Friday, 15 February 2019

A hole lot of success!

School run mothing - February 13, 2019

Nature is all around us; all we need to do is learn where to look. I've always had a keen interest in moths but over the last couple of years I have become more serious in the science of recording them,  especially the early stages. Indeed,  in some cases the early stages are easier to find than the adults which might not visit light traps often. Eggs, caterpillars and chrysalises may be found by examining the food plant or suitable habitat. Sometimes the presence a species can be determined by simply observing the signs left by feeding or pupating.

Last winter I made a half-hearted attempt at finding signