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13 July 2022 - Which is which?



Willow Ermine (Yponomeuta rorrella) 

I think this is the most difficult species identification that I have attempted so far.  I have spent a couple of hours looking at some micro-moths which I can barely see, but even then they weren't as perplexing as this one.  I am still not 100% sure that my hypothesis (or hymothesis) is correct.  I contacted Dr. Fletcher and he is unsure (from the photograph on his mobile) as to which member of the Yponomeuta family this one is.  I present the case that this is the Willow Ermine (Yponomeuta rorrella).  I came close to identifying this specimena as Yponomeuta irrorella - they are separate species with just a slight difference in the spelling.  

I'll try to explain why I think it is the Willow Ermine, and how complicated and difficult identification is.  I must stress at this time we cannot confirm this species...

Two key clues separate the two species.  The first is that irorella has only been reported in Southern England - specifically Kent and Sussex - so it is unlikely to turn up in Coxwold.   But not necessarily impossible. 

There are two small, light-grey patches on irrorella that look as if they might be indentations that make a silvery shadow (like on rorrella) but they are part of the pigmentation on the fore wing.  It is difficult to see in the photograph but there are no such spots, only shadows.  Rorrella has a straight line of dots along the bottom, while irrorella has some that are slightly above that invisible line.   Because of variations within this family - the number of dots and their sizes - it can be quite hard to eliminate which species is which.  After all, the biggest difference between them is their dot patterning, which is still very similar.


Bird-cherry Ermine (Yponomeuta evonymella)

Here is another species to show how similar they are.  You can tell it is a little different, but because they are micro-moths the differences are not immediately noticeable.  I didn't see them at first.  Let's take a look.  There are more dots on this moth and they are just a bit smaller.  The dots extend all over the forewing. It looks like there is a mini trail of dots in between the bottom one and the 'middle' one (the trail that appears as the middle one in most other species of Yponomeuta).  So what are we left with?  The best guess is the Bird-cherry Ermine (Yponomeuta evonymella). This shouldn't be too surprising as it is very common and has been seen in the gardens at Shandy Hall on many occasions, unlike the Willow Ermine which would be new. There were two in the trap along with the (possible) Willow Ermine.

The scientific name is a little strange at first glance.  Yponomeuta means to 'make underground mines'.  Unfortunately this moth doesn't play Minecraft or dig underground.  It feeds gregariously from within a web which covers the leaves of the food source - sometimes the whole tree is enveloped.  The larvae are numerous and might seem to be mining through the web for food.

The other parts of the binomials rorrella and irrorella refer to 'roris' (dew) and irroro (to sprinkle with dew).  I suppose the little dots look like the moth is sprinkled with dew.  Evonymella comes from 'euonymus' a spindle plant which the bird-cherry (Prunus padus) is not related.   All very complicated.

Mackenzie McKillip (UPenn intern)

10 July 2022 - Unusual Plume


Dot Moth (Melanchra persicariae)


The Dot Moth!  A rather 'ordinary' name for a moth.  Many species have dots, so what makes this one so special?  The scientific name Melanchra persicariae (black complexion, peach tree) doesn't really give any clues, though it is more descriptive than just a dot.  There is a small orange dot on the thorax, but because of the shade I didn't even notice it at first.  What did stand out were the two white kidney-bean shaped white spots that made me think it might be a Common Rustic, but they are not dot shapes if you ask me.  I'd have a chat with Carl Linnaeus if I could.

Persicariae was the word chosen because the wings resemble the leaf of the peach tree but the coloring isn't that of a living leaf and the peach tree isn't a food source either.  The caterpillar will feed on nettle, field bindweed, groundsel, white clover, black currant ivy and hazel.

This is the first sighting of a Dot Moth in the gardens at Shandy Hall - the only previous example was captured in the Museum Gardens in the centre of York when the trap was used to see the difference between the moth populations in the city and in the country.  As it was captured outside Coxwold it didn't count as a 'new species', but it does now.  The moth can be found throughout the UK but is more common in the south.  We had three in the trap on this occasion so they might be increasing in number.

It took about two and a half hours to examine all the moths in the trap following a warm, still night.  Despite the nine Poplar Hawkmoths and an Elephant Hawkmoth there were well over a hundred moth packed snugly in the egg-boxes.  


