15 August 2017 - Magical Circle of Moths

Magpie moth (Abraxas grossulariata) in variety
A strange similarity to the last blog. Three moths of the same species beautifully illustrated by Henry Noel Humphreys once again, but this time they are Magpie moths and their circle might be easily conceived as magical. Abraxas is a Coptic word coined by the Gnostic teacher Basilides.  He wished the word to represent the number 365 - the number of days in the year.  Gem stones were inscribed with the magical word together with images of entwined human and animal forms. The word Abracadabra, the conjuror's word is from the same root. The arrangement in the image seems appropriate.  
The three moths show examples of the variations of pattern on the wings of the Magpie moth - the photograph below is the one that was lured by the mercury vapour lamp.

Magpie Moth (Abraxas grossulariata)
The second half of the binomial refers to the thorny plant beneath - the gooseberry.  This little plant is growing close to a stone wall and is, I think, the only example in the garden. There is no sign of caterpillar activity on the leaves so this moth must have flown in from a neighbouring garden.

Not the best of images but I was lucky to get one at all as this moth rushes back and forth in a very animated state.  The Honeysuckle Moth (Ypsolopha dentella) with the tooth-like shape to the wings when at rest.  Ypsolopha means 'high crested' and the food plant is honeysuckle. 

Honeysuckle Moth (Ypsolopha dentella)

Honeysuckle Moth illustration
The little hooks on the end of the fore-wings (seen in the illustration), form the 'dentella' that can be seen in the photograph of the moth on a rose stem.  Rather wonderful in its own way. 

10 August 2017 - Ring a Ring a Rustic

Common Rustic (Mesapamea agg)  in variety

The trap was set on Wednesday night with high expectations (no rain!), but there was a definite chill in the air. This is supposed to be the height of Summer so surely there would be a wide variety of species despite the drop in temperature.  Sadly it was not to be.  A Common Wainscot, Lesser Broad-bordered Underwing, Large Yellow Underwing and three Common Rustic moths was the sum total of the catch.

The Common Rustics displayed their varieties and the three were remarkably similar to the ones drawn and painted above (British Moths and their Transformations, Humphreys and Westwood. 1843).   
The description that accompanies this illustration is a veritable flourish of scientific description : 
In some specimens (Fig. 8) they are nearly of a uniform mouse-brown colour, with the slightest indication of the strigae.  In others (Fig. 9) they are of a rich dark chocolate brown, and shining, with still less distinct traces of the strigae, except the wings be held in a certain position, when they may be perceived of a duller hue than the rest of the wings; whilst some (Fig. 7) have the fore wings much varied along the inner margin, and beyond the posterior stigma with a pale luteous buff.  In almost all these varieties the posterior stigma is more or less distinct and accompanied by a white dot and the undulating subapical striga is succeeded by a darker tinge, forming an irregular margin along the apex of the wing.
[The striga referred to seems to mean the presence of a 'furrow'.  I can't find a more appropriate definition.]

Common Rustic (Mesapamea agg)
It is now firmly established in the world of moths that there are three varieties of Common Rustics and, as they cannot be reliably identified, they have to be recorded as Mesapamea agg.  One food plant of this busy little moth is the buddleia (see above) which is still in full flower in the garden.

3 August 2017 - New Moth as Farewell

(Acleris aspersana)

Despite the ominous clouds and rain, my last moth trap yielded amazing results. The number of moths increased immensely compared to the past few traps and the number of species rose as well. No matter the outcome, I would have been excited and grateful either way. In fact, there has never been a day during these past two months where I was not looking forward to working on moths.

The Ginger Button (Acleris aspersana) had me especially ecstatic. I will admit, not finding any new moths created some disappointment, but finding this one has eradicated all those feelings. When first spotted, I thought it was probably another worn tortrix moth that I had already seen before. However, I decided to capture it as there was a sense of unfamiliarity. This turned out to be a lucky decision. Compared to other members of the Acleris genus, Acleris aspersana is smaller in size. It likes grasslands and heaths and is common nationally but scarce locally. Its scientific name aspersana means ‘sprinkled’, which describe the several variations of patterns the moth might have. Some may have patterns resembling netting and linear lines.

