Tuesday, 15 January 2019

Gone all nocturnal!

The idea was primarily, an after dark hunt for the wingless female moth species by torchlight but turned into the ol' Keith-getting-distracted-by-every-single-invertebrate routine.
I've been over Litcham Common (a good 5min walk from my front door) for a nocturnal invert hunt on various days this month and have been amazed at the shear amount of different creatures that occupy the woods after dark. With so many different species on so many trees, it really must be a close-quarter battle of life and death every single night, with various different species going about their lives a matter of inches away from their predators!

After a lengthy search a couple of weeks ago, Dad (who's Twitter you can find HERE) and I did find our target, by way of a Mottled Umber, about waist height on a medium sized Birch tree. Result!

Mottled UmberErannis defoliaria

Mottled Umber - Erannis defoliaria

On the Moth front, we also found 52 Male Winter Moths, 3 Chestnuts, 2 Male Mottled Umbers and a pleasant surprise - Acleris logiana with its camouflage just made for Birch trees:

Acleris logiana

There were also two plump, Noctuid larvae low down on the trunks which looked like that of Angle Shades, and a clutch of Vapourer moth eggs in a small depression on one of the trees:

Vapourer Moth eggs

We found two seperate pupal cases of the Black Arches moth, both tucked in under bark and held in place with a little silk.

Black Arches pupal case

There were a number of Ladybirds taking cover from the Winter in the nooks and crannies, they were 7-spot and Orange:

7-spot ladybird

Orange ladybird

I got a bit excited when I thought we'd found a couple of the inconspicuous Ladybird species but it wasn't to be. They were in fact, the diminutive beetle, Olibrus corticali:

Olibrus corticali

Olibrus corticali

Olibrus corticali

In very good number were Dromius quadrimaculatus. We stopped counting at about 20 of those!

Dromius quadrimaculatus

A little highlight for me was two of a nice Longhorn beetle with a bit of a mouthful of a name: the Greater Thorn-tipped Longhorn Beetle - Pogonocherus hispidulus. A highlight because it was only last year that I saw the Lesser Thorn-tipped, so it was nice to be able to log the pair.

Greater Thorn-tipped Longhorn Beetle - Pogonocherus hispidulus

Greater Thorn-tipped Longhorn Beetle - Pogonocherus hispidulus

We found two Shieldbug species: Birch Shieldbug and the Common Green Shieldbug, which is actually completely brown during Winter.

HUGE numbers of Woodlice which admittedly I didn't look any further as to which species, and Common Earwigs.

Common Earwig - Forficula auricularia

Common Earwig - Forficula auricularia

Darkness falling is the cue for a lot of Spiders to emerge from their daytime hidings and get busy repairing webs and looking for food. I could do really, with going on another nocturnal outing to concentrate just on the Spiders, for there were quite a lot to be seen. Various Opiliones (Harvestmen) which are a bit of an ID challenge and not something I can manage in 5mins! One Spider which stuck out though was a first for me: Drapetisca socialis AKA the Invisible Spider (seriously).

Invisible Spider - Drapetisca socialis

That's it in a nutshell and if you've not ventured out to look for inverts after dark, I'd recommend it and will be doing it more often myself now!

Tuesday, 27 November 2018

2018 garden Moths review


After a decent first Moth-ing year in our new mid-Norfolk garden, I can't believe how quickly the 2nd year has gone! 2017 had exceeded expectations with some brilliant records and if you want something to help you sleep, just click HERE for the review for that year.

So. At the start of this year I set some targets for 2018 which I thought would be a bit of a challenge but in hindsight, may have been a bit reserved:


120 new species for garden was a lot more than I could've hoped for and with nearly 100 lifers to go with it, I'm certainly not disappointed with this years efforts. Unlike last year, I'm not going to just list every species caught but instead, I've picked some month by month highlights to share.


January:

I do trap year round but admittedly, do tip-toe around the roughest of the rough nights during the winter months and this resulted in 10 nights of Mothing during January for me. Those 10 nights did get the year off to a good start though, with 11 species in total, Acleris cristana and Acleris hastiana being new species for the garden..