Saxifrage Plume Moth (Stenoptilia millieridactyla)

With so many moths it is easy to overlook some of them. One such example is the Saxifrage Plume Moth (Stenoptilia millieridactyla), which looked just like a fly to me on first observation, but taking a closer look it looks quite wonderful. It is probably the scarcest species of moth I have seen so far and it is described as 'very local'.  It was introduced to Britain from Ireland about 60 years ago.  The caterpillar feeds on saxifrage as well as other garden cultivars.  The moth has changed its name over time and used to be named Stenoptilia saxifragae.  The caterpillars mine the leaves of the foodplant (which can sometimes be an import from the local garden-centre) and then feed externally on the leaves and flowers of Mossy saxifrage.

Our Saxifrage Plume was difficult to photograph so - apologies for the less than perfect image.  But two new species to the garden in one trap is a bonus. 


Mackenzie McKillip (U Penn intern)

29 June 2022 - Moths in Disguise



Buff-tip (Phalera bucephalia)

Here we have the fabulous Buff-tip, blending in flawlessly with a piece of tree bark.  It does not stand out in some ways: its buff tips! Hence the name.  'Buff' refers to the light-yellow color, as in 'Buff Ermine' (a moth of similar colour) not muscles.  It makes you wonder why it has these colorations on the thorax and at the end of the forewing, especially in an evolutionary context, because against a birch tree it would probably be close to invisible.  Looking at its food plants, birch is a common choice but it will also feed on alder, lime, elm, beech, rowan, hornbeam and sycamore.  It is not particularly picky.

We know how it got its common name but what about the scientific name, Phalera bucephalia? The genus name is straightforward, deriving from phaleros meaning 'having a white patch' - there is a visible white patch on the forewing.

In contrast bucephalia may or may not directly refer to its appearance as it derives from 'houkephalos', 'bull-headed'.  Furthermore Bucephalus is known as the name of Alexander the Great's horse.  Though he appears a sort of brown colour in the famous Alexander mosaic at the House of the Faun in Pompeii, he is described in literature as 'black with a white star on his forehead'.  In my opinion, Phalera bucephalia doesn't really match that description, but it is correct that its yellow thorax sharply contrasts with its body.  Perhaps it reminded Carl Linnaeus, who named the species in 1758, of a bull in some way - maybe the nose of the bull instead of its whole head? Or maybe it was a cheeky insult to a stubborn moth ... one can only wonder.


Coxcomb Prominent (Ptilodon capucina)

Though it is the middle of summer, this pretty little moth reminds me of autumn.  This is Ptilodon capucina, which is a moth and NOT a dried-up leaf, though it really does look just like one.  There are several tufts along the edges of the wings, with another large tuft on the thorax which is a creamier color while the primary centre tuft is dark brown, even darker than that of the forewings.

The tufts are the key to its common name : Coxcomb Prominent. The shape of the side view of the moth looks strikingly similar to a rooster's comb and the bright reddish hue definitely adds to it.  It also matches the grassy flower known as Cock's Comb - genus Celosia. Funnily enough, coxcomb can also mean 'foolish' or 'dandy' referring to the cap worn by a court jester, also named (you guessed it) a coxcomb.  Dandy this moth may be as it cooperated quite well and obligingly crawled onto a colored leaf for a photoshoot, but 'foolish' is a little out of place.

'Prominent' is a common descriptor in many moth names and seems to refer to the fact that long hair tufts can be seen along the forewings, reaffirming the name of Coxcomb.


Mackenzie Mckillip 

20 June 2022 - Headstand Moth

Argyresthia spinosella


 If you don't look closely you might well miss the tiny Argyresthia spinosella as it is smaller than the fingernail on my thumb - about 4mm.  It is also quite difficult to identify.  It is similar to a few others in the Argyresthia family, namely A. conjugella (the Apple Fruit Moth) and A. semifusca.  The main difference is size - as these two are larger - and colour.  Spinosella is a more orange-brown colour near the top of the thorax at the base of the wing, whereas the other species are more brown-purple.  From the photograph above the moth looks fairly plain but I can assure you it is a pretty one.

The posture is clearly seen and at rest it appears to be perfecting its technique of headstanding.  Most of the Argyresthia family seem to adopt this declining position.  Perhaps this enables them to shine a little as 'Arguros' (silver) and 'esthes' (dress) define this genus as they are named after the metallic glow on the forewings. Quite a fitting name, I must say.  As for spinosella the reference is the food plant Prunus spinosa - blackthorn. It feeds on plums and flowering shoots as well.