The larvae of the Ginger Button live inside the rolled leaves of various herbaceous plants. Some of these include the European Crab Apple, Cinquefoil, Blackberries, Strawberries, Burnet, Meadowsweet, and Goat’s Beard. There’s some Goat’s Beard (Spiraea aruncus) in our garden which might be the origin of our tiny moth but the meadowsweet is a possibility too - the quarry is full of it.

Meadowsweet (Filipendula ulmaria)

A new species to Shandy Hall, Acleris aspersana is moth number 421! A great way to end my journey here in England.

Acleris aspersana (2 male, 3 femalewith Campion

I just wanted to mention how grateful I am for this opportunity. Despite studying computer science, growing up, I have dreamed of being a zoologist. While I didn’t get to explore the Amazon rainforest searching for reptiles and amphibians, this experience has allowed me to tap into my inner love for animals and help fulfill a dream of mine. Maybe I’ll even become a lepidopterist in the future. I also wanted to thank everyone I have met throughout my time here at Shandy Hall. All the workers and volunteers have been amazing and I will truly miss this wonderful place.

Final post : Walter Chen [U Penn intern]

28 July 2017 - Heralding the End

Phoenix (Eulithis prunata)

I started this internship with rain and the forecast tells me I will probably end with it as well. There’s still a few more days left so hopefully I can get in another moth trap before my departure. The past few traps have unfortunately been disappointing. The number of moths has decreased and subsequently the number of species. I believe it might be due to the change in the weather. 

The Phoenix (Eulithis prunata) arrived in our trap set on Tuesday night. The moth was upside down when I first saw it so I didn’t know what it was. I took one of our jars used for larger moths and carefully captured it. As it flew into the jar it quickly attached itself to the side of the container and slowly lifted its tail, creating a 90-degree curve.

Phoenix (illustration)
Eulithis meaning ‘goodly stone’, refers to the species of this genus having a yellowish color similar to sandstone, while prunata makes reference to the plum fruit although in Britain, it is not the food plant for the larvae.

Redcurrant fruit
The larvae of the Phoenix feed on blackcurrant (Ribes nigrum) and redcurrant (Ribes rubrum) which is in abundance just outside the kitchen window of my flat. As I write this the redcurrants are currently ripening and are quickly being devoured by birds.

The Herald (Scoliopteryx libatrix)

Bringing the rain with it, the Herald (Scoliopteryx libatrix) made an appearance in the trap. Its shape and pattern makes it seem to belong in a fantasy novel. The longitudinal red streaks shine and look like embers emanating from its wings. Its scientific name, Scoliopteryx, means ‘crooked wing’ which is a description of the curvy edge of the wings. 

The second half, libatrix, means ‘one who makes a libation to the gods’. There is no explanation to the reasoning behind this name but one theory states Linnaeus might have thought the naming of the Herald deserved a drink. Interestingly, the Herald overwinters as an adult and can be found hibernating in barns and caves. 

The Herald (Scolopteryx libatrix)

Larvae of Scolopteryx libatrix feed on Willow (Salix) and Poplar (Populus). In our quarry, we do have a White Poplar (Populus alba) which can be easily distinguished when compared with other trees as its leaves are white and grey. It may even appear to be covered in snow when viewed from a distance.

White Poplar (Populus alba) 

22 July 2017 - Slender Footman

Slender Footman (Eilema complana)

Before opening the moth trap we scanned the interior of the tent, looking for any moths hiding inside the crevices or folds of the fabric. Usually when the tent is set up, there will mostly be a population of Common Footman and Mottled Rustics to be found. This time was similar, but added to by Chinese Characters as well. As we flipped the tent to its side however, I spotted a skinnier than normal footman resting next to the zipper. We put it in a tube and decided to head back inside as the rain had started t come down harder. 

