Tuesday, 3 June 2014

Flying high

I was working from home this morning, so able to set the moth trap on what was looking to be a promising night. I ended up with my best totals of the year, 58 moths of 28 species, which is not bad for my 20w actinic heath. Also a perfect number for going through before work.

I did not record any new species for the garden, but there were plenty that I have not recorded too often. First of all here is one of two May Highflyers, the fourth and fifth recorded in the garden.

May Highflyer

Unlike most of the recent traps, there were quite a few micro moths. One of these was the succinctly named Pseudargyrotoza conwagana (that's easy for you to say). This is just the second record for the garden of this distinctive moth, and it is the first time it has appeared on this blog.

Pseudargyrotoza conwagana

Also from the tortrix family was one of the easiest to identify, Epilblema cynosbatella. As suggested by the second part of the Latin name, this is sometimes given the English name of Yellow-faced Belle. It is easy to see why. Another new one for the blog.

Epiblema cynosbatella

A gradual increase in size to this Middle-barred Minor. The minors are some of the smallest of our macro moths, and can be impossible to identify without 'further determination'. Thankfully the Middle-barred Minor is one the family that can be readily identified, and this is only the second record for my garden.

Middle-barred Minor

From the smallest macro moth in the trap to one of the largest. There were two of these Elephant Hawk-moths, always a treat.

Elephant Hawk-moth

The final picture is this Silver-ground Carpet. This is a common moth that I regularly record in the late spring and early summer, and is often seen flying in the day around the garden. This is notable in being the first time I have managed to get a decent picture of one.

Silver-ground Carpet

Wednesday, 21 May 2014

Every Cloud...

A gap in work commitments, along with promising conditions overnight, meant that Tuesday night was moth trap night. The returns were modest, with 27 moths of 13 species, but this included a new macro species for the garden and two new for the year appearances.

The crowd-pleasers were this squadron of Poplar Hawk-moths. Having been waiting for my first record of 2014, three arrived at once. All were beautiful fresh-looking individuals, with the lovely lilac sheen on parts of the upper forewing.

Poplar Hawk-moths (with Brown Rustic)

The new macro species for the garden was this Clouded-bordered Brindle, and very nice it was too. Not a record that caused much of a surprise, except for why this has taken so long to appear here. This is a common moth species, and the larvae feed on various grasses (which are not in short supply here).

Clouded-bordered Brindle

The other new species for the year was the only micro moth amongst the 27, this Teleiopsis diffinis. This is one of the gelechids and though apparently common over much of the country, it does not seem to be recorded particularly frequently in moth traps. It is a species that I have recorded several times, though the number of records for Shropshire is quite small.

Teleiopsis diffinis

One of the other highlights was this lovely Scalloped Hazel. Before this spring my only record had involved a dead individual found in my porch, however this is the third 'live' individual I have found this year.

Scalloped Hazel

Sunday, 18 May 2014

Picking up

Not much activity here for the last few weeks, mainly due to a distinct lack of activity in the moth trap. With the sunny weather though the moths have started arriving, with nearly 30 moths last night, compared to the threes of fours we have been recording.

I was pleased to record two new species for the garden over the last couple of sessions. One is a species I have been looking out for, the other was a bit of a head-scratcher - by methodically trawling through the UK moths website I finally identified it!

Here is the first, a Muslin Moth. This is a male, I know this because while the females are white the males are grey-brown. I am more likely to catch males in the trap as whilst the males are nocturnal, the females fly in the day.

Muslin Moth

The second new moth was a micro, Blastobasis lacticolella. This is not originally a British species, instead it was accidentally introduced. The larvae feed on a wide range of foodstuffs, including stored products, leaf-litter and vegetation. It does not appear to have been commonly recorded in Shropshire, so I am pleased to record it.

Blastobasis lacticolella

Wednesday, 30 April 2014

Back to Purple

There were several nice surprises in the moth trap this morning, with several new moths for the year and one new species for the garden. Probably the best moth was this Purple Thorn, resting in the grass outside the trap.