This moth can be seen from May to July and is attracted to light - as this one was.  We nearly missed recording it but it is now moth species 453.


Mackenzie McKillip UPenn intern

17 June 2022 - White-pinion Spotted

White-pinion Spotted (Lomographa bimaculata)

How ethereal the White-pinion Spotted looks on a sunny morning.  It is such a bright white that its wings are almost transparent.  The only immediately recognizable visual features this little moth has are the two brownish dots on the costa.  In fact that's how it came to be named; Loma- meaning a border; -graphe meaning a drawing; bi- meaning two; and macula, a spot, constitutes the etymology of the moth's scientific name.  Breaking it down, there are two spots on each of the  leading edges of its forewings - perhaps like ink splotches on a drawing or piece of paper.  Because the coloration is so white, the texture of the wings is clear - it appears brittle, almost like thin linen.

We are lucky to see this species as it hasn't been recorded at Shandy Hall before and it is not  common to North Yorkshire although it has increased its territory in recent years. Inside the moth trap it gave every indication of being 'flighty' so it was captured in a plastic tube to make it easier to photograph and subsequently to identify.

Mackenzie McKillip - UPenn intern

16 June 2022 - Comfrey Ermel

Comfrey Ermel (Ethmia quadrillella)

A micro moth which looks like a longhorn cow with its black and white spots and long antennae!  This little beauty is an Ethmia quadrillella, sometimes known as the Comfrey Ermel.  It is found on the eastern side of England and is local in the British Isles.  However, it is present throughout Eurasia, so it could  be a visitor or immigrant from the mainland - maybe it is spending its holiday here?  Its flight time is from May to August.

Its habitats of choice include fenland, wetland, riverbanks and gardens and the favourite foodplants are Common Comfrey (of which there is plenty in the quarry garden at Shandy Hall), Lungwort and Wood Forget-me-nots.

You may be wondering what does the quad in quadrillella mean? Ethmia comes from ethmos, a sieve - perhaps referring to the dots on its wings that look like holes.  A quadrille is 'a lively square dance for four couples' referring to a dance popular in early 19th century England.  Perhaps the four small black dots look like a quadrille formation.  There is also the French quadrille (1725) referring to a 'popular card game for four hands'. Either way there is certainly a significance to the number four.

This bright little moth is new to the gardens at Shandy Hall and brings the total to 451 different species.


Mackenzie McKillip - U Penn intern 

7 March 2022 - Unexpected Gathering

Dotted Border (Agriopis marginaria)

'Too early for moths' is not an expression that can be applied to these creatures.  

Throughout the winter months many species find the conditions perfectly acceptable - notwithstanding the winds, gales and other tempests that cause such disruption.  

This morning I came upon five moths clinging to the kitchen window frame, all of the same species but varying slightly in colouring and pattern.  They were relatively simple to identify as the marking on the wings and the clearly dotted borders were consistent.  The Dotted Border (Agriopis marginaria) flies from February to April and the caterpillars feed on a variety of broad-leaved trees and shrubs.  The female won't be seen on the window pane though as she is flightless and will remain on the bark of the selected plant.  The scientific name refers to the moth's 'wild' - agrios; 'opos' - face; marginaria a border or margin.

A small group of Dotted Borders has never gathered on the window panes before, even when the kitchen light has been left on, but the moth is common throughout the country and evenly distributed.  What its status is in Yorkshire I can no longer determine as the website for 'Yorkshire Moths Flying Tonight' is no longer accessible.  A loss indeed.  But adding species number 450 to the list at Shandy Hall is a good start to the year.

9 November 2021 - Muffled against the Cold


December Moth (Poecilocampa populi)   


A reliable arrival, as soon as the weather begins to turn, is the December Moth.  Muffled against the cold it is able to survive despite the overnight frosts of November.

The scientific name makes reference to the larva (kampe in Greek) and its appearance, which is 'varied' (poekilos); populi is the name of the food plant - the poplar tree.  The female is much larger than the male but otherwise their markings are similar.  Eggs will be laid on the trunks of trees in the garden to overwinter and then will hatch in the Spring. 

