), so they're probably lurking elsewhere. The mines are formed under the silvery bark of young growth. I've found them on the trunks of young trees (as low as a foot above ground level, and as high as a metre above my head) up to about 10cm in diameter, and the lower branches of older ones (3-6cm diameter). Basically every young tree on the way out from the Oakley Wood car park had some mines when I checked the other day. Unfortunately it seems the two species can't be separated on the basis of their mines, but I might have a go at breeding them.

Zimmermannia longicaudella/atrifrontella mine

Unexciting caterpillar

I have only run the light a few times since last posting, adding Early Grey to my slowly-expanding year list. But this caterpillar or grub joined me in the garden and, needless to say, is beyond my powers of ID.  The thing which looks like a telescope is a felt-tip pen which I hope gives some idea of scale.  Many thanks for any help and meanwhile, hoping for warmer nights.  Martin Wainwright, Thrupp, Oxon

Friday, 26 March 2021

Westcott, Bucks

There were fewer additions to the garden year-list over the past seven nights than during the previous period but things have still kept ticking over with the following new arrivals:  Diurnea fagella (20th), Oak Nycteoline (21st) and a probable Caloptilia elongella & Pale Pinion (both 24th).  

Probable Caloptilia elongella, Westcott 24th March

Oak Nycteoline, Westcott 21st March

Pale Pinion, Westcott 24th March

The Caloptilia has been retained for dissection.  Having ruled out rufipennella based on size and the fact that the fore-tibia aren't dark chocolate-coloured, it will be either elongella or betulicola which are surprisingly difficult to tell apart as adults.  MoGBI tells us that they may be separated by the colour of the hind-legs (same as the wing colour or yellowish in elongella but noticeably white in betulicola) although you have to be quick to see those legs on a live specimen because they are usually hidden away when the moth is at rest!  On this one they were definitely not white.  However, that distinction doesn't seem to hold true on some of the photos on the website but I suppose it is just as possible for them to have made a mistake as it is for the authors of MoGBI.  Both species have appeared previously at Westcott (and were dissected to confirm) although there are no recent sightings for either of them so it will be a good record whichever it turns out to be.  C.elongella was last seen here in 2006 (there was no food-plant for it locally back then although I have since planted alder in the garden), while the birch-feeding C.betulicola was last seen in 2014.

Another species added to the garden year list as an early stage was Common Footman on the 21st, this 10mm larva being found climbing up the wall of the house.

Common Footman larva, Westcott 21st March

Dave Wilton Westcott, Bucks            

Thursday, 25 March 2021

Just a little bit early!

The moth shown below was unexpectedly found indoors at Ched George's house in Radnage, Bucks this morning.  Fern shouldn't be on the wing until May so this one has appeared several weeks earlier than normal.  

Fern, Radnage 25th March

Ched believes it will have flown in when the front door was opened rather than have emerged indoors.  He has the larval food-plant Traveller's Joy Clematis vitalba in the front garden and some recent fencing renewal work adjacent to it may have caused sufficient disturbance to prompt this early emergence.

From the photo it appears closer to Fern Horisme tersata rather than the recently-arrived Cryptic Fern Horisme radicaria but it will undergo genitalia examination anyway because that is the only safe way to tell them apart.  During the 2020 flight period a number of specimens in Bucks were dissected in the search for the new species but all proved to be tersata.  So far as we're aware radicaria has still only been found in Kent and Sussex.    

Another Night at the Museum

 A light in the same place as the other week at my workplace produced a far lower number of moths but new for my year list were Water Carpet, Early Grey and a rather tatty and faded Dotted Chestnut.

Dave Morris

Chalfont St Giles

Electrical issue

Hi All. The last several times I've put my actinic Robinson trap out, it's seemed to work well (in terms of staying on -- it's not as though it's caught very much) until I've turned in; but I've got up in the morning to find it's tripped the circuit it's plugged in to (and since the outside plug circuit is also the one our fridge-freezer is on, that's a little inconvenient). Has anybody else had similar problems? I suspect what it means is I need a new fusebox for the actinic bulb... but if anyone has any less expensive suggestions, I'd be more than grateful!

Steve Goddard

Wednesday, 24 March 2021

Tawny Pinion

Before the recent much colder nights things had started to pick up a little bit, and had this lovely Tawny Pinion to the Didcot garden trap on night of 21st March. Not a moth I see annually so very welcome. Marc Botham, Didcot

Monday, 22 March 2021

Indoor Mothing

 Only one species, but a new one for my indoor list; a slightly early Esperia sulphurella at work today. 

