26 June 2017 - Fiery Splendour

Elephant Hawk-moth (Deilephila elpenor)
As we peered into the moth trap this morning the wind started to pick up, so we moved everything and sheltered ourselves near the old stable wall. The trap contained a number of species which I have seen before but there were a couple of new ones as well. One was an Elephant Hawk-moth (Deilephila elpenor) which I have longed to see. Its striking streaks of pink are almost unimaginable.



Buff Arches (Habrosyne pyritoides)
One species which has been recorded before, but surprisingly has not been written about, is the Buff Arches (Habrosyne pyritoides). Its scientific name is appropriate as Habrosyne means ‘splendour’, describing the moth’s beauty, and pyritoides is ‘of fire’, referring to the mineral copper pyrites which strikes fire. It also describes the brassy yellow color of the forewing. While the colors on the moth do not stand out like the Elephant Hawk-moth, the multitude of patterns makes it stunning. The pictures do not do the moth justice as viewing the Buff Arches in real life, it looks as if there are separate textures along its wings. 

Buff Arches (illustration)
Its scientific name used to be Thyatira derasa until it was later changed to Habrosyne pyritoides. My guess is that it was felt the moth deserved a name more suited to its elegance. 

The larvae of the moth feed on bramble (Rufus).


Riband Wave (Idaea aversata)
Riband Wave (Idaea aversata) was another moth found in our trap. There are two varieties of this moth and both forms occur equally. The one we have is the typical form. It has a thick dark band which stretches across its wings. Its scientific name, Idaea pertains to Mt. Ida which is where the gods and goddesses watched the Trojan War; aversata, from the Latin 'aversus' meaning 'belonging to the under part' where the discal spot is clearer on the underwing.


Shandy Hall gardens will be open for National Garden Scheme this coming Friday
(6.30pm - 8pm) - moth identification and release with Dr Dave Chesmore.




Post : Walter Chen [UPenn intern]

25 June 2017 - Moths under Canvas



Engrailed (Ectropis bistortata)

With thunderstorms and tempests forecast, we set up a tent to keep any rainfall from getting into the trap and onto our moths. While it’s an effective solution for rain, it does restrict the yield of moths as it hides some of the mercury vapour light, and there’s only one entrance for the moths. Checking the trap the next morning, there were considerably fewer moths than previously but some were still new to me.

One moth caught in our trap was an Engrailed (Ectropis bistortata). Similar in appearance to a Willow Beauty (Peribatodes rhomboidaria), the horizontal markings on the Engrailed are distinct and apparent. Ectropis bistortata describes the markings on its wings as ‘turning out of the way’ and ‘twice twisted’ respectively.

Engrailed (or ingrailed) is also a term used in heraldry indicating a line indented with small curves - just like the edges of the hind-wings in the drawing below.

Engrailed (illustration)

In British Moths and their Transformations (1845), the scientific name for the Engrailed is Tephrosia abietaria but we can't source the roots of this old scientific binomial.

 
Honeysuckle (Lonicera)

Interestingly, the caterpillars of the Engrailed are polyphagous meaning that the caterpillar does not have one specific food plant and can feed on a wide variety. The list of food plants for the Engrailed caterpillar includes the leaves of several trees, berries, flowers, and grasses. Some from the list that are in the old quarry are honeysuckle (Lonicera), oak (Quercus), and clover (Trifolium).



Flame Carpet (Xanthorhoe designata)


Another moth we had was a Flame Carpet (Xanthorhoe designata). While it is not a new moth to Shandy Hall, there has not been an opportunity since we first saw it, for a good photograph. Luckily, we took the photograph (above) while going through the trap in the morning and the moth stayed still on an egg box. Replacing a poor photograph in a specimen tube, this moth is an excellent example of a Flame Carpet with its defined pattern. Xanthorhoe depicts ‘yellowish wavy lines’ and designata means ‘to mark out’, referring to the middle marking being clearer than of other species.