Below is Blair's Shoulder-knot (Lithophane leautieri hesperica) a moth that was first recorded on the Isle of Wight in 1951.  Since then it has spread to the north and is now common as far north as Cumbria having been recorded there in 1996 and finally Scotland in 2001.  There were six of this species sheltering under the egg cartons in the trap

Apart from a lonely looking Agonopterix heracliana (an example of which can be seen using the search facility on the blog) the sum total was rather disappointing.  The crane flies and the caddis flies have disappeared; the wasps have deserted their paper nests in the quarry garden; the apples (larger and fewer than usual) have been collected for juice and the leaves are being collected

Blair's Shoulder-knot (Lithophane leautieri hesperica)

10 October 2021 - Autumnal Confusion

Northern Winter Moth (Operophtera fagata)

Is it a Northern Winter Moth or is it a Winter Moth?  Or is it a November Moth? Or perhaps a Pale November Moth?  I could try searching for the wingless female (of whichever species it is) in the dark tonight and that might help with identification. I did catch sight of one female on the trunk of an apple tree one squally night, but it had disappeared when I returned with a camera.  All of these species are so very similar to each other and all fly quite weakly - sadly no dodging the traffic on the country lanes.

The scientific name is also a little jumbled and out of the ordinary.  The Operophtera is a typographical error for Oporophtera (opero : fruit and phtheiro : to destroy) and refers to the damage done to fruit trees caused by the larvae.  I'll send a photograph to Charlie Fletcher and see if he can identify it - if he can I think it will be a new species.


Lunar Underwing (Omphaloscelis lunosa)

The Lunar Underwing is another variable species but the one in the photograph helpfully displays particularly clear markings.  In the Shandy Hall gardens the tendency is for the ground cover of the forewings of this species to be darker than the soft brown seen above. In the trap there were others with reddish and yellowish ground colours and the two clear marks on each forewing not so sharply defined. It seems the diagnostic marking is on the (invisible) hindwing where a crescent shape is to be found.  How one gets to see this is another matter.


Red-green Carpet (Chloroclysta siterata)

As rich a green as pea soup is the Red-green Carpet (Chloroclysta siterata) and this one must be freshly emerged from its pupa.  The scientific name means 'the washed-away, greenish yellow of corn' as the green colour soon loses its brilliance.  I can't see any red in this moth... Perhaps it is an Autumn Green Carpet (Chloroclysta miata)?  But that species is uncommon in North Yorkshire tends to be found on uplands.  From photographs found online, all examples have markings that are sprinkled over the wings and have less of a block of colour. 

9 September 2021 - Reed Mace and Wainscots

Bulrush Wainscot (Nonagria typhae)

A surprise in the trap this morning, a very welcome surprise.  The dominant species flying that night was immediately apparent - Setaceous Hebrew Characters (Xestia c-negrum) were clinging to every surface with dozens of crane flies for company.  A Canary-shouldered Thorn (Ennomos alniaria) and a few Brimstone Moths (Oposthograptis lutolata) added a splash of colour but it was a rather sluggish looking moth, different from any other I had seen, that was puzzling.  Was it a Large Wainscot?  I had only seen that moth (Rhizedra lutosa) once before but I didn't remember seeing so many black dots on the trailing edges of the forewings, all sweeping down to create two rather mysterious v-shapes.

I went to look at the Field Guide and looked at Richard Lewington drawings but it still wasn't certain as to which Wainscot it could be...

Bulrush Moth (1) and Large Wainscot (4)

British Moths and their Transformations (Humphreys and Westwood) provided me with an image of what seemed to be a beautiful ballet of Wainscot moths but, at the time, one was known by the name of the caterpillar's food plant only - the bulrush.  A click on the image will enlarge the differences between the Bulrush Moth (Fig 1) and the Large Wainscot (Fig 4).

At this point I contacted Charlie Fletcher who confirmed that the photograph (above) I had sent him was Nonagria typhae and that was a new species for the garden.

25 August 2021 - Caterpillars


This brightly coloured caterpillar was seen marching on the surface of a jacket that had been worn in the rose bed.  The only plants in that area of the garden are (obviously) roses and a few ferns.  I wanted to put the scrap of life back in an environment that suited it but couldn't be sure which plant would be its food source.  I tried a mixture of leaves: rose, an apple, a blackthorn, a hawthorn and some grasses.  It waved its head in a searching sort of manner and seemed to find my choice offerings less than interesting.  Suddenly it stopped and settled down to munch along the edge of one of the leaves - but which one was it?  Now I had taken them from the trees I couldn't remember which was which. Frass was ejected and the munching increased in fervour.  