Identifying the few moths caught from the tent alone, things seemed hopeful as the footman turned out to be a Scarce Footman (Eilema complana). Its coloration is overall appearance is similar to the Common Footman, but unlike its cousin, the Scarce Footman's wings are curled up around its body when at rest. Like its name suggests, the moth is uncommon and resides mainly in the south and east of England, preferring moorland and coastal areas. Recently, it has been gradually moving to the North and West. Charlie Fletcher tells us that our record extends its range by five miles! 

Eilema means ‘a veil’, which describes the wrapping of the wings around the abdomen. The second part complana means ‘to make level’.  This part of the binomial has a complicated derivation as it also refers to the position of the wings when the moth is at rest.

The larvae of the Scarce Footman, like many others of the family, feed on lichen which is plentiful here at Shandy Hall.

Water Veneer (Acentria ephemerella)

A Water Veneer (Acentria ephemerella) was also found fluttering around in the bottom of the tent. Moths are usually inactive in the morning so I had some doubt whether it was actually a moth or not. It has been recorded at Shandy Hall but not photographed before. I predicted it to be difficult to photograph as the moth was not keen on remaining still. To my surprise, the Water Veneer stayed motionless on the leaf I placed it on allowing me to get a detailed photograph of it.

The moth's lifestyle is extraordinary compared to other moths as it lives around ponds and slow-moving water. The females can either have wings or not, the ones without living underwater. The males have wings and will mate with females on the surface of the water. The larvae are aquatic and feed on the several varieties of pondweed (Potomogeton sp.). We have a small pond located in our quarry right next to an oak tree. This pond, despite its size, holds a diverse ecosystem of newts, insects, and plants.

(Opostega salaciella)

Finding these species in the tent had me excited for the moth trap which remained unopened. The egg boxes turned out to be covered in species I have never seen before, one of which was the Opostega salaciella. Another uncommon moth, Opostega salaciella is the only moth in its family that is completely white. Its large eye caps, which can be seen in the photograph, open as it moves along. Unsurprisingly, Opostega means ‘face roof’, which derived from the large eye caps. The second half salaciella means ‘lustful’, which is thought to have come from its flight patterns around its foodplant being delightful.

Not much is known about the early stages of the moth but it is guessed that the larvae feed on Sheep’s Sorrel (Rumex acetosella). We do not have any Sheep’s Sorrel here in Shandy Hall but we do have a species of sorrel in a small pot.

Both the Scarce Footman and Opostega salaciella are new to Shandy Hall. Our count rises by 2 which means we have reached 420 species for the two acre plot.


Post : Walter Chen [UPenn intern]

20 July 2017 - Fungus Feeder

(Crassa unitella)

The moths trapped on Monday night were less active than on the previous occasion, but the diversity stayed the same. I was also greeted by a few wasps in the trap. Whether there is a wasp nest nearby or they just decided to take a late-night stroll, I’m not sure. Frankly, I was less worried about where they came from and instead, focused on getting them out of the trap before I got stung. Most of them flew out when I opened the lid while one needed some persuasion with the trusty paint-brush. With the danger removed, I could start identifying moths.

The Golden-brown Tubic (Crassa unitella) was found on the side of an eggbox. At first, I was unsure if it was even a moth because it resembled the shape and coloration of a caddis fly. I decided to put it in an inspection tube after seeing the elongated palps, which are the upwards curling parts near the moth’s mouth. It’s bright yellow head is very noticeable compared to its dark wings. The moth is reported as being scare in Yorkshire but it is common in southern England. 

Crassa unitella is also known as Batia unitella in some books. Batia is ‘a thorn-bush’, while unitella means ‘unity’, which describes the singular color on the wings.

The larvae of Crassa unitella feed on fungus found on or under dead tree bark.