Flame Carpet (illustration)

The drawing of the Flame Carpet in British Moths and their Transformations (1845) was also difficult to locate as it had a completely different name. In the book, it is called Cidaria propugnata, Cidaria being a title of Ceres, the goddess who protected agriculture.

The larvae of the Flame Carpet feed on cruciferous plants. These plants are vegetables widely consumed worldwide. They include broccoli, cabbage, watercress but honesty (lunaria) and sweet rocket are included. One plant in abundance that they might feed on is rapeseed which is used for oil or cuisine.


Post : Walter Chen [U Penn intern]

22 June 2017 - Collars and Earmuffs

Red-necked Footman (Atolmis rubricollis)

The number of moths in the trap has been increasing every week and we are also starting to get a wider variety of species. I had to take care of Monday’s trap alone for the first time. I will admit that it was scary, not the task in particular, but seemingly dozens of crane flies and giant beetles that had an attraction towards my face. There were some recognizable moths among the group but there were also some new ones as well!

The Red-necked Footman (Atolmis rubricollis) was one of the moths caught in our trap. The moth caught my eye with its quintessential red collar so I immediately took photographs. It really stands out against the black body of the moth. Its name Atolmis means ‘lack of courage’, which describes the larvae’s habit of hiding in tree bark during the day; rubricollis means ‘red neck’ which fits perfectly with the moth.



Lichen on apple tree

Quite rare and local, Atolmis rubricollis can also be sometimes seen during the day as well as the night. The larvae feed on lichen which is present in our quarry.

(Ectodemia albifasciella)


Another moth caught was Ectoedemia albifasciella. One other Ectoedemia species was found in July 2013 - Ectoedemia decentella.  As the earlier blog post describes, this moth looks rather charming with the two white spots resembling earmuffs. It also has an orange head which looks kind of like a hat.

Petiole of Oak leaf

Ectoedemia means ‘an outside swelling’ which reflects the eating habits of the larvae. When the larva feed on the leaf petiole, the part connecting the leaf to a branch (see above), it creates a growth. The second part of the binomial  is albifasciella meaning the ‘white band’ details of the pattern on the fore-wing of the moth. The larvae feed mainly on oak (Quercus).

(Caloptilia sp.)

The third moth identified is either a Caloptilia robustella or a Caloptilia alchimiella. The moths are difficult to distinguish by just visual appearance so dissection would be necessary. Since we do not dissect we can only narrow it down to one of the two. At first, I thought it was a Caloptilia stigmatella which we have seen once before, but the triangle pattern on Caloptilia stigmatella is placed slightly differently and it is more hooked. Although we can't be certain which species of moth it is, neither Caloptilia robustella nor Caloptilia alchimiella have been seen at Shandy Hall before so a new species can confidently be claimed.

Both species of moth lay eggs on oak and the larvae subsequently feed on the leaves after hatching.

All three species are new to Shandy Hall, which makes our count 413!





Post : Walter Chen [UPenn intern]

20 June 2018 - Beauty Spots

(Phycitodes binaevella)
Another new moth is Phycitodes binaevella. We decided to take a photograph of the moth in the trap rather than contain it in a tube. The picture shows the moth in profile. In the guide book for micro moths, some species are shown in profile and some show the species from above. This proved to be awkward as I first tried filtering out the moths which had different resting positions and head shapes. This procedure did not work as planned as the two features do not look the same when viewed top down.

Imagining what the moth might look like from above, I first thought it was an Athrips mouffetella as the dot placements are similar. I scrolled through all the pictures once more, this time making note of the coloration and how its bottom half was grey and its top was a light brown. I found a couple which looked vaguely similar : Phycitodes binaevella and Phycitodes maritima.  Both were on the Yorkshire Moths Flying Tonight list and the pictures on the website matched. While the pictures and the moth were similar, I was still uncertain as this species appeared not to have  been recorded in our vice-county. I quickly emailed the photograph and my deductions to Charlie Fletcher and he confirmed that it was indeed a Phycitodes binaevella and there had been a couple of sightings recently. This increases our count to 410! I honestly did not expect the number of species to increase this much since the number was already so high.