Purple Thorn

This species rests with its wings held open, an easy was to distinguish it from the similar Early Thorn. This was my second record for the garden, following one seen last summer.

Purple Thorn

The new species for the garden was the Waved Umber. In fact I had three of this species in the trap, including this one that was resting on the outside of the trap itself. This is a moth I have been on the look out for, as it was a glaring omission from the garden list. Its curious shape and habit of resting flat with wings fully spread makes this an intriguing moth.

Waved Umber

There was also my second record of Water Carpet, though quite a faded individual. Despite the name this moth is not particularly associated with wetland habitats, and can be found in woodland, grassland and scrubby areas.

Water Carpet

And finally my first Bright-line Brown-eye of the year. Also in the trap were the years first Small Phoenix and Brown Silver-line, along with a yet to be identified leaf miner.

Bright-line Brown-eye

Tuesday, 22 April 2014

Here we are again

It has been some time since I last posted anything here, but that does not mean that there has not been any moths about, only that there was nothing worth writing about really.

In fact there have been lots of moths on the few nights that I have thought it worth putting the trap on, with significant numbers of orthosias (Quakers, etc.), often in the hundreds, but until this week, nothing new or interesting.

So, taking a step backwards to a post I made in November last year, which showed a cocoon and pupa found at Earls Hill, well, you guessed, it hatched out and was a Scalloped Hazel. This was about 2 weeks early for this species.

Scalloped Hazel, pupa and cocoon

So, moving to last night, which was both warm and wet, in the trap there were about 100 moths, of which two were new to me here and have not been recorded for a few years in Shrops. as far as I know.

The first was a Great Prominent, one of the larger moths with a wing-span of more than 2 inches. The normal resting position, as seen in the photo is with its wings held tight to its body. The larval food-plant, like many other moths is Oak.

Great Prominent

Another Oak feeding moth larva is that of the Blossom Underwing, which is localised and not common. I was very pleased to catch this one. Some years there is an influx from the continent along the southern coastline.

Blossom Underwing

Sunday, 30 March 2014

Earning my stripes

We are back to warmer nights and back to more moths. There were 51 in the trap last night, the highest count of the year, with 13 species represented. Pick of the bunch were two Shoulder-stripe, a good looking moth and a welcome addition to the garden list. This is quite a common and widespread species, and it was nice to finally record this here in Batch Valley.


Otherwise, there were some welcome reappearances - moths coming to the trap for the first time this year. Best of these was only the second Engrailed for the garden. I nearly missed it as it was not in the trap, but settled nearby on the wall of the house, showing that it pays to search carefully around the trap each morning!

The Engrailed

In the trap itself was an Early Thorn, a regularly occurring species but also a real favourite. This is one species that is always popular when we carry out our moth surveys. This species always rests with its wings closed, the underside of the wing also looking brighter than the upperside.

Early Thorn

One of the major headaches that moth recorders get is identifying pugs. There are quite a number of pug species, which look very similar and wear very quickly, meaning that many a disparaging word is said against them. When they are freshly emerged, however, they are very attractive little moths. This Brindled Pug was my first pug species this year.

Brindled Pug

I will finish off with a Red Chestnut, a speciality for this garden and one of my favourite of the spring moths. I caught this very bright specimen which I thought was deserving of having its photograph taken.

Red Chestnut

Other moths were very much the usual suspects, with 13 Mottled Greys and 15 Hebrew Characters the most common. I also recorded 6 March Moths, meaning I have now recorded more than ten individuals this year of this moth, which had not appeared in the garden before this year.

Monday, 17 March 2014

Every Cloud...

There was certainly a silver lining last night, with the best catch of the year - there were 47 moths of 13 species. Like Graham the other night, there was a Clouded Drab in the trap. A much more attractive moth than the name suggests. This is apparently very variable in appearance, though all those I have caught have been similar looking individuals.

Clouded Drab

Most of the moths were species I have already recorded this year, with Mottled Grey the commonest with 16 individuals. There was one new appearance though, this Diurnea fagella. This is a male, as the female have quite short and stunted wings.

Diurnea fagella


Sunday's weather was glorious with the temperature above 15°C, and what did that imply? Well simply that there ought to be a few more moths about that night. So the trap was switched on and I could not resist a few visits during the late evening to see if there were any moths. It was in fact a bit like being at Heathrow - probably even more busy than there, but off the top of my head I don't know how many plans arrive there overnight.

So, let's start with a few facts and figures. There were 318 moths in the trap this morning (including those sitting on the walls, etc...). 188 of these were Small Quaker moths, and in total there were 22 species.
Six other species were in double figures, these being Common Quaker 33, Hebrew Character 24, Oak Beauty 15, March Moth 15 and Chestnut 11.

When I look back to my records for this time last year, I see that I only ran the trap 4 times in March and only caught 26 moths in total and it was not until mid April that I caught large numbers of this species and then only just over 100.

No new moths for the site, but a fresh Acleris literana was a pleasant surprise.

Acleris literana

During the day, I spotted a hairy caterpillar sunning itself on a Periwinkle leaf and took the following photo. It is clearly one of the "Tiger" moths larvae, but so far I have not been able to identify it.

Larva to I.D.

Saturday, 15 March 2014

March(ing) on

The trap has been on only 4 times in March, based generally on the supposed overnight temperature.

The month is progressing and the numbers of moths gradually increasing, but no new species for the site so far.

On Thursday 6th there were only 8 moths, of 7 species, but on Saturday 8th this increased to 23 moths of 8 species, one of them being an over-wintering Ypsolopha ustella. However, the disappointment of this catch spurred me on to try again on Sunday night (9th) and the catch was much improved.
There were 47 moths of 10 species, including a fairly early Shoulder Stripe - only my second one here - and all the usual suspects of the early part of the year, including a Clouded Drab, not a nice name for a quite variable moth - one that has not been featured here before, well, that I discover by chance is not true - but it does not appear on the label list.

So, on Friday night, with the promise of 8° overnight (which I think was actually only 6) the trap went on and there were 48 moths (8 species) this morning. 35 of these were Small Quaker and there was a Pale Pinion, Twin-spot Quaker and an Early Grey. Unlike Mike, I rarely get Mottled Grey here, due mainly to habitat difference.

So, no photos from me today, as everything in the trap has already featured here, but you can find a picture of a Clouded Drab by clicking on Pale Pinion on the list and seeing it on the same page!

Monday, 10 March 2014

Fresh arrivals

The warmest day of the year bought Peacock, Brimstone and Small Tortoiseshell onto the wing in Batch Valley. This was followed by a cloudy warm night, the perfect time to put out the mothtrap. I was not to be disappointed, with 25 moths of 12 species, easily the best catch of the year.

The commonest moth was the Mottled Grey, a species I caught in quite large numbers in spring last year.

Mottled Grey

Half of the species were making their first appearance this year, though most were expected. This included some wonderfully fresh Hebrew Characters, a real crowd-pleaser.

Hebrew Character

I also recorded single Common Plume, Small Quaker and Clouded Drab, the first records of this year. The other new species for the year was Early Grey, with three of these beautiful moths.

Early Grey

There were still some 'hangers on', species I have been recording for the last couple of weeks. There were two Red Chestnuts, a moth I record here in good numbers, along with single examples of The Satellite, Chestnut, March Moth and Dotted Border. The last of these is a species I record occasionally in the late winter, but I had not until now secured a reasonable photograph of.

Dotted Border

Tuesday, 25 February 2014

Two Beauties

Put the trap on last night for the first time in February - and only the second time in 2014.  Well, it was the most promising night with a reasonable temperature forecast.

But there were only 4 moths on the trap this morning, 2 x Pale Brindled Beauty and 2 x Oak Beauty.

And on the porch door early this evening an Agonopterix heracliana, a common micro-moth which has featured here before, but the photo was not very good, so here is a better one.