(Blastobasis lacticolella)

The London Dowd (Blastobasis lacticolella) also made an appearance in the trap. Its markings vary, some being heavily marked and others with no markings at all. A common species, it is not actually native to Britain and was introduced around 1946. The London Dowd is native to the Portuguese archipelago, Madeira. Being a year-round resort, there’s quite a contrast when comparing the two environments - the moth has adapted well to the drastic change.

The larva of Blastobasis lacticolella feeds on leaf-litter, vegetation, and it has also been reported eating dead insects.

A new species to Shandy Hall, Blastobasis lacticolella bumps the number of different species up to 418!

Post : Walter Chen [UPenn intern]

18 July 2017 - Fruit Lover in Frenzy

Large Fruit-tree Tortrix (Archips podana)
I woke up Sunday morning to find a frenzy of moths fluttering about in the trap. Moths are usually docile and like staying still on the egg-boxes, (apart from the Yellow Underwings that just like to crawl all over everything) but on this occasion most were actively flying around.  This caused a chain reaction as they barged into other moths. The most hectic of the bunch were still the Yellow Underwings, but Mother of Pearls and Garden Grass Veneers also partook in the hysteria.

It was necessary for Patrick and I to go through the trap together, as having another pair of eyes helps us not to miss any that fly away.  However, we were still no match for the plethora of moths covering the interior. While I believe we got most of the moths we were uncertain about and identified many of the others, there were still some that managed to evade our line of sight. We estimated around 400 moths were caught and there were 53 different species I managed to record.

The Large Fruit-tree Tortrix (Archips podana) was one that stood out. I immediately recognized it as a tortrix but it was huge compared to the other species in the family Tortricidae. I had never really considered the sizes of micro moths until now and the variety still amazes me. This one was easy to distinguish as it is larger than most and its pattern is quite simple to recognise.   Archips podana is sexually dimorphic, which means the male has a different pattern on the fore-wings than the female. The one we have is a male as it’s more colorful and the tip of its wings do not curve upwards so much. Its name Archips describes ‘a worm or larvae that eats vine-buds’; the larvae are also pests to some fruit trees. 

The other half of the binomial is podana which is named after the Austrian physicist and entomologist Nikolaus Poda von Neuhaus.  Neuhaus was primarily focused on physics and mathematics and became a professor of such subjects, but later created a natural history collection which included insects.

Apple Tree (unknown variety)
The larvae of the Large Fruit-tree Tortrix, like its name suggests, feed on the foliage, flowers, and fruit of deciduous trees like apple and plum. We have a couple of fruit trees in our garden including a Keswick Codlin apple tree which is appreciated for its early production in the season and its effectiveness for making a sweet puree.

Post : Walter Chen [UPenn intern]

17 July 2017 - Bright-eye

Brown-line Bright-eye (Mythimna conigera)

After a break of several years, a Brown-line Bright-eye (Mythimna conigera) has finally returned to visit Shandy Hall. It was last recorded before the blog was created so no photographs had been taken. Mythimna conigera was a welcome change from looking at the several varieties of rustic moths, as the bold, clear patterns really popped out in contrast to the light brown wings. The white 'tear-drops', one on each wing, almost shine when observed and is probably the reason for its vernacular name. This moth shouldn’t however, be confused with the more common Bright-line Brown-eye (Lacanobia oleracea). Although they look different, I find myself sometimes switching the two names with each other. It might make for a fun tongue- twister, saying the two names together five times fast.

In the same genus as the many members of the wainscot family, Mythimna is a town on the island of Lesbos. Conus, meaning a cone, and gero, meaning to carry, describe the white spots on its wing which may be in the shape of a cone.

The nocturnal larvae feed on grasses including cock’s-foot (Dactylis glomerate) and common couch (Elymus repens).