Phycitodes refers to how this group of moths is similar to the Phycitae where the derivation comes from a red colour that is found in seaweed (phukos) or a precious stone phykitis.  I couldn't see any red though....;  binaevella means ‘two moles’ which describe the black dots on its forewing. 

The moth looks particularly elegant as it holds its head high showing off its beauty spots.

The larvae of Phycitodes binaevella feed on the flower-heads of the spear thistle (Cirsium vulgare) - the national flower of Scotland which is considered a weed in the UK and does well in grazed areas as the plant is unpalatable for most animals. 



Post : Walter Chen [UPenn intern]

18 June 2017 - They Toil Not

(Eucosma campoliliana)

There are both good and bad sides to this heat wave. The good is that there is greater moth activity so more likelihood of moths coming to our trap. The bad news is that I may have developed sunburn from my long walk on Saturday. From our trap, which was set up Saturday afternoon, it was evident that the number of moths being trapped is increasing. I’ve been told that there can be hundreds later in the year. While we didn’t get any monstrously big moths like the hawk-moths, we had a large variety of smaller ones, including a number of micro moths.

One was Eucosma campoliliana. Eucosma means ‘graceful’ or ‘well-adorned’; campoliliana means ‘a field of lilies’. It references the biblical verse and chapter Matthew 6:28 and describes the beauty of the moth. The distinctive features of Eucosma campoliliana are the black and brown spots on its chalky, white wings, almost like drops of paint on a blank canvas.

The larvae feed on the seeds and stems of ragwort (Senecio jacobaea). In the United Kingdom, ragwort is considered a weed and is not particularly liked due to it being poisonous when consumed by animals such as horses, sheep, and cows. However, it is important ecologically to many insect species, thirty of which feed only on ragwort and of those, ten are rare or threatened.  There are no Ragwort plants in the garden at Shandy Hall so this moth
 must be in search.

Eucosma campoliliana (or Marbled Bell) is another new species for Shandy Hall which makes our count 409.



(Eucosma campoliliana) - close-up

Other moths included : Ghost Moth, Small Magpie, Middle-barred Minor, Green Carpet, Spectacle, Silver Y, Beautiful Golden Y, White Ermine, Buff Ermine, Straw Dot, Metzneria metzneriella, Green Pug, Common Pug, Silver-ground Carpet, Heart and Dart.


16 June 2017 - Moth Therapy

Mottled Rustic (Caradrina morpheus)

Most of Wednesday was spent identifying the new moths that were trapped on Tuesday night. Of these there was one which I thought was a Mottled Rustic (Caradrina morpheus). Looking back through the blog, there was one post on a Mottled Rustic in 2012 and that entry was about how we had had to make a correction. The moth thought to be a Mottled Rustic was an error and instead was an Uncertain (Hoplodrina alsines)

Fearing making the same mistake again, I double checked my assumption and it was confirmed, which is great because now we can finally say we have had the Mottled Rustic and our species count rises to 408!

The scientific name for the moth is interesting. Caradrina was named by Ferdinand Ochsenheimer, a German actor and entomologist, focusing mainly on moths and butterflies. He himself stated that Caradrina was the name of a river in Albania; morpheus, named by Johann Siegfried Hufnagel (1766), refers to the god of dreams and it is thought to be named that because of an affinity between the ‘dirty’ moth and the divinities of the night.

Ochsenheimer lived a rather busy life as he first started studying natural history but later took up acting. While he was getting increasingly well-known and popular, stress started to build which led to him taking long walks as per advice from a doctor. These walks revived his love for Lepidoptera and soon he would be searching for moths and butterflies after rehearsals.

