Tuesday, 11 May 2021

Micro queries

 April was very disappointing.  May has started out better in terms of new species appearing, if still in very low numbers.  In the last week, the Notodontidae have put in an appearance: I've had Lesser Swallow Prominent, Swallow Prominent, Iron Prominent and Pebble Prominent appear, the last two of those being new for the garden list.

There have been three new species of micro-moth for the year, all of which have given me trouble with identification.

Tentatively, I labelled the first one as Agonopterix yeatiana due to the black shading near the base of the wings and to the small white dot beyond the large black blob in the middle of the forewing.  Then my doubts began to increase when I researched its distribution.  The Sterling & Parsons field guide says simply that it is "more frequent towards the coast", although the distribution chart does shade in most of southern England, including areas well away from the coast.  However, looking at records in inland counties neighbouring Bucks, it seems that records are very sparse indeed.  So now I'm wondering if it's A. arenella.  What do other people think? The moth is in my fridge, in case gen. det. is required.

Possible Agonopterix yeatiana.
Newton Longville, 7th May 2021

The second micro seems to be a Tineid.  Some of them have similar yellow or orangey colouration to the head, but I can't match the plain appearance of its forewing (c. 7mm long) against any images that I can find, including the species not illustrated in the field guide.
Micro 2.  Newton Longville, 7th May 2021

The third micro has a forewing length of about 4½ mm.  In some respects, it resembles Apodia bifractella, but the wing shape looks wrong and it is the wrong time of year.
Micro 3.  Newton Longville, 7th May 2021

Any help gratefully received!

Tim Arnold
Newton Longville, Bucks


  1. Hello Tim,

    The first is a rather tired Agonopterix ocellana coming towards the end of its long life, having over-wintered as an adult. The second one is Prays ruficeps (orangey head and unicolorous wings). It is an ash-feeder like its close relative Prays fraxinella, but beware the melanic form of the latter species which usually has the general outline of the markings on the standard form clearly visible. The final moth is an Elachista and I'd say a male canapennella but that's one you should probably get chopped if it is a first for your garden.

  2. I should have mentioned that the patches of red in the centre of the wing on the Agonopterix are what gives that one away as being ocellana rather than any of the similar-looking species.

  3. Thank you, Dave - particularly about the tip regarding A. ocellana. That's a new for the garden, as is P. ruficeps.
    I had E. canapennella once last year, and had written a note in pencil in the field guide "may seem unicolorous", which I didn't notice this year!


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