Post : Walter Chen [UPenn intern]

13 July 2017 - Nests as Nourishment

Scalloped Oak (Crocallis elinguaria)

Seeing the number of moths caught beginning to decrease, we decided to change the location and set the trap in the quarry instead. The next morning, after I had collected the trap, I was ready to see what was inside the egg boxes. Then it started to rain, so I decided to shelter the trap in the arcade while I stood underneath the yew tree. It turns out that the yew provides little protection from the rain, probably because the leaves are needle shaped. I decided to wait for the rain to stop, which took most of the day. When it did finally stop the temperature dropped which made going through the trap quite the experience. 
We definitely did get more moths in the trap, but there was not a huge variety in the species. 

The Scalloped Oak (Crocallis elinguaria) appeared in our trap for the first time since I arrived. Its markings are intense and the two dots stared back at me like eyes. It is a common species which flies from Europe to eastern Siberia. Crocallis comes from the Greek words krokos and kallos, the former meaning the color of turmeric and the latter meaning beauty. The other half of the scientific name means ‘speechless’ or ‘without a tongue’ - the Scalloped Oak moth does not feed.

However the larvae of the Scalloped Oak have few restrictions when it comes to feeding. Deciduous trees and shrubs make up the majority of their diet. Some examples found in our quarry are oak (Quercus) and honeysuckle (Lonicera). They can even be cannibalistic, eating smaller larvae.

Double-striped Tabby (Orthopygia glaucinalis)

A Double Striped Tabby (Orthopygia glaucinalis) was discovered not in this trap but the previous one. I thought nothing of it as it was considered common nationally. It wasn’t until I was told this was only the second sighting of the moth in the garden in Coxwold that I realized it was uncommon in our specific area. Native to Europe, this moth stays true to its name by having two stripes which can look similar to those on a tabby cat. 
Its name Orthopygia means ‘straight’, describing the position of its abdomen when at rest. Sometimes it is placed in the genus Hypsopygia which means ‘height’, due to species of this genus having an upwards facing abdomen when at rest. The other part of its binomial glaucinalis means ‘blueish grey’, which is the color of its wings.

Double-striped Tabby (illustration)

Interestingly, Orthopygia glaucinalis can be seen flying near haystacks and thatches. Their larvae subsequently feed on such items and might also eat other dry vegetable matter such as birds’ nests. Throughout Shandy Hall, one can find birds’ nests of all kinds. There are some in the gutter, in the barn, and there’s even a thrush nest right outside my flat.  The photograph shows the nest the Spotted Flycatcher has used this year, so this might now be useful for the Tabby.

Nest of Spotted Flycatcher

Post : Walter Chen [UPenn intern]

12 July 2017 - Ghosts Gathering

Ghost Moth (Hepialis humuli humuli)

The trap we set out in the garden did not have as big of a yield as we had hoped. While the species number was low, there was still an interesting collection.

This female Ghost Moth (Hepialus humuli) was a surprise to me, as it camouflaged perfectly with the lemon-sorbet colored egg box. The Ghost Moth is a dimorphic species which means that the male has a different pattern from the female. One of the five primitive moth species here in the British Isles, the males form a lek, which is a gathering of males who perform competitive displays to attract mates. Its distinctive flight, usually at dusk and after dark, is comparable to a pendulum and during which, they release a ‘goat-like’ scent. Once the larvae hatch they go underground where they feed on the roots of grasses and herbaceous plants for two years.  Dock and nettle are both on their menu.

Its name Hepialus means ‘a fever’, which describes its pendulous flight motion, and humuli means ‘the hop genus’, which was the food plant that the larvae were thought to feed on. Ghost moths can be seen gathering on the verges of the road from Coxwold to Kilburn, just a few hundred yards from the garden.

Coxcomb Prominent (Ptilodon capucina)

Another striking moth in our trap was the Coxcomb Prominent (Ptilodon capucina). Hidden in a shadow in the moth trap, it was right next to a Beautiful Golden Y (Autographa pulchrina). I thought the two moths were the same species as I went to gently lift the moth out of the trap, but as the light slowly illuminated the body of the moth I realized how different the two were. This burnt umber colored moth has a unique characteristic located on the top of its head. Its shark-like fin, when looked top-down, is a bright buff color. It reminded me of the wood planks carpenters use for their woodworking projects.