I left it overnight and in the morning it could be seen that a considerable chunk of a fern leaf had been consumed, which was encouraging.  But the larva's behaviour was worrying.  I wondered if it had consumed a leaf out of desperation and pondered whether this was now to be its downfall. Do caterpillars ever eat from the 'wrong' food out of hunger?

The following day it seemed to be trying to wriggle out of its skin so perhaps it was about to make a leap of growth but an even more remarkable transformation was taking place.


Pupa of caterpillar and discarded skin.

Here is the evidence.  The partially consumed fern leaf can be seen, along with the skin of the caterpillar now cast to one side. Between the two is a small grenade of life - a pale grey pupa.  What species it is I cannot as yet determine.  The caterpillar posessed a horn on its back and a smaller one close to its tail; there was a bright yellow marking running the length of the creature's back but I cannot find a larva to match.


Elephant Hawk-moth caterpillar

Another caterpillar appeared on the same day.  Here the identification was without doubt - the Elephant Hawk-moth consuming fucshia leaves with disconcerting speed.  This larva will bury itself in the ground and overwinter to emerge as the brightly coloured adult.  A horn is a characteristic of the hawk-moths and can be found right at the tip of the tail of the creature.


Straw Dot (Rivula servicalis)

Last night was still not as warm as a summer's night should be.  It produced plenty of Poplar Hawk-moths, an Orange Sallow, an August Thorn and this Straw Dot.  The scientific name breaks down to 'a silky rivulet'.

Moth Night - 10 July 2021

Small Yellow Wave (Hydrelia flammeolaria)

Only one of the three evenings designated for National Moth Night was really suitable for trapping but that one gave a good cross-section of species.  A newcomer to moth-trapping (like ten year old Thomas was) saw moths that displayed a wide variety of forms, colours and patterns.  

The Small Yellow Wave (Hydrelia flammeolaria) and the Green Arches (Anaplectoides prasina) have only been seen a couple of times so it is good to be reminded of their presence. The scientific name seems a bit of a contradiction - 'watery flame' but the flammeolaria refers to the ochre coloured stripes that decorate the wings of this species.

Green Arches (Anaplectoides prasina)

The Green Arches was looking particularly fresh and the clear, green colouring indicates that it is probably recently emerged from the pupa.  The caterpillar feeds on honeysuckle, bilberry and primroses.

A list of moths identified in the trap included:  

Common Wainscot, Garden Grass Veneer, Poplar Hawk-moth, Large Emerald, Swallow-tailed Moth, Orange Swift, Acleris laterana, Yellow-tail, Common Footman, Beautiful Hook-tip, Small Fan-foot, Light Emerald, Bright-line Brown-eye, Flame, Burnished Brass, Green Pug, Brindled Pug, Marbled Minor, Clay, Broad-bordered Yellow Underwing, Snout, Barred Straw, Double Square Spot, Plain Golden Y, Beautiful Golden Y, Blood-vein. 

2 July 2021 - The Prettiest Moth


Clouded Border (Lomaspilis marginata)

This is possibly the prettiest moth I have seen in a long time and only the second to be seen at Shandy Hall.  One of the UPenn students recorded it in the moth trap a few years ago, but it wasn't quite as fresh as this one which was newly minted.  The Clouded Border (Lomaspilis marginata) is similar to the Magpie moth in that the markings on the wings are not consistent; the clouds and the border appear in a variety of shapes.

The scientific name derives from the Greek for a 'hem or fringe' (loma); spilos meaning a spot or a stain. Marginis gives us a margin along the edges of both wings.  The moth rests with its wings spread, as in the photograph. It is common throughout the UK and the caterpillar feeds on aspen, poplars and willows.


Map-winged Swift (Hepialus fusconebulosa)

Another moth that was recorded by the students (on one occasion only) but I had not seen before.  When I saw it this morning I couldn't work it out and was beginning to think it was a malformed Golden Y.  But then something in its slightly ponderous movements reminded me of the Ghost Moth (or Ghost Swift) and I then deduced it must be one from that family.  When producing eggs following mating, the female Map-winged Swift broadcasts them over vegetation while in flight; no selection of the appropriate food-plant with precision like many other insects.


