Thursday, 28 November 2013

The weatherman said ....

That it was going to be warm last night, and he was right!

One of the best nights mothing for weeks!

There were more than 100 moths, of 10 species. OK, 77 of them were Mottled Umbers and 15 were Winter Moths, but so what.

The two above named species have something in common (along with a few others) and that is that the female moths are wingless, or virtually so. These female moths hatch out and sit around waiting for a male, mate, lay eggs on the same tree and, well you can guess the rest.

This means of course that these females never arrive in your trap and up to this week I had never seen one.

But, in the summer I had collected several larvae from trees and bushes around here and kept them fed and watered.  Several hatched out this week.

Winter Moth (f)

Winter Moth (m)

Mottled Umber (f)


                                                                                                             Mottle Umber (m)

Monday, 18 November 2013

Out and about

Put the trap on last night as the temperature was supposed to stay reasonable, but the catch was a bit disappointing to compared to the week before. There were however 22 moths of 4 species.

Undaunted we went for a walk up the path opposite the house and found some leaf miners on wild raspberry. Was able to get reasonable photos from my Iphone - a first for me.
Stigmella aurella on Raspberry

We took a trip to Earls Hill a couple of days later and I found a leaf miner on a Rowan leaf. This turns out to be Phyllonorycter sorbi, another first for me.

Phyllonorycter sorbi on Rowan

By chance I also found a pupa in a silken sheath covered in bits of dry old dead wood on an Oak stump. I wonder when it will hatch out and what it will be. Watch this space!

Unknown pupal case

Unknown pupa

Tuesday, 12 November 2013

Mines, mines and mines!

There are literally thousands of leaf mines around at the moment giving a great chance to add a few more species to the growing list of moths found in and around the Strettons.

On Wednesday I had the pleasure of accompanying the County Micro-moth Recorder on a tour round Rectory Wood, (in spite of the fact that it rained all the time) where we collected dozens of leaves from a range of trees.

First analysis reveals a list of 26 different moths, quite a number of which were new to me and some of them were certainly firsts for the Strettons and the 4th only records for Shropshire. Thanks Godfrey! The one shown is quite common, but was new for me. The larva first made a blotch mine (where it fed and then moved to the leaf edge, folded it over, stuck it down and munched in there until it  pupated.

Phyllonorycter devoniella

On Friday I returned to Rectory Field to inspect the Evergreen oak and the Turkey oak near the entrance and to collect mines. If truth were told, that was our objective on Wednesday but we "did" the woods and missed the oaks. This was also a successful visit.

And so, on Saturday, profiting from the sunshine, I went up the hill behind Stokesay Castle and did more collecting. One interesting find was the larva of a Brimstone moth. Quite a common moth, but its larva can be of two structurally different forms and it is said to have a life cycle which produces 3 broods in 2 years. This means they either pupate in the autumn and over-winter like  that, or (like this one) will live over winter as a larva. It is feeding on hawthorn, which will lose most of its leaves over winter!

Brimstone Moth (l)

And so to last night where the temperature stayed up above 10°C and the trap was switched on. There were 42 Mottled Umber Moths in and around the trap and another 41 moths of 12 different species. Well worth the effort.

It is unlikely that there will be more nights like that for some time, but....

In the meantime there are lots of leafmines around, so hope you are out there looking!

Tuesday, 22 October 2013

Let it rain!

On Monday we came back from a long weekend in Aderdovey where it had either been lovely sunshine or absolutely chucking it down. And it was chucking it down here too, so clearly not the night to put the trap on.
Well, actually, NO, it promised to be a very good night for mothing for 2 reasons. Firstly that moths are fairly waterproof (unless they get stuck in a puddle) and the weathermen promised an overnight low of around 14°C.

So, the trap was switched on in the pouring rain! And on Tuesday morning, still with the high temperature there were more than 50 moths in the trap.

The trap had been on on the 12th and 15th of October, these nights having catches of 40+ and nearly 60 moths.

All the usual suspects for this time of year are appearing but it was nice to get my first Streak here, and this moth has apparently not been recorded in Shropshire for 5 years or more.

Hopefully a few more warmer nights to come will bring something interesting.

Monday, 7 October 2013

Poor excuses!

Holidays, busy social life, laziness, all just excuses for not posting on here for far too long.
Worse is the fact that there have been lots of moths about, several new to me here.