While trying to identify the moth, I thought there was a stain on my computer screen as the moth has the faintest vertical streak of orange on each wing. After realizing that my eyes were not playing tricks on me, those streaks helped me distinguish it from other species.


Nettle 


The larvae of the moth like to feed on a variety of herbaceous plants. One of the plants is nettle (Urtica), which, fortunately, I have yet to experience the pain from contact that people describe. Nettle can also be found in our garden.



Post : Walter Chen [UPenn intern]

15 June 2017 - Rare Moth on Speedwell

(Cauchas fibulella) and Bird's Eye flower
Walking through the garden, a micro moth was spotted on a leaf near a clump of Germander speedwell (Veronica chamaedrys). It was unfamiliar and quite striking. Naturally, we got the camera and started taking pictures. After uploading the images all four of us huddled around my computer comparing the photographs with ones found online and in the micromoths guide book. We came to a democratic consensus that the moth was either a Cauchas fibulella or an Adela fibulella. After sending the photographs to Charlie Fletcher, he confirmed that the moth was both Cauchas fibulella and Adela fibulella as it had had a change of its scientific name.

Adela means ‘unseen’ and it refers to the larvae concealing itself in a portable case; fibulella is defined as ‘a clasp’ which describes the appearance of the moth and how the two dots, one on each forewing, come together when at rest. Cauchas fibulella is a rare species in North Yorkshire and this is only the third to be recorded.


The larvae feed on germander speedwell of which there is plenty in the garden. They first feed on the seeds but later build a portable case and feed on the leaves closer to the ground.

If you have any Bird's Eye in your garden (it's a good luck charm for travellers so there should be), find a sunny ten minutes and go out and see if you can spot the little moth - perhaps they aren't as rare as they seem to be.  When they fly it is quite a whirring of wings and they are easy to follow.

(Cnephasia sp.)

Another moth caught in the trap turned out to be difficult to identify. At first, we believed it looked like an Isotrias rectifasciana but our moth was too big.  It seems it is likely to be one of the Cnephasia species and they are very difficult to tell apart. Another Cnephasia sp. was recorded about three years ago so we can't count this as a new species - but our Chaucas fibulella (or Little Longhorn) has already made the total 407 different species.



Post : Walter Chen [UPenn intern]

13 June 2017 - Hare at Nightfall

Miller (Acronicta leporina)

I am beginning to get used to identifying the moth species located here at Shandy Hall. This time I recognized and recorded many of the ones we caught without having to use the reference books. I do not expect this to last however, as the species will change as time moves on.
One moth we caught in the trap was the Miller (Acronicta leporina). It is a stunning moth with its series of black waves and dots contrasting against its snow-like body. Its scientific name describes it perfectly as Acronicta means ‘nightfall’ and leporina is defined as a ‘hare in winter’. It truly does look like a white hare which still has remnants of its old coat on its back. 

The Miller has been recorded once before when trapping in the Museum Gardens in York, but this is its first time it has been seen here at Shandy Hall. This increases the species count to 407!


Miller (illustration)

Above is an illustration of the Miller taken from British Moths and their Transformations (1845). The caterpillar feeds mainly on the bark and soft wood of a variety of trees. Some can be found in our garden for example the oak (Quercus).



Lychnis (Hadena bicruris)

The Lychnis (Hadena bicruris) is another beautiful moth caught at the same time as the Miller. As described before by a previous intern (Jane Wu) the scientific name refers to the underworld (Hadena) and describes the X-like shape as two legs (bicruris). And just like Jane, I can’t really visualise them.

Campion in the quarry


The caterpillar of the Lychnis likes to feed on the unripe seeds in the capsules of Caryophyllaceae species such as Campion which can be seen in abundance here in our garden.