Dave Morris

Chalfont St Giles

A caterpillar question

 I found this caterpillar when moving some leaf mould at the end of February. Therefore no idea what it was feeding on. Any suggestions welcome.

Andy Newbold, Sibford Ferris, Oxon.

Acleris sp

Trapped last night in woodland at Combe, Oxon. A rather sorry looking specimen. I had wondered about A. kochella or perhaps A. logiana.? Any help would be appreciated.... Thanks.

Clouded Drab confirmation

 I think this one is a Clouded Drab but I am not 100% sure looking at the antennae.

Andy Newbold, Sibford Ferris, Oxon.

Sunday, 21 March 2021

Northern Drab

Northern Drab was a new moth for the garden (Goring Heath, south Oxfordshire) on a good night with 12 species (all macros) including Early Tooth-striped, Dotted Chestnut, Brindled Pug, Yellow Horned and over 100 Small Quakers.


Friday, 19 March 2021

Back in action


I'm back in action with a stock of spare MV bulbs and it was nice that the one now in use attracted a Pine Beauty last night - the first really appealing moth of the year to my eyes although I appreciate that the Quakers and Drabs have their charms.  I've also had the selection below, whose IDs - left to right, row by row - I believe to be Common Quaker, Clouded Drab, March Moth, Oak Beauty, Small Quaker, Agonopteryx ocellana, Twin-spotted Quaker and a pair of Hebrew Characters.  I hope that I am right, especially on the micro.  I also need to do some double-checking on my fairly large complement of Clouded Drabs to try to work out if any of them are Lead-coloureds. Thanks for all the wisdom on the blog about this.

I am very grateful for the expert advice given about MV lamps after my last post. I now have a screw bulbholder but in the end, I found that general suppliers online still seem to be well-stocked with 3-pin 125 MV bulbs.  The entomological specialists remain doomy about them however, so I'm glad to have enough to last me a while.  Martin Wainwright, Thrupp, Oxon

Westcott, Bucks

The last seven nights have seen the garden year-list added to on each and every one of them, so it has definitely been a good week.  New arrivals have been Red-green Carpet & Small Brindled Beauty (12th), Small Quaker (13th), Acleris literana & Shoulder Stripe (14th), Acleris ferrugana/notana (15th), Double-striped Pug (16th), Mompha subbistrigella & Early Grey (17th) and then Lead-coloured Drab, Powdered Quaker & Twin-spotted Quaker (all 18th). 

Acleris ferrugana/notana, Westcott 15th March

Acleris literana, Westcott 14th March

Small Brindled Beauty, Westcott 12th March

Lead-coloured Drab, Westcott 18th March

Powdered Quaker, Westcott 18th March

Small Brindled Beauty isn't annual here by any means so that was a very nice visitor.  Acleris literana (maybe it should be "Acleris du Jour"!) can be a stunning little moth when fresh although those appearing after hibernation (ie now) can often be worn.  It was seen in the garden for the first time in 2018 and is now an annual, having been recorded here in each subsequent spring.  Acleris ferrugana is also a regular although this one will have to be dissected to prove the point (I've never yet had notana here and it is much less common in Bucks than is ferrugana).  The others were all expected species although very welcome nonetheless.  In the field guide some really pretty forms of Powdered Quaker are illustrated but in my experience more than 95% of those found locally are of the plain sandy form shown above, which is a bit of a shame.

Just a reminder that Lead-coloured Drab can be found in all three of our counties.  It is generally smaller than Clouded Drab, with a lighter grey base colour and more rounded wing-tips, but the most obvious difference between the two (for males anyway) is that Lead-coloured has feathered antennae.  The only Orthosia missing from the Westcott garden list now is Blossom Underwing, which is mainly a species of oak woodland where it should have started flying already.  Again, the moth is found across all three of our counties and does stray into gardens - it appears here roughly every other year - so that's another one to keep an eye out for.

Dave Wilton Westcott, Bucks  

Wednesday, 17 March 2021

Tilehurst, Berks Query

Total of 12 last night including the following:
Hebrew Character (3), Early Grey (3), Small Quaker (2), Light Brown Apple (1), Common Plume (1), Clouded Drab (1) and Unknown (1).
The Clouded Drab is shown below just for clarification and also the Unknown for any ideas please. It clearly has 3 dots and is quite glossy. Forewing length is approx 10mm.

Tuesday, 16 March 2021

Mottled Grey

 Further to your post on species to look out for, Dave, I hope you don't mind me reminding folk that there is a potential confusion-species that is certainly found around now in the area: Early Tooth-striped: 

(This is an old photo from 2011). 