Acleris cristana
Acleris cristana showing the tufts which helped it coin the common name of 'Tufted Button'. They remind me of aircraft air brakes a bit:
Acleris cristana



Acleris hastiana


February:

February added 3 more species to the years total, from 8 nights of trapping. It turned out to be a good year for Small Brindled Beauty (Apocheima hispidaria) here, with 20 individuals caught, compared to the 5 trapped the previous year.
Small Brindled Beauty (Apocheima hispidaria)
March:

March always feels like the month were things start to slowly liven up again after the bleak Winter nights, with the variation of species steadily on the rise again. Some of the Spring species are, for me, little highlights of the entire year in their own right - Oak Beauty (Biston strataria), for example.
I think THE Spring highlight for me though, is the Pine Beauty (Panolis flammea). No matter how many I see, finding one in the trap of a morning always makes me smile. Stunning little things:

Pine Beauty (Panolis flammea)


April:

As Spring really gets into the swing of things, the variety increases and we get to see the emergence of yet more of the earlier season species. Some of my favourites for April, are the Streamer (Anticlea derivata), Red Chestnut (Cerastis rubricosa), Frosted Green (Polyploca ridens) and Water Carpet (Lampropteryx suffumata). Luckily, the garden does well for these.


Streamer (Anticlea derivata)

Red Chestnut (Cerastis rubricosa)

Frosted Green (Polyploca ridens)

Water Carpet (Lampropteryx suffumata)

A little highlight for me dropped in on the night of 19th April - Caloptilia semifascia. A lifer for me and one of two trapped throughout the year, the 2nd wouldn't show up until the end of August.
Gotta love that unorthodox Caloptilia resting stance though!

Caloptilia semifascia

The last week of April saw me blow the dust off the pheromone trap and try, not for a clearwing species yet, but for the micro, Grapholita lobarzewskii, although..not exactly trying for it. Let me explain... During the week before, other Norfolk moth-ers had discovered that Pammene giganteana was also being attracted to their lobarzewski pheromone lures. Of course this had me intrigued and I had the lobarzewski lure in the freezer, so why not?!
Needless to say, I lucked in and successfully lured the Nationally scarce B species, Pammene giganteana to the garden on the 24th, with Dad also having 3 separate individuals, around the same time, a few villages away.


Pammene giganteana

May:

May brought with it the first Chinese Characters of the year. Not exactly rare but a personal fave of mine with their fantastic camouflage:


Chinese Character (Cilix glaucata)

Chinese Character amongst bird droppings

The first Hawk-moths of the year were also logged - Poplar Hawk-moth (Laothoe populi) being THE first. Really happy to see Broad-bordered Bee Hawk-moth (Hemaris fuciformis) too, although this was on the nearby Litcham Common, I'd had 2 individuals to the garden the year before. They don't hang around when they do drop in to feed, so I'd like to think there have been more again this year but just not when I've been out there to observe them.


Broad-bordered Bee Hawk-moth (Hemaris fuciformis)

The Chocolate-tip (Clostera curtula) is another which I'm fond of, and I only caught three of these this year (all in May), a bit less than the six I had during 2017 which started appearing early-mid April.


Chocolate-tip (Clostera curtula)

One species I noticed an increase in was Sitochroa verticalis. Having only caught one in the previous year, I trapped four this year, the first just sneaking into the May records, on the 31st.


Sitochroa verticalis

Without doubt, the highlight of May, quite possibly the year, was the absolutely stunning, Netted Pug (Eupithecia venosata). There are a few moths I look at when flicking through the guides and think to myself "well, I'll never see one of those!". Netted Pug was one of those. I knew that at some point in my life the chance to see one would probably arise at some point, perhaps with a little twitch if needed, but to glance in to my trap and see that thing of beauty sat there waiting was a moment I wont forget!
Mine was the first of only two to be recorded in Norfolk this year and about half a dozen or so, other Norfolk Moth-ers paid a visit to come and see it, so it was nice that others also got to enjoy this lovely Moth as well.


Netted Pug (Eupithecia venosata)

June:

Due to work last year, I missed almost all of the summer months for Mothing so was looking forward to hitting the peak season this year and see what gaps I could fill from what I missed in 2017.

A few that stick out for me during June were the rather smart, Alder Moth (Acronicta alni), which is probably just as smart in its larval stage, being bright yellow and black. I've not seen the larva in the flesh before but hopefully will one day.
Alder Kitten (Furcula bicuspis) is always a welcome sight and I trapped four of these this year. Ghost Moth (Hepialus humuli) is nice to see up close and watching them lek is something on my wildlife bucket list, for sure. Peppered Moth (Biston betularia) is pretty common in most places but I managed to trap all three of the colour forms this year.