(Chrysoteuchia culmella)

The Garden Grass Veneer is the common name for this species which can be found in abundance throughout the country.  With its jackdaw blue eye and clearly ingrained patterns on its forewings it is easy to identify.  The white line at the base of the wings glitters brightly and the scientific name can be translated as 'to make with gold'. The larvae feed at the base of grass stems and the moth is on the wing between May and September.


(Phycitodes binaevella)

Phycitodes binaevella is the name given to this moth - again only seen once before in the garden.  Out of focus in the background is a Lewington drawing of the species showing (rather murkily) the two (bi) moles (naevus) that can be seen on the forewings.  It was difficult to get a good photograph but I think this one is clear enough to make it a correct identification.

Other moths from last night included : Buff Arches, Poplar Hawk-moths (6), Barred Straw (4), Udea ovalis (10), Beautiful Hook Tip (2), Burnished Brass and the first Large Yellow Underwing.



12 June 2021 - Yorkshire Larvae Crawling Tonight


Mullein (Shargacucullia verbasci) 

There are two Mulleins in the photograph, one is the caterpillar and the other is the plant.  

The Mullein (insect) is not recorded as a Mullein Moth - like the Ghost Moth (Hepialus humuli) or the Goat Moth (Cossus cossus) it is just Mullein; the food source is not described as the Mullein Plant either but their scientific names will ensure that identification is accurate - Verbascum thapsus is the plant.  The two mullein larvae on the leaves of the plant will find there should be enough foliage to keep them satisfied as they grow.  The arrival of the caterpillars is right on time for this species but what will have happened to other species during the frosts and the cold and the rain of early Spring?  Will their internal clocks alter to compensate?  The roses are just appearing in the garden and they are at least 3 weeks behind their regular time. 

Reading the entry in the Field Guide for (Shargacucullia verbasci) I learn that the pupa can remain underground for up to five years. That is one way to avoid seasonal inconsistencies.  Remember that Yorkshire Moths Flying Tonight is an excellent introduction to what you might be seeing in your moth-trap or on your kitchen window after dark.

NB: the scientific name of Shargacucullia verbasci has been shortened to Cucullia verbasci just to keep everyone on their toes.

6 June 2021 - A Show of Strength


Chinese Character (Cilix glaucata)

 A member of the Drepanidae family of which there are nine species in the UK and eight of which are Hook-tips.  This 'odd one out' is unmistakeable; once it has been determined that it is a moth and not a bird-dropping.  When at rest the wings form a tent shape over the abdomen.  The scientific name refers to Cilix, the son of the king of Cilicia and glaucata: bluish grey, the colour of the metallic scales  on the fore-wings.

This Chinese Character was found on the outside of the trap where it can be seen quite often in the morning.  It is a common moth and the caterpillar feeds on thorns and fruit trees.


Mottled Pug (Eupithecea exiguata)

Having seen and photographed a Mottled Pug before I am pretty sure that this is one.  Which is a relief as pugs require an expert eye to distinguish one species from another.  Apparently this moth 'comes to light in numbers'.  Perhaps it does, but not here.  I wonder what those numbers are? I find the underwings are the only species that turn up in numbers.

This goblin (for the eu meaning 'well' and the Greek word pithekos meaning dwarf) combine with exiguata (very small) to give its scientific name.  The number of sycamores in the garden may be the food source for the larvae as well as the blackthorn hedge.


Foxglove Pug (Eupithicea pulchellata)

This moth is a particular favourite with a subtle arrangement of colours on the wings.  The Foxglove Pug (Eupithicea linarata) resisted attempts to settle on a leaf to make a sharper photograph, so I had to make do with a snap of it in a collecting tube.  As the larva feeds only on foxglove flowers, especially the stamens, I will examine the ones that are just coming out to see if any hungry caterpillars are lurking inside. How they survive the onslaught of the white-tailed bees when they burrow into the flower heads in search of nectar is beyond me.


(Pseudagyrotoza conwagana)

A small moth with a long scientific name, the Pseudagyrotoza conwagana glistens in the sunlight.  Its name comes from pseudos: a falsehood; followed by argurotoxos: the bearer (Apollo) of the silver bow.  This is an example from the earlier of the double-broods (May to August) and can be seen in gardens and hedgerows throughout the country.


Waved Umber (Menophra abruptaria)

The Waved Umber is a strong statement of colour and design.  If seen on a wooden branch it can disappear completely.  The reason it is found in Shandy Hall garden is probably due to the clumps of lilac, or the garden privet (not the wild variety), or the winter jasmine all of which provide a food source for the larvae. Yorkshire seems to be about as far north as it can be found. For some reason it seems to be a display of strength.