First of all I should thank Chris for our super evening in Lydbury North (6th September) where we went, with our traps, to join members of their Community Wildlife Group and passed a super evening, in spite of the fact there were not a lot of moths, there was a Brown-spot Pinion, a first for the year.

Brown-spot Pinion

I have run my trap 10 times since then and on 4 of the first 5 nights there were very small catches, however, on the 19th, with only 7 species present, one was a Dark Sword-grass. This is an immigrant moth, with an unconfirmed possibility that spring arrivals breed in the UK.

Dark Sword-grass

Lots of caterpillars around and several micro-moths flying in the garden, 2 of which have been new to me here, and the A alstromeriana not having been recorded in Shropshire since 2006, the other being Acleris Rhombana.

Agonopterix alstromeriana


Acleris rhombana

The usual autumn moths, like Green-brindled Crescent and Beaded Chestnut  have started to appear, but catches will gradually decline as winter approaches.

Beaded Chestnut

Tuesday, 17 September 2013

Going for gold

The weather may have turned cold and rainy, but last week there was still some warmth and moth activity. I ran the trap on Monday night and was pleased to record three new species, along with a couple of 'NFY' (new for the year) moths. Undoubted highlight was this Gold Spot, a moth which is typically found in damp habitats.

Gold Spot

Unlike this rather handsome moth, the other new two species had seen far better days. In fact one of them took me quite a while to identify. The first had suffered from a bit of battering, this Broad-bordered Yellow Underwing. Despite having much of it's wings missing, the markings were still clear.

Broad-bordered Yellow Underwing

The other new moth was a different proposition. Moths belong to Lepidoptera, and the literal translation of this is (lepis) scale (pteron) wing. The reason is that the wings of moths are covered with a huge number of tiny scales, which give the patterns and colours. As moths age so do these scales age, fade and disappear. This means that moths become'worn', which leads to much head-scratching when trying to identify them. This Chevron moth is great example, when fresh these are beautiful yellow and orange moths. In this instance I caught two of these grey looking insects!


My two 'NFY' moths were in much better shape. It was a welcome return for the Hedge Rustic, an attractive moth of dark hues which is quite common here in the autumn.

Hedge Rustic

I also had this November Moth 'agg.' This is one of a group of moths which are virtually indistinguishable from each other, without resorting to some drastic measures of dissection.

November Moth agg.

Saturday, 7 September 2013

When I'm cleaning windows

Household chores took on an unexpected twist today. With friends visiting I was tasked with cleaning the downstairs front room windows, and I took this on with gusto. The end result was not too bad, as I hope you will agree (though I did not earn an honest bob).

As I was packing away I noticed this Red Underwing lurking by the window frame. Somehow I had failed to notice this (lets face it, quite large) insect in the previous 20 or so minutes! I was obviously concentrating hard on getting a nice gleaming finish.

Red Underwing

If you can see what I can see...

Wednesday, 4 September 2013

Yellow fever

Tis a couple of weeks since my last post and the above title refers to the fact that for most of the nights when the trap has been on (8 times) there has been around a 100 "Yellow Underwings" in it.

The majority have been the Large variety, with the Lesser Broad-bordered close behind and increasing numbers of Lesser. Large Yellow Underwings tend to blunder round in the trap and often cause the smaller moths to be damaged - sometimes called LY Blunderwings!

However, I have been out and about, finding lots of interesting moths and their larvae (caterpillars). You may recall an Elephant Hawkmoth larva on the blog recently, well, at the same site (Nutbatch) I recently found another, but this one was a younger version - see how they change as they grow up!

Elephant Hawkmoth (l)

I was happy to catch this moth near Edgton (Ridgeway) on the afternoon of the 15th. Looked at from above, it appears like a "Playboy" bunny, but viewed from the side, certainly not!

Ypsolopha sequella

Ypsolopha sequella 

On the 27th, in the trap was another micro-moth new to me, this was a Gelechid (duly reported to the recording scheme) called Hypatima rhomboidella, but I think it is mis-named. What to you think?

Hypatima rhomboidella

Today we went for a wander up Carding Mill Valley and I was looking to find Coleophorid larval cases and indeed found lots of them on Juncus. All I have to do now is identify them. I also found one on a Silver Birch leaf, and have the same problem.  Watch this space.