Its scientific name Ptilodon means ‘a tooth’, referring to the dorsal tuft on the forewing, and capucina means ‘a cap’, describing the prominent crest on its thorax. The larvae of the Coxcomb Prominent feed on a number of deciduous trees such as lime, apple, poplar, and oak.

(Zeiraphera ratzburgiana)

The Spruce Bud Moth (Zeiraphera ratzeburgiana) was also found in our trap. At first glance, the moth seemed familiar with its central crest on its wings. However, I did not recall seeing many tortrix species with that color before so I placed it in a tube to help make an identification.

(Z ratzburgiana) 
Zeiraphera ratzeburgiana was not difficult to locate in the micro moths guide book as its coloring was different from the many shades of grey found on the other moths. Zeiraphera means ‘a loose garment’, which might relate to the larval spinnings of the caterpillars. The second half of the name ratzeburgiana is named after the German entomologist, Julius Theodor Christian Ratzeburg.

Yew branch with berries
Like the name suggests, the Spruce Bud Moth does feed on spruce, but it also feeds on the shoots of a variety of coniferous trees. We were quite confused to start with because we could not think of any coniferous trees near us. It turns out that the Yew in our garden is a conifer even though it does not produce any cones, just seeds wrapped in red fruit.

Zeiraphera ratzeburgiana is a another new species for Shandy Hall which makes the count 417!

Post : Walter Chen [UPenn intern]

10 July 2017 - A Leaf Miner

Swallow-tailed Moth (Ourapteryx sambucaria)

The traps are starting to attract more diverse species. The many moths caught are looking more colorful and vibrant.

One of the moths trapped was the Swallow-tailed moth (Ourapteryx sambucaria). It’s a common species throughout Britain, besides northern Scotland, but they only fly for a short period in July. Its scientific name, Ourapteryx, describes its wings as oura means ‘tail’ and pterux means ‘wing’. The second half of the binomial, sambucaria, means ‘elder’ - the foodplant as described by Linnaeus. The Swallow-tailed moth however, does also feed on other trees and shrubs such as Hawthorn and Blackthorn, but it prefers ivy (Hedera helix).
Shandy Hall gardens has had Swallow-tailed moths before, but we were unable to get a good photograph until now as the moth is eager to fly at the slightest disturbance.  This one stayed still for just long enough.

(Phyllonorycter sp.)
This Phyllonorycter sp. was another moth found in our trap. At first, I believed it was a Phyllonorycter oxyacanthae as it was the only similar looking Phyllonorycter species on the Yorkshire Moths Flying Tonight website. However, that was not enough to validate my assumption because there is a plethora of Phyllonorycter species which look very similar. The best way to determine the correct species (apparently) is to look for the leaf mines of the larvae - little pathways just under the surface of a leaf.  Its name Phyllonorycter is appropriate as it means ‘leaf miner’.

(Aleimaa loeflingiana)

The Yellow Oak Button (Aleimma loeflingiana) was also in our trap. It can be difficult to recognize Aleimma loeflingiana due to its variety of patterns. Aleimma means ‘oil’ which was named after the forewing patterns which look as if they have been smudged. 
The Swedish botanist Pehr Löfling has his name woven into the second part of the scientific name. Löfling was a student of Linnaeus at university and he was chosen to serve as a botanist in the American colonies. 

The larvae of Aleimaa loeflingiana feed on oak (Quercus). The Yellow Oak Button is also a new species to Shandy Hall which bumps the number up to 416!

Post : Walter Chen [UPenn intern]

7 July 2017 - Sipper of Dew

Yellow-tail (Euproctis similis)

Last night’s trap, in my opinion, was a success. While we did not increase the number of species to Shandy Hall, there were plenty which I have never seen before, including some interesting macro moths.