Alder Moth (Acronicta alni)
Alder Kitten (Furcula bicuspis)

male Ghost Moth (Hepialus humuli)

female Ghost Moth (Hepialus humuli)

3 colour forms of Peppered Moth (Biston betularia)

June means it's time to try the VES pheromone lure and I was successful on a few occasions, with Yellow-legged Clearwing (Synanthedon vespiformis)

Yellow-legged Clearwing (Synanthedon vespiformis)

Yellow legs and clear wings. Name makes sense, I suppose:

Yellow-legged Clearwing (Synanthedon vespiformis)

- Also worth a mention is Aproaerema anthyllidella, Nematopogon metaxella and Shaded Pug (Eupithecia subumbrata), all lifers for me. (no decent pics of the above, click on name for link to species info etc)


 I also had a female Eyed Hawk-moth (Smerinthus ocellata) lay eggs in the pot overnight, which I decided to rear. Once hatched, the hardest thing is keeping them inside a container - they are small enough to escape through even the smallest of gaps at this stage! Once a little bigger, it's not too hard to keep fed but once in the later larval stages (or 'instars'), collecting foodplant and removing frass (caterpillar poop!) to keep mould and bacteria at bay, is a daily, sometimes twice-daily job.
In the end, those that didn't escape or naturally die, successfully pupated and are outside in the moth nursery going through the miracle of Metamorphosis as I type.
I shall probably give a couple away to those who want to see one emerge and split the rest between the village school and the local care home, who I've taken moths in for them to enjoy before.


getting bigger...

...bigger still...

...finally, beginning to pupate.

On the 29th of the month, I trapped Epiblema foenella, which would be the only garden record for this species to date and a good looking one, I think you'd agree:


Epiblema foenella

Epiblema foenella

Probably the most noteworthy of June however, wasn't trapped but found by day, on the kitchen wall. A really small species which turned out to be Diplodoma laichartingella, or the 'Dotted-margin Bagworm' and one of only two recorded in Norfolk this year - the other being on exactly the same day! With only four Norfolk adult records (and one of the larval case) in total, this was a nice find!


Diplodoma laichartingella

Diplodoma laichartingella

July:

With Summer in full swing, the numbers and variety really get going in July and another new Pug (for the garden AND me) was trapped: Haworth's Pug (Eupithecia haworthiata).

Haworth's Pug (Eupithecia haworthiata)

Another lifer for me and another pretty micro, was Ptycholomoides aeriferana. About a dozen Norfolk records this year but 3/4's of those from the same site so quite a satisfying catch really.

Ptycholomoides aeriferana

That was one of a handful of nice micros that July brought with it. Some others of note were:  
Thiodia citrana (Nat.scarce B), Clavigesta purdeyi and the ferrugana form of Agapeta zoegana.


Clavigesta purdeyi

Agapeta zoegana f.ferrugana with 'normal' colour form in top-right for comparison:




Another of the "I'll never see one of those" moths graced me with its presence during July and not just once, but on several occasions. The marvelous (and Nat.scarce B) Stathmopoda pedella. What a stunner!

Stathmopoda pedella

The HOR pheromone lure was again successful with numerous males being attracted to it, on varying dates. Another I never tire of seeing and even when expecting one to turn up, the brain cant help but initially think - it's a passing Hornet! Truly amazing mimicry.

Hornet Moth (Sesia apiformis)

Other welcome additions to the garden list were:

Blackneck (Lygephila pastinum),
Royal Mantle (Catarhoe cuculata),
Suspected (Parastichtis suspecta),
Dewick's Plusia (Macdunnoughia confusa).

Blackneck (Lygephila pastinum)

Royal Mantle (Catarhoe cuculata)

Suspected (Parastichtis suspecta)

Dewick's Plusia (Macdunnoughia confusa)

August:

I managed to join the Tree-lichen Beauty (Cryphia algae) club during what turned out to be a bit of a mini-influx during the month. It's a species I'd catch quite a lot of back in London but this one was the first for the garden.

Tree-lichen Beauty (Cryphia algae)

Olive (Ipimorpha subtusa) was a Moth I'd only ever seen one of previously but happily managed to trap a few of my own this year - also new for garden.

Olive Ipimorpha subtusa

On the 4th August, I organised a bit of a community moth night on Litcham Common. Around 20-30 locals came and enjoyed catching and ID'ing the Moths they did not realise were flying around in their very own village. The weather wasn't ideal with clear skies, plummeting temperature and a cold mist appearing around 11pm but right at the final minute, two Saltmarsh Plume (Agdistis bennetii) dropped in for the finale. A lifer for some of us there - great, we thought. When I got home however, guess what was waiting in the trap for me...yep! Saltmarsh Plume! In that one night I'd seen my 1st, 2nd & 3rd ever Saltmarsh Plume and added it to the garden list, to boot!


Their foodplant is Sea-lavender and they're known to wander, but it's c20 miles to the coast from here, as the crow flies, so that's quite a wander. Not the first inland record for the species in Norfolk, so you have to wonder whether they maybe use other foodplants as well? Perhaps? Who knows?

