Wednesday, 26 December 2012

200 not out

It has been a quiet time for moth recording of late, with the usual slow-down in species on the wing combined with poor weather for running the traps. This is the time to get our records in order for the year, and an opportunity for me to update our Strettons Moth List page on this blog for the first time in a couple of months.

A quick count up shows that we have recorded 200 species of moth in the Strettons since July, when we first started to run our traps. Imagine 200 different types of moth in just five months in two small gardens in the middle of Shropshire. When I first started trapping moths I couldn't name 20 species, let alone identify 200 of them. It just shows how fascinating these creatures are, and that once you start you are hooked. As a minor celebration, here is a picture of one of my favourite moths of 2012.

September Thorn

Sunday, 23 December 2012

One for the pot

In spite of running the trap on the 2 nights when we were promised a reasonably high overnight temperature, there was not a lot about.
But there was one new moth that made it worthwhile, an Early Moth, though they can appear much earlier than this.

Early Noth

Monday, 17 December 2012

A thing of beauty is a ......

A couple of warmer nights led me to put the trap on and I was rewarded by a new moth to the site last night.  Not only is it new, but it seems to be a very early record for this moth in Shropshire.

The moth, shown below, is a Pale Brindled Beauty, and I would not normally have expected it before the new year. It was one of only 5 moths in the trap this morning. On Wednesday there were 17 moths, but only Mottled Umbers and Winter moths.

Pale Brindled Beauty

Although there has not been much flying, there are still things to look out for, namely leaf miners, so a walk up the lower part of the Mynd, where there are still a few trees with leaves on, revealed some interesting mines and blotches.

Here is a photo of an oak leaf with a mine and 3 blotches and a second photo showing the mine more clearly.

Mine/blotches on oak leaf

Stigmella mine + Phyllonorycter blotch

There was a small larvae in one of the blotches and a pupa in the other. There are confusion species for both these types so one can only be certain by keeping the leaves over winter and hoping for adults to emerge. These two are likely to be S. atricapitella and P. quercifoliella.  The mine and blotch shapes and pattern of the frass (larval droppings) are both pointers to the species within, as is the host plant. There is a very good leafminers web site.

Monday, 10 December 2012

Subtle as a Brick

It has been rather quiet here on Stretton Moths in recent weeks. What is our excuse? Well, as you may have noticed, the weather has turned decidedly cold overnight, and the moths have noticed this too. Neither of us have been catching too much of interest, I have only been finding Winter Moths, which seem to still be flying in the freezing conditions.

We are not the type to give up though, and with a milder night forecast I put out my trap on Saturday evening. By the time I went to bed there were no moths to be seen, but in the morning I was pleasantly surprised to find four moths in and around the trap. Three of them were, predictably, Winter Moths. The other was this.

A bit of head-scratching ensued. I was not sure what it was, except that it was a Noctuid moth which I had not recorded before. A bit of research and it all became clear, this is a Brick. It is not a rare moth, but it is new for us in the Strettons and a nice final 'hurrah' for the autumn-flying moths (the flight season for the species extends to early December).

Like all moths, this is an incredible creature. The adults have been busily mating and generating eggs in the last few weeks, these being laid beside the bud of the foodplant (such as Wych Elm or Poplar). The larva will emerge in April and spend a few weeks munching on flowers. They will then descend and construct an underground coccoon and pupate. Next September the adult moths will begin to emerge, and the cycle starts again.