The Yellow-tail (Euproctis similis) was one of those. It was one of the first moths I noticed when looking into the trap as the light bouncing off its white body made it shine, almost like a beacon. The infamous yellow tail was not visible at first, but viewing the fluffy moth from a different angle exposed the golden abdomen. Its scientific name refers to its yellow tail, as Eu means ‘good’ and proctis means ‘backside’. The other half of the binomial similis means ‘similar’ because it resembles the Brown-tail (Euproctis chrysorrhoea) species. The larvae of the Yellow-tail feed on deciduous trees and shrubs.

The Drinker (Euthrix potataria)

As I was examining one of the egg boxes, looking closely for any micro moths, I looked underneath and there lay a peculiar shaped moth. This moth is called The Drinker (Euthrix potatoria), and it was resting in a spot previously occupied by an egg; the two don’t look too dissimilar either. I may go so far as to call it cute even, with its seemingly chubby body and pointed head. Its name Euthrix means ‘hair’, describing the hairy adult, and potatoria means ‘pertaining to drinking’, referring to the drinking habits of the larvae. 
Grasses and reeds make up the main diet for the caterpillars of The Drinker, but they also have an attraction to drops of dew, hence its name.

Double Lobed (Apamea ophiogramma)

The Double Lobed (Apamea ophiogramma), was another moth found in our trap from last night. It can be easily identified with its unmistakable pattern of two circular lobes, one on each wing. Apamea ophiogramma, meaning ‘snake marking’, makes reference to the meandering edge creating a partition between the two contrasting light and dark colors. The larvae feed on reed canary-grass (Phalaris arundinacea) and reed sweet-grass (Glycera maxima).  I need to confirm whether either of these plants are in the gardens here in Coxwold.

Along with these three species, we have also found Cryptoblabes bistriga, Clouded Silver, Common Emerald, Crambus lathoniellus, Green Arches, Elephant Hawk-moth, Muslin Footman, and Mottled Rustic, to name but a few.

Post : Walter Chen [UPenn intern]

6 July 2017 - Caddis fly Headache

(Ectoedemia sp) or (Stigmella sp) 

The trap was placed in the garden instead of the quarry to figure out if there is any noticeable difference between the two areas. We are getting more species but I believe that may be because of the time of year rather than the placement. 

After accidentally grabbing hold of a slug under the rim of the trap, the second time this week unfortunately, I went through the trap taking pictures of anything I was not familiar with. There were quite a few moths I did not recognize, both macros and micros. The macros unsurprisingly, took a lot less time to identify, except one which I am waiting for confirmation. The micro moths occupied most of the rest of my day.

In the photograph above can be seen a moth that we are unable to identify.  It is either an Ectoedemia or a Stigmella - but we can't tell which.  The sizes of the moths are similar, the markings are similar and both are reasonably common.  The only way to determine which is by dissection.  We have had an Ectoedemia species once before so we can't claim a new species for our unknown micro.

(Swammerdamia caesiella or Paraswammerdamia nebulla
Another micro we found difficult to identify is in the picture above. I believed it was either a Swammerdamia caesiella or a Paraswammerdamia nebulella. After consulting with Charlie, he informed me that it cannot be accurately identified but that I was correct in that it is one of those two. Both species are common in Britain, the larvae of Swammerdamia caesiella feed on birch (Betula) while the larvae of the latter feed on hawthorn (Crataegus) and rowan (Sorbus aucuparia).

While we have had Swammerdamia caesiella before, we have not had Paraswammerdamia nebulella. W
e cannot list this moth as a new species however, as it is not certain which one it is.

Micro caddis fly 

When I was examining the sides of the trap itself, after having gone through the egg boxes, I saw a micro moth and persuaded it into a tube. After experiencing several headaches trying to both identify the moth and trying to get a decent photograph, I eventually got a picture of it which showed the insect’s miniscule features. Even with a detailed photograph I was still flipping through the entirety of the micro moth book trying to find a similar pattern and shape. Asking Charlie again for his help, he told me it was a micro caddis fly and not a moth at all. A detail I had missed while looking at the photograph were the little hairs on the body of the caddis. I had forgotten that moths do not have hair but have scales. This trap really proved how difficult identification can be, especially when some of the defining characteristics are hard to notice with the naked eye.