Andy King. 

Finally underway at the museum.

 Had a chance to leave at light at COAM last night, to get my spring moth list underway.

Nothing spectacular but most numerous were Small Quaker and I had Streamer and Twin-spotted Quaker, both species I failed to catch up with last year.

I'm also wondering about this, if anyone can help with an id?

Dave Morris

Chalfont St Giles

Monday, 15 March 2021

One of the Crambinae?

 Whilst cutting back hypericum in my garden last week I disturbed this which looks to me like one of the crambinae grass veneers but an odd time of year isn't it?  I get a lot of agriphila in our garden during the summer so is this a very faded one or something quite different?

Saturday, 13 March 2021

First moth in my new house

 This moth suddenly appeared in my living room the other night. An Angle Shades, I believe, which I haven't seen before. So very pleased with this good start. 

Jacqui, Bledlow


Friday, 12 March 2021

Winter Early Stages

I haven't been able to do any trapping for a while, but have been enjoying the challenge of recording species over the winter on walks and cycles around Oxford in the last couple of months. 

One of the highlights has been another site for Phyllonorycter ulicicolella, on Frilford Heath golf course (VC22) at the weekend. There's a reasonable amount of gorse here that's been retained around the edges, and I checked 3 of the scragglier bushes (which this species seems to like) and found mines on all of them (a total of 19). If others are interested in looking for this species, I did a blog with some very tentative (!) thoughts about finding it here: Basically I've found it most places there is gorse that I've checked (so it's probably a bit more widespread than records suggest), and I find most mines on the more woody, straggly bushes (but others have found them on younger growth).

Phyllonorycter ulicicolella larva in the mine

Other Phyllonorycters have been leucographella (Pyracantha) and messaniella (Holm Oak), while a load of Oak Phyllonorycters collected from fallen leaves in Bernwood a few weeks ago are starting to bear fruit with the first quercifoliella after I bought them inside last week. This is a really easy way to record this difficult group - just go and grab fallen leaves with mines on, pop them outside/in a shed with netting over the top over winter, and bring them inside in March when the temperature change will cause them to start emerging (after a couple of weeks). The adults are all quite distinctive and easy to tell apart when they emerge, and some are very beautiful and under-recorded. There's a handy photo guide (with some added continental species) on lepiforum here:

Other miners I've found have been the oak-bark Zimmermannia (formerly Ectoedemia) species in Bernwood - longicaudella/atrifrontella, Trifurcula immundella's mines on Broom at Frilford Heath (another one that's worth looking for wherever the foodplant occurs), and Bucculatrix nigricomella, which is just starting to mine Oxeye Daisy now.

Bucculatrix nigricomella mine

I've also found a few species mining in branches, including Spuleria flavicaput (mining Hawthorn branches) and Orange-Tailed Clearwing (old galls in Wayfaring Tree stems) at Sydlings Copse

Old Orange-Tailed Clearwing gall

I haven't had too much luck with species that can be found in seedheads over the winter. I've tried to find Metzneria lappella (Burdock) and aestiviella (Carline Thistle), but no luck so far. I did find Metzneria metzneriella in Common Knapweed at Chilswell Valley though, as well as Endothenia gentianaenea in Teasel. The former took 134 seedheads to find, but the latter is very easy to find (I never normally need to check more than 2 or 3 teasel heads) but takes care to separate from the similar marginana, by the absence of the anal comb. Another easy one to find in seedheads at the moment is Limnaecia phragmitella on Bulrush. The presence of larva (which are often present in large numbers) is given away by white down puffing out of the seedheads (held there by silk produced by the larvae), and just opening up the seedhead a bit normally reveals them.

Metzneria metzneriella larva

Limnaecia phragmitella larva - Dry Sandford pit

Westcott, Bucks

Moth activity has continued at a low level in the garden for all except one of the past seven nights, with Sunday 7th being the only blank.  However, there have been few new species for the year.  On the 6th I had a putative Mompha bradleyi which has been retained for dissection.  The night of the 8th brought in six species, of which Agonopterix ocellana and Oak Beauty (two of them) were new for the year, then I had to wait until last night (11th) when the garden's first Red Chestnut of the season turned up alongside the inevitable batch of Common Quakers.

Mompha species, Westcott 6th March

Agonopterix ocellana, Westcott 8th March

Oak Beauty, Westcott 8th March

Red Chestnut, Westcott 11th March

Dave Wilton Westcott, Bucks