1 June 2021 - One Extra Moth


Pale Tussock (Calliteara pudibunda)

Since 8 November 2020 the Pale Tussock pupa has remained, apparently motionless, in a silken cocoon within a plastic container.  It was checked regularly to see if any changes might be visible but the metamorphosis that was taking place was hidden from view.  

The cocoon had been spun by the caterpillar and it had fixed it to the side of a clear container, enfolded within an apple leaf.  In the image above the moth has just emerged after making a small opening through the silk threads and, with the help of gravity, its wings are beginning to expand.  This takes a few hours.


Pale Tussock with empty cocoon

The moth was now ready for flight but remained in exactly the same position throughout the rest of the day.  When evening came it was taken to the quarry and released.  The adult doesn't feed so it wasn't important to find a food source.  Hoping it wouldn't find its way into last night's trap, I left it hidden in the grasses - one extra moth for the garden. 

The weather has now changed dramatically and I had high expectations of a variety of species to record... The result?  Six Poplar Hawk-moths and two White Ermines.

This coming Friday the gardens are open for National Garden Scheme and a moth trap is normally included.  This year, with social distancing, it may not be possible.

29 May 2021 - Mercury's Staff

Scalloped Hazel (Odontopera bidentata) 

 Carl A Clerck (1710 - 1765) was a contemporary of Linnaeus and made a considerable contribution to  the world of entomology. The naming and classifictation of spiders was the main area of his attention and his name is attributed to the second part of the binomial of this rather handsome moth - the Scalloped Hazel (Odontopera bidentata). The word bidentata: 'having two teeth', refers to the fang-like appearance of the outer edge of the wings. This moth has been identified on two previous occasions in the garden although the colouring of the others varied from the straw colour of one to the richer, darker tone of the other.  Photographed next to a hazel leaf (the larval food-plant) the white spots running across both wings seem to be diagnostic; or they are on the few seen at Shandy Hall.

Garden Carpet (Xanthorhoe fluctuata)

 The Garden Carpet (Xanthorhoe fluctuata) is common throughout the county and country. It can be disturbed in long grass by day and is on the wing from April to October with overlapping generations. Xanthorhoe is from the Greek xanthos meaning 'yellow' and rhoe 'stream'.  This is supposed to refer to the patterns on the wings that are not like rivulets that wind and twist, but are straighter, like streams. Like most of the carpet family they fly at the slightest disturbance when the egg-boxes in the trap are being removed. I have learnt how important it is to make sure a moth is recorded photographically, just as a record, before trying to coax the subject into a better light or position. 

Silver-ground Carpet (Xanthorhoe montanata)

 The Silver-ground Carpet is another flighty moth and quite often seen, but not in particularly large numbers.  Last night's trap captured only two other species, both of which were pugs with wings sufficiently faded to make identification uncertain.  A total of thirty cockchafers (members of the scarab beetle family) were drawn to the light, as well as a couple of crane flies but (disconcertingly) that was all.  Another trap will be set tomorrow and hopefully there will be more to record.

24 May 2021 - After Midnight


Poplar Hawkmoth (Laothoe populi)  

'Unmistakable' is the single word that (either) Paul Waring or Martin Townsend uses to describe the Poplar Hawkmoth (Laothoe populi) in the indispensable Field Guide to the Moths of Great Britain and Ireland (2003). Found all over the UK and on the wing (at Shandy Hall) from May through to August, the pattern on the wings is constant and the moth instantly recognisable. 

Chris Manley's book British Moths states: 'Hind wing projects well beyond forewing at rest'. In his account the name of the moth has a hyphen viz. hawk-moth.  'Our commonest hawk moth' (without a hyphen) states Newman and Leed in their Text Book of British Butterflies and Moths (1913).  The Poplar Hawkmoth is often seen for the first time in a moth trap that has been left overnight as the insect tends to fly after midnight, when most enthusiastic trappers have packed up their equipment and gone to bed. 

Maitland Emmet, in Scientific Names of the British Lepidoptera (1991), reveals the meaning and historical references of moths and from him we learn that Laothoe was a mistress of Priam, King of Troy.  At least seven other females carried this name in Greek mythology but it seems Linnaeus singled this one out for particular attention. Populi is from the second part of the scientific name and refers to the food plants of the larva: Populus - the poplars, aspen, sallow and willow.