Caterpillar emerging from seed head of White Campion
(illustration)

Subsequently the hand-coloured image above (also from British Moths and their Transformations 1845), depicts a Lychnis caterpillar coming out of a campion flower-head. One can only imagine that the caterpillar has emptied the seed capsule and is off to devour some more.




Post : Walter Chen (UPenn intern)

10 June 2017 - Pollen Cruncher



Micropterix .... but which?

Micropterix aruncella

I went into the garden in search of a micromoth that has been recorded on the blog, but not included as a species at Shandy Hall.  Micropterix calthella is the scientific name.  I saw the moth on a walk near Oldstead with Jeremy Purseglove in 2014 and fully expected to see it when the Marsh Marigolds were flowering in the quarry in early May.  Not a sight.

Yesterday, looking closely at the speedwell flower-heads in search of longhorn moths, Olivia spotted a tiny flash of gold.  I managed to get a photograph and reckoned it might be good enough for identification. The image wasn't sharp enough when I looked at it on the computer so I dashed back and tried again. The moth had gone - but a similar moth was perching on a leaf close by and seemed almost like a tiny guardian of the leaf.  The photograph this time (see above) was much sharper and showed a moth most certainly of the same shape and sheen, but with two clear white stripes and a white dot on the wings. This surely must be Micropterix aruncella.  

The tiny leaf-guardian, picking up who-knows-what information on those cocked and alert antennae, is species 406.  

Charlie Fletcher tells me that the other image is either a female aruncella or a calthella but it is not possible to say which from that particular photograph.


Goat's Beard (Spiraea aruncus)

The moth's scientific name comes from mikros (little), pterux (a wing); and the second part refers to Spiraea aruncus (Goat's Beard) on which the moth feeds.  Uniquely among moths, this miniature creature has mouth parts which enable it to crunch and consume pollen.

Common Liverwort (Marchantia polymorpha)

The connection with the image above is that the larvae of Micropterix aruncella feed on the Common Liverwort and 'detritus'.  A dish of detritus is an interesting addition to the menu of food sources for moths and there is probably some in the plant pot wherein this liverwort is happily growing.

9 June 2017 - Affecting Moment

Maiden's Blush (Cyclophara punctaria)

Two days ago, when the rain stopped for a brief moment, we went out into the garden and I helped set up my first moth trap. After further downpours that same night, I will admit my expectations for the number of moths were not high. However, after going through the trap and placing each moth carefully in their own plastic tube, it would seem as though my day would be busy identifying many new species I have never come across. 
There were at least 16 different species in total, a couple flew away before we were able to identify them, or they were too big to temporarily imprison, like the Poplar Hawk-moth. Of the many caught, there were a few which caused some trouble with identification. One of which turned out to be quite the surprise!

The moth that created the excitement was the Maiden’s Blush (Cyclophora punctaria). At first glance, I thought the moth was a Clay Triple-lines (Cyclophora linearia). This would have been a new species so I contacted Mr. Fletcher and sent him the photograph above for verification.  Happily it was a new species but not the one I thought.  This was the first appearance for a Maiden’s Blush at Shandy Hall and the species count jumps to 405!

The diagnostic features are its reddish blush and the multitude of dark grey dots speckled throughout. There are different variations of Maiden’s Blush, some of which have patterns which are more apparent and others, like the one above, have patterns which are harder to identify. Its scientific name ‘Cyclophora’ derives from ‘kuklos’, a ring, or ‘phoreō’, meaning to carry; ‘punctaria’ means ‘punctum’ or dot, which describes the many dots scattered on the wings.


Oak in the quarry.

The Maiden's Blush mainly resides in oak woodland and the larvae like to feed on oaks - generally Pedunculate Oak, Sessile Oak, and Turkey Oak. There are  two small oak trees located in our quarry but we are not sure which varieties they are.  If the moth lays eggs we will see if any caterpillars appear looking like the one beneath.