Post : Walter Chen [UPenn intern]

4 July 2017 - National Garden Scheme Mothing

Peach Blossom (Thyatira batis)

Friday night was National Garden Scheme open evening - with moth identification by Dr Dave Chesmore. The uncooperative weather was discouraging, but we still had a good number, including children. The turnout for moth species was higher than the session earlier in the month. Everyone seemed very interested in the moths and some were surprised by the different colorations and variations. I would say the most popular moth of the group were the Poplar hawk-moths. Their docile nature allowed for some light handling which the children liked a lot.

We had put out two traps the night before, one in the quarry and one in the top garden, to allow for more moths to be caught. It also allowed for a wider variety of species as the plants close to the traps differ. The method worked as we recorded a total of 51 different moth species. Along with the more common species, we had some scarcer ones as well.

The Peach Blossom (Thyatira batis) was one of the many species caught in the trap. It is unique and its pattern is easily recognizable by the pinkish spots, which look almost like mini peaches, on its wings. I however, think it also resembles a burnt marshmallow. Thyatira is the name of one of the seven churches in the Book of Revelation, and batis refers to the larval foodplant of bramble (Rubus).

Peach Blossom (illustration)

Another moth caught in our trap was the Beautiful Hook-tip (Laspeyria flexula). It is an uncommon moth but it is not new to Shandy Hall. Its shape is striking and sharply defined compared to other species. From the scientific name, Laspeyria refers to a German entomologist, J.H. Laspeyres who died during the discovery and naming of the moth in 1811. The second half of the binomial, flexula, means ‘bent’ and describes the undulate termen, or the wavy triangular shaped wing, of the moth. 

Beautiful Hook-tip (Laspeyria flexula)

The larvae of Laspeyria flexula feed on lichen.

Burnished Brass (Diachrysia chrysitis)

A third moth found in our trap is the Burnished Brass (Diachrysia chrysitis). Like the name implies, the moth’s wings have a similar color to brass and the most beautiful aspect of it is when held at certain angles the scales shine like metal. Its name describes the moth’s glamour perfectly as Diachrysia means ‘interwoven with gold’ and chrysitis means ‘like gold’, pointing to its metallic forewing.

Diachrysia chrysitis is a common moth and its larvae feed on nettle (Urtica dioica).

PS. Watercolour brushes are useful when moths are being persuaded to move from one place to another - this method helped us to show the metallic sheen on the wings. 

Post : Walter Chen [UPenn intern]

3 July 2017 - Brown Rustic

Brown Rustic (Rusina ferruginea)
The trap was set up in the tent on Monday night due to the forecast of rain. It was still pouring down on the following morning so I sheltered the trap and myself in the moth-shed and went through the contents there. With only the miniscule amount of sunlight filtering through the clouds and the door of the moth shed, I looked through the trap, carefully examining each individual egg box. It was when I got through the egg boxes, recognizing most of the species apart from a couple of micro moths, that I saw a tattered moth with long furry antennae. The color was a bland brown, something many moths have, but for some reason it felt like a novelty. I put the moth into one of our larger containers and snapped some pictures.

Even after nearly a whole day trying to identify it correctly, I still could not figure out what species it was so I asked Charlie Fletcher. He informed me it was a Brown Rustic (Rusina ferruginea). The name Rusina means ‘reddish’ and ferruginea also means ‘reddish’ or ‘the colour of iron-rust’.

Dock (Rumex)

The larvae of the Brown Rustic feed on herbaceous plants such as dock (Rumex).

The Brown Rustic, despite its slightly insignificant appearance, is actually listed as uncommon and is new to Shandy Hall which makes it species number 415!

Post : Walter Chen [UPenn intern]