'The wings moderately long; the anterior angulated or dentated along the outer margin; when at rest they form a triangle', we learn from J. O. Westwood's description in British Moths and their Transformations (1843).  Roy Leverton Enjoying Moths (2001) examines the hawk-moths (hyphen again) and singling out the Eyed and the Poplar, tells us how they 'engage in slow but powerful wing-flapping as the aposematic hindwings are exhibited'.

Bernard Skinner tells the moth will 'come freely to light' in his Colour Identification Guide to Moths of the British Isles (1984). 

The rain continues. This moth and one other was the total catch on 24 May. 

14 May 2021 - Little Hope


Flame Shoulder (Ochropleura plecta)

Since the beginning of April the gardens at Shandy Hall have been victims of the weather.  Rain, hail, sleet, snow and very hard frosts have made attempts at moth trapping a thankless task. On the very few occasions the trap has been set, the result has been 'nothing to record'.  Surely this can't have been the same for the county - or even the country?  Laying out the white sheet, plugging in the mercury vapour lamp, making sure that collecting tubes are to hand along with a couple of small paint-brushes (in case some gentle coaxing is needed) and then finding the result is but only three moths can be discouraging.

The Flame Shoulder is a successful species and is resident and commonly found throught the UK.  In Yorkshire there are two generations and the larvae find food sources in gardens, farmland, grassland, hedgerows and wetlands.  The scientific name refers to the pale streak or 'twisted rope' (plecta) that is visible on the wing.


Swallow Prominent (Pheosia tremula)  

There is a Swallow Prominent (Pheosia tremula) and a Lesser Swallow Prominent (Pheosia gnoma).  They are easier to identify when one is compared directly against the other.  The white, wedge-like marking is cleaner on the Swallow Prominent's wing.  Leaves on the Silver Birch will sustain the caterpillar and the pupa overwinters underground. Pheosia means 'prickly plant' or 'spine' and tremula (shaking or trembling is also the scientific name of the aspen - 'willows whiten, aspens quiver' from Tennyson's The Lady of Shalott. Once this moth enters the trap it remains emphatically motionless until it is time to fly in the early evening.


Rustic Shoulder Knot (Apamea sordens) 

Oh, the problems of the brown moths.  Looking over the previous photographs in this blog and pondering the possibilities in an attempt to identify this moth accurately, I am left with the Rustic Shoulder Knot (Apamea sordens) as the most likely candidate. The three little dots on the leading edge of the wing and the shape and positioning of the kidney mark seem strong indicators, but I confess this is by no means certain.  No doubt, should I be wrong, the error will be pointed out and an adjustment made.

Little hope for the weekend - more rain forecast - but an attempt will be made if possible. 

8 November 2020 - Suspended in Time

Pale Tussock Moth (Calliteara pudibunda) pupa   

The Pale Tussock Moth caterpillar continued to consume bramble leaves and rose leaves throughout October. It then wrapped itself into the shell of a rose leaf and spun itself a shelter in the form of a silken cocoon.  It will overwinter in this form and is expected to emerge in June when it will (hopefully) be photographed.    

Angle Shades (Phlogophera meticulosa)

Phlogophora derives from the Greek words 'phoreo' and 'phlogos' a carried light. The meticulosa means 'timorous, from its habit of quiverning when a light is thrown upon it'.  It seems slightly odd that this species should be singled out as being a 'wing-quiverer' when so many moths exercise this pre-flight behaviour.  Linnaeus paid attention to the way the moth holds its wings and records them as being 'plicate' or folded and crumpled

Satellite (Eupsilia transversa)

The scientific name can be broken down into 'eu' (very) 'philos' (bald or bare). The thought is that the white (sometimes orange) spot on the forewing resembles a bald patch; 'transversa referring to the line that can be seen across the forewings. If you click on the photograph the satellite, the two, smaller white spots, can be seen orbiting the larger on each wing.  The moth is active in mild weather from September to April and will take shelter if the weather is harsh. It is a common and widespread and feeds on the leaves of hawthorn, blackthorn, hazel and field maple. 

Both of these moths are high on the list of moths flying at this time of year - but not many have been flying to the trap at Shandy Hall.  These two were the only ones to be found following a relatively milder night.