Maiden's Blush caterpillar

The other moth which caused some confusion was the Plum Tortrix (Hedya pruniana). While we were leaning on it being a Plum Tortrix, we were still uncertain if it was that or a Marbled Orchard Tortrix (Hedya nubiferana). These two species have caused trouble in the past with other interns as well. Mr. Fletcher kindly identified this species. 
Its name ‘pruniana’ refers to the blackthorn on which the larvae feed.


Plum Tortrix (Hedya pruniana)







Post : Walter Chen (UPenn intern)

6 June 2017 - Lantern Bearer

Small Angle Shades (Euplexia lucipara)
My first day at Shandy Hall was met with a light drizzle which soon turned into a downpour later in the evening. After watching some cows trudge towards a tree to protect themselves from the rain, I started my adventure of moth identification thousands of miles away from home.

I have done some identification before with butterflies when I volunteered at a museum back home. That however, was simple due to the carefully curated butterfly species which were meant to capture the eyes of children. One only needed to memorize around 15 different kinds of butterflies, each with its own unique color and pattern. This on the other hand proved to be quite the challenge. There are hundreds of different varieties of moths, some of which look similar to others and makes you wonder what makes them a separate species.

Out of the 10 moths I identified, one of them was particularly striking. It was the Small Angle Shades (Euplexia lucipara). I sat there staring at this moth, looking at the beautiful mixture of browns and black. The highlights are the two bright spots, one on each wing. They look almost like two dots of gold leaf painted on. The name ‘Euplexia’ is derived from the Greek words ‘plexis’ meaning ‘weaving’, and ‘plekō’ meaning to plait or to twist. It describes the resting position of the moth when the wings are folded; ‘lucipara’ derives from the Latin words ‘lux’ meaning light, and ‘luciparens’ meaning light-bearing. Its description mentions a resemblance of a lamp shining out of darkness. This almost poetic derivation is very fitting for this stunning moth.



Fern in the quarry garden

The Small Angle Shades caterpillar's main food-source is bracken (Pteridium aquilinum). That plant is not to be found at Shandy Hall but UK moths records that the nocturnal larvae will eat 'other ferns' - so the one above could be tonight's meal.


Shoulder-striped Wainscot (Leucania comma)

Another moth identified was the Shoulder-striped Wainscot (Leucania comma). This one was fairly easy to identify as the pattern was quite distinctive and the markings on the moth were very clear. Comparing the moth to a picture in the moth field guide, it was like a picture-perfect match. The moth itself looks smooth and sleek, with its black vertical marks along its wings. Its scientific name ‘comma’ comes from the streaks as it refers not to the modern punctuation but just a mark.

Cock's-foot grass (Dactylis glomerata)

Cock’s-foot grass (Dactylis glomerata) is what the Shoulder-striped Wainscot likes to feed on. It is used mainly for hay, as the grass is sweeter and has higher yields than other temperate grasses or grasses found in areas with mild temperatures. Dactylis glomerata is found throughout our gardens.




Post : Walter Chen (UPenn intern)

31 May 2017 - Rhubarb Digression


(Plutella porrectella) 

En route for rhubarb, I had just reached the gate when a moth flew across my path and settled on a leaf.  I had a quick look and couldn't remember seeing it before so I returned to the house to get the camera.  It was still there when I returned and I managed to get a dozen photographs before it flew into the border and disappeared.  All the pictures were slightly out of focus but it looked like Plutella porrectella - a moth that Helen Levins (UPenn intern) had identified in 2012 and I hadn't seen.  

According to the Yorkshire moth site this species is not common in the county so I looked up the food plant and UK moths said that it tended to be found in the vicinity of Sweet Rocket (aka Dame's Violet or Damask Violet).  There are great clumps of this plant in the quarry and in the borders and within ten minutes I had seen three Plutella porrectella gently ghosting their paths through the grass stems and, when one settled, I managed to get the better photograph above.