Saltmarsh Plume (Agdistis bennetii)

An unmistakable resting position:

Saltmarsh Plume (Agdistis bennetii)

Some other little goodies from August included:

Mompha propinquella


Celypha rosaceana


Cochylis roseana - 10th adult record for Norfolk & 1st of only 3 recorded in 2018.


Bactra furfurana


Caloptilia populetorum


Pammene aurita

September:


Oddly enough, one of my favourite months of the year for Mothing turned out to be one of the most lifeless this year and simply ticked over without anything of note!

 October:

Thankfully, October got back on track for the year and with it came the arrival of everyone's Autumn favourite - the Merveille du Jour (Griposia aprilina).

Merveille du Jour (Griposia aprilina)

As you near this tail end of the year, the chances of adding new species to the garden list get slimmer by the week and it'd been over a month since adding anything new, until Ypsolopha sequella dropped in and stopped the drought:

Ypsolopha sequella

There was THAT one week, mid-month were the migration stars aligned and it seemed to be raining rare moths across the county. Annoyingly, I wasn't able to trap over what turned out to be the two peak nights but that didn't mean I missed out altogether - on the 16th of the month, the garden racked up a decent night (given the month) with 108 moths of 39 species caught. Included in that haul was a new one for me, a Delicate (Mythimna vitellina).

Delicate (Mythimna vitellina)

Less than a week later, I glanced out of the window to see a Humming-bird Hawk-moth (Macroglossum stellatarum) feeding away in the sunshine. Not unseasonable but I think the latest I've ever seen one. With not many flowers left at the time, I didn't want to disturb it's feeding so stayed just inside the back door and zoomed in to max. to grab a few shots.


Humming-bird Hawk-moth (Macroglossum stellatarum)

Humming-bird Hawk-moth (Macroglossum stellatarum)

As the month went on, it started to give hints of the looming winter, with firsts for the year of  Sprawler (Asteroscopus sphinx), December Moth (Poecilocampa populi) and Streak (Chesias legatella).

Sprawler (Asteroscopus sphinx)

December Moth (Poecilocampa populi)

Streak (Chesias legatella)

November:


If I were a betting man, I would've lost money if, at the start of the year, I said I would have a better November than September for Moths - but that is exactly what happened!
Firstly, to help me get over those couple of days in October I missed and the 'what if?!' that went with it, you can imagine the excitement of finding the rare (to Norfolk, at least): White-speck (Mythimna unipuncta). Neighboring counties had seen a fair share of this immigrant Noctuid but you'd have to go back to 2006 to find the last Norfolk record, before this month, where this one and three others were recorded in the same week. Like busses!

White-speck (Mythimna unipuncta)

If I only had one mission for Winter this year, it was to go out and search for the Northern Winter Moth (Operophtera fagata). As it would happen, I had to look as far as my garden fence on the 16th! Illuminated by the twin 30w Actinic tubes, it was the obvious size that got my attention. Like a winter moth on growth hormone. Closer inspection confirmed it and with barely six weeks left of the year, the garden provided me with one more lifer. Chuffed!

Northern Winter Moth (Operophtera fagata)

...and that brings us to date. The weather is now behaving more like we'd expect it to for this time of year and I shall continue to trap on the nights that look a little less dreadful and ride out the year. If January 2018 proved anything, it's that you really never know what might drop in.

I still have specimens to be confirmed, so it's possible to add a few more species to the garden, or even life lists yet. Fingers crossed.

I don't know where to go with 2019 goals yet? Answers on a postcard..


Just lastly:

- The Litcham Common Moth night I ran this year went well and the visitors enjoyed being able to wander from trap to trap, to see what was being caught. I've had encouraging feedback from those who attended, with adults and children alike, asking if I'll be doing it again in 2019. To have the younger generation especially, interested and keen to learn about Moths is a great feeling and for that reason alone, I feel I must do the same again next year. With that in mind - if anyone would like to join me, or even better - bring your own trap along and participate, please do give me a shout. It'd be very much appreciated by myself and those who come to learn more. I don't have a date yet but it would probably be sometime in July this time. Cheers.

- A lot of the garden Moths would've been missed altogether if it wasn't for my Wife, who on the days where my work hrs mean I'm not there first thing, is up at silly-o'clock covering the trap, checking the fences and potting whatever isn't inside. A fair few of the decent records were down to Mrs K potting stuff at 3.30am before the sun comes up, so thank you Missus!

- Also to our Son, who at 10yrs old is pretty keen with a net and potted his fair share too. We played Moth-hangman recently and he stumped me with 'Agonopterix arenella'!..there was me expecting something like 'Brimstone'!!


Well done if you made it this far(!) and thanks for reading. Let's see what 2019 brings!