Agonopterix heracliana

In total I have only seen 9 moths this year and the forecast for the next few nights is low temperatures.

Last year, in January and February I saw 92 moths before the end of February, having run the trap on 6 occasions.

Wednesday, 19 February 2014

A few more

There were a few more moths in the trap last night. Four of these were macro moths, with another Chestnut, along with the first Dotted Border and Pale Brindled Beautys of the year. There were also four micro moths, - Tortricodes alternella, the commonest micro here at this time of year.

Pale Brindled Beautys can be quite variable moths, as these two individuals show.

Pale Brindled Beauty

Pale Brindled Beauty

Sunday, 16 February 2014

Ruby, ruby, ruby, ruby

Relentless storms, horizontal rain, gale-force winds and ice cold nights. It is enough to make you want to stay inside and curl up in front of the fire. Plenty of creatures do not have that choice of course, braving out the winter, and it may surprise you to learn that this includes caterpillars no bigger than your little finger.

Ruby Tiger larva

This Ruby Tiger larva was crawling up my wall today, seemingly brought out by the sunshine. It is one of a small number of moths which overwinter in their larval stage. How do they do it without turning to ice? It seems that moths use strategies to survive. One is having their own form of antifreeze, which enable them to survive freezing temperatures, with the larva rolling into tight furry balls when temperatures are below freezing. Ruby Tiger larva are also polyphagous, meaning they literally eat many things, so when they feed they have a wider choice of herbaceous plants.

Ruby Tiger larva

I left the caterpillar to slowly continue on its way, pleased with another addition to the garden moth list.

Monday, 3 February 2014

That old Chestnut

A happy new year from Batch Valley also. After a hiatus of a couple of months the moth trap was out again. The endless bad weather brightened a little, with a stiller night and less rain.

Proof that moths were surviving the winter was provided as four made their way to the trap. Three of those were Spring Ushers, the same moth found by Graham a few days ago.

Spring Usher - a paler example

The other was a Chestnut, a case of the old familiar. This is one of several moths that can be found right throughout the winter, and is always a contender if the trap is out between autumn and spring.

These moths made a cameo performance at today's Strettons Community Area Wildlife Group AGM. We have several new people signed up for this years Moths in YOUR Garden surveys, so we have new places to visit once the moths start to play.

Monday, 27 January 2014


The trees are alive with catkins, on Alder, Hazel and more to come soon. So, it being a reasonable day we had a visit to Gogbatch - well, that's what we call it!

The Alder trees were covered in catkins so a few went in a pot for inspection at home.
With a x10 or better lens, it is easy to see if there any small holes in the catkins - and if there are it generally means there is a caterpillar inside. Later you can see frass on the catkin - (frass = caterpillar poo).

Here is a photo showing exactly that, and if you are lucky you may also see the caterpillar come out to have a look at the rest of the world.
Alder catkin

And yes, luck was in.
Larvae from above catkin

The problem now is to try and identify the moth species of this caterpillar and of course there is a choice. The easiest choice is to wait until it turns into a moth, but there is always the chance that it will not survive. At the moment, there is still the chance as it has pupated. All I have to do now is ensure that it does not go mouldy!
And the guess at the moment is Argyresthia goedartella, but it may be brockeella.

Although I have collected several Hazel catkins, I have yet to find a larva.


2014 is here and .....

A belated HNY to anyone looking. 
Not a lot of nights when it looked worth putting the trap on, but January the 5th seemed a possibility.
However the wind was very strong and turned the trap over quite early on. Nevertheless I re-set it and in the morning there were 2 Mottled Umbers.

Have not tried again since then and with the promise of cold nights it just did not seem to be worth the effort.

So it was a pleasant surprise to find a Spring Usher on the house wall last night when the outside light was left on for an hour or two. The fact that it snowed shows what brave (or stupid?) things moths are.

Spring Usher

Photo of a Spring Usher just to liven up the blog a little, but not the one from last night! These are quite pretty moths and very variable, as can be seen by looking at the photo from last year (click on its name in the list).