Sweet Rocket (Hesperis matronalis)

The moth was given its scientific name by Franz Paula von Schrank, a German naturalist, professor and author.  Schrank was ordained as a priest and was the first director of the Munich botanical gardens.  He tended to name species by referring to Greek gods and mythical figures and it is thought 'plutella' is connected to Pluto, god of the Nether World. 'Porrectella' is from the Latin porrectus meaning 'outstretched' : from the antennae which are extended when the moth is at rest.  

Another member of the Plutella family is the Diamond-back Moth, the one that had everyone in a flap last year as it 'invaded' from the East coast.



28 May 2017 - Moth with the Long(est) Name


(Pseudoswammerdamia combinella)

The only micromoth to be attracted to the moth trap for National Garden Scheme opening was Pseudoswammerdamia combinella. This is its third appearance at Shandy Hall, roughly around the same date each year and (I hope) not incorrectly identified.  The tawny spot on the upraised tube of the wings is clearly seen with the naked eye, as well as its characteristic resting position.  Does it have the longest name?  A quick look at a list seems to suggest it does.

The open garden evening attracted around fifty people and the weather was glorious.  The moth trap was opened and contained a good cross-section of species.  We got a little perplexed over a white moth that seemed as if it should be a 'wave' - but all the pale-coloured wave-like moths have spots on their forewings. Our moth (see photo below) didn't and it looked as if the only wave that it could be was a Satin Wave - which is never seen in Yorkshire.  Could this be an important sighting in the region?  No.  It turned out to be a Light Emerald (Campaea margaritaria) - yet another example of the fugitive green colour that vanishes so quickly from the wings of moths. 



Light Emerald (Campaea margaritaria)


But then a proper surprise.  A Carpet moth was spotted clinging to an egg box and I couldn't recall seeing one like it before.  Looking at the images in the Lewington guide it seemed to be a Common Carpet.  Checking back through the blog it seems that this species has not been recorded before - and a verification from the photograph (thank you, Dave Chesmore), means another can be added to the list which now stands at 404.  

The bonus is that the caterpillar eats cleavers (Galium aparine). This may cause gardeners to jump for joy as cleavers (aka known as goose-grass, stick-a-back, scratch tongue and no doubt other regional names), can overtake a garden in the blink of any eye.  Its sweet, innocent self can be seen below. 


Common Carpet (Epirrhoe alternata alternata)

The Common Carpet is a very common moth, as its name suggests, but it must have been missed or never seen before at Shandy Hall.  The broad alternating bands on the fore-wings are referred to in the scientific name (alternata); 'epirrhoe' is from the Greek for a flood suggested by the rivulet shapes also present.


Goose-grass (Galium aparine)
Other moth species on this evening : Pale Tussock, Poplar Hawk-moth, Brimstone, Spectacle, Pale Prominent, Lesser Swallow Prominent, White Ermine, Buff Ermine, Clouded-bordered Brindle, Sandy Carpet, Small Square-spot, Green Carpet, Common Marbled Carpet, Pugs (waiting to check with experts), Pale-shouldered Brocade.


22 May 2017 - Missed Pug

Brindled Pug (Eupithecia abbreviata)

Fortunately moth experts are generous with their knowledge and thanks to Charlie Fletcher the species list at Shandy Hall now stands at 403.  If you saw the blog earlier in the month this photograph will be familiar - it was used to misidentify the Brindled Pug as a Common Pug.  The Brindled Pug (Eupithicea abbreviata) used to be found (in Yorkshire) only around the oakwoods near Selby, but it seems to have spread throughout the county and is now recorded in all five vice-county areas.

The Brindled Pug can be identified by its markings but also by its hindwing being shorter than the forewing.  The morning when I first saw this pug (confidently misidentifying it!) another flew out of the trap at the same time.  It was sooty-black and may have been a melanic variety.

The pug feeds on oak and hawthorn both of which are in the quarry garden.