Coleophorid case (Juncus)

Coleophorid case (Birch)

Friday, 30 August 2013


There were some anomalies in and around the moth trap this morning. Or, to be more, accurate there were three Anomalous. These subtly beautiful grey moths are mainly a moorland species, commoner in the north and west than in the south and east. My position on the edge of the Long Mynd means that I get a handful of these open country species, which are not commonly found in many gardens.

The Anomalous

Another apparent anomaly was a September Thorn, perhaps an unusual sight in August. Was it early? Well it was in fact quite late, as this species emerges in July. There is a very similar moth called an August Thorn (which does fly in August), but not all thorns that fly in August are August Thorns! A warning to new moth trappers to not rely too much on a name!

September Thorn

I had a couple of welcome new species as well. The first was this wonderfully furry Pale Eggar. The smallest member of the Lasiocampidae family, it likes heathland and woodland edges.

Pale Eggar

The second new moth was Rosy Rustic, with two in the trap. The main food plant for this moth is dock (Rumex spp.) and with plenty of this in and around my garden it is surprising it has taken me this long to get one.

Rosy Rustic

Wednesday, 14 August 2013


Yesterday was the first anniversary of my arrival in Church Stretton and as the furniture did not arrive till the day after, the 14th was the first time I could put the trap on.
So last night (13th) was the end of my first year here and a "must" for the trap.

Lots of moths, but too many of the common ones; for example 30 Large Yellow Underwing and 18 Lesser Broad Border's. Nothing new, so I end the year with just over 400 species found locally.

Of interest because of its shape, was a Chinese Character (not new),

Chinese Character
but the most impressive was a moth which I did not recognise. So, below is a picture of the "standard" form of Dark Arches and after that, the variation of the same moth which I have never seen before. I am sure you would agree that there is a huge difference. A photo of the 2 side by side illustrates it even more.

Dark Arches


                                                                                               Dark Arches (different)

                                                              Dark Arches (comparison)

Purple Rain

The highlight from this morning was a member of the lepidoptera family, but it was not a moth. In fact I was so pleased that I dragged a passing dog walker into the garden to see it (I did know the dog walker in question!). The insect was this Purple Hairstreak, resting on the wall and by far the best views I have ever had of this species.

Purple Haristreak

This was not the only purple insect either, running it a close second was this beautiful Purple Thorn. A garden first and something that could easily be overlooked as a dead leaf! The diagnostic diffuse dark spot on the upperwing can just be seen here.

Purple Thorn

There was another thorn species in the trap, and one which is a little but more colourful. The Canary-shouldered Thorn is a quite a common moth, and a sure sign that autumn is on the way. The fluffy yellow thorax, shown well in this photograph, is what gives this moth its name.

Canary-shouldered Thorn

As an alternative to purple as the theme for the blog, I could have chosen something related to birds. In addition to our canary there were a couple more bird related moths. With the black and white patterning, it is no surprise that this is called The Magpie. A species that I get a few of each year, it is a much declined moth that used to be thought of as a pest due to the caterpillars fondness for berry bushes.

The Magpie
The other bird-related moth was one with a mythical edge. The Small Phoenix, photographed here in typical posture raising the tip of its abdomen.

Small Phoenix

The final moth for this blog was one that came to the living room window, rather than the trap. It was quickly potted and photographed, though attempts to get a picture in a more natural setting were a failure. This is a Blood-vein, a reasonably common and widespread moth, but also a very attractive one.


Saturday, 10 August 2013

Too many moths, too little time

I see that I have not done a post since 17th July, although in fairness, Mike has done the posts from our two successful Garden outings, but this does not excuse me.

Since my last post, the above title has been very true, and the trap has been full, with lots of interesting moths. In addition, Mike and I spent an evening at Whixall Mosses with Dave Grundy (the person who started the Garden Moth Scheme (q.v)) and with 6 traps running there were more than 190 species recorded, including several site specialities.

At home, I have recorded lots of species new to me here. A lot of these have been micro moths which need dissecting to distinguish them from other similar species - and some of these have not been recorded in Shropshire since the 1930s - but that does not mean they have not been around.

So, here are a few pictures, some of them of moths which are less than 5mm long, some which are new and a very interesting one, which was a Grayling butterfly - yes, in the moth trap

Phyllonorycter harrisella


Pebble hook-tip

Caryocolum blandella

Phyllonorycter geniculella

And a few caterpillars, including the fully grown Puss moth larva and some others found around the area.

Poplar Grey

Puss Moth

Elephant Hawk-moth