21 May 2017 - Be Prepared

(Coleophora -...)

Rain and wind make moth identification troublesome.  This metallic-winged micromoth was not only quite small but seemed keen to be on its travels.  I thought the photograph above would be sufficient for a positive identification and looking in the Lewington guide it seemed it must be one of four, metallic-winged moths.  Then I looked back through the blog to find that on 17 June 2016, Jane (with Charlie Fletcher's advice) had recorded a Coleophora maybella as a new species to the garden, identified by its stripey antennae (see below).

My latest photograph is not clear enough to be sure which of the Coleophora this one is. Does the fact that the antennae are not stripey (or are they at the tips?) mean that this is not identified but nonetheless new?
Had I taken a little more time, been properly prepared and recorded a clearer image, I would now be sure.


(Coleophora maybella)

The rest of Thursday night's trap contained familiar species but I needed to double check using the various websites and books that are guides to help the uncertain recorder.


Cinnabar (Tyria jacobaeae)

Easy to spot, the Cinnabar is very welcome, although there is no ragwort in the quarry.  The caterpillar (a bright, boldly striped yellow and black creature) is invariably seen on the flowering heads of the food plant.  There was one plant in the quarry a couple of years ago but for some reason it never appeared again - perhaps the victim of an over zealous horse-rider with a tendency to explode at the sight of Jacobaea vulgaris. The moth does fly during the day so it might have drifted in from the surrounding pasture. Only seen once before at Shandy Hall.

Muslin moths (Diaphora mendica)
A couple of male Muslin Moths.  The distinct grey of the male and the white of the female is recorded in the scientific name - diaphora means 'distinction'; mendica meaning 'beggar', referring to the mousy colour of the male; or it could also be associated with the Carmelite order where the friars wear white.  Take your pick.  Either way I haven't yet seen a female but they tend to fly during the day.  This could be a problem for the species but maybe dusk and dawn are their times of celebration.  Dock, plantain and red dead-nettle are food sources for the larvae - non of the latter here but plenty of dock and plantain.


Waved Umber (Menophra abruptaria)
The Waved Umber stays very still.  The stillness is accentuated by the pattern on the wings which form the shape of an abruptly ended series of crescent shapes, or 'eyebrow' (ophrus) of the 'moon' (mene).  Some moths seem to display moods and this could be an example of austerity.  The caterpillar feeds on the leaves of the shrub below - lilac - at the moment in full bloom.  Winter flowering Jasmine and privet are also suitable for the pupa to overwinter and hatch in the Spring as this one has done

Lilac (Syringa vulgaris)



Lesser Swallow Prominent (Pheosia gnoma)

The Lesser Swallow Prominent is high on the list of moths flying in May.  Relatively easy to identify, it can be confused with the slightly larger (but not always) Swallow Prominent (Pheosia tremula).  The Lesser will lay eggs on Silver Birch and Downy Birch trees, whilst the Swallow Prominent will choose willows and sallows.



Grey Dagger (Acronicta psi)

The Grey Dagger and the Dark Dagger are so alike that they are recorded as the same species, unless dissection is to take place.  The photograph was taken late in the evening while the rain was teeming down.  The deep black dagger markings embedded in the grey background are dramatic. 


Brown Silver-line (Petrophora chlorosata)

The last moth on this list is the Brown Silver-line, appearing as if ready to zoom off into the skies.


Brown Silver-line (Lozogramma petraria)

'Found wherever ferns grow' it says in British Moths and their Transformations (1845). This now reads as 'bracken' and it seems no alternative plants will suit the caterpillar.  I have unable to trace the meaning of the scientific name - although writing and stones seem to be part of it.
Other moths in the trap included Bright-line Brown-Eye, Brimstone, Small Magpie, Poplar Hawkmoth and Spectacle.  The weather seems promising so a trap on Thursday for the National Garden Scheme opening on Friday may produce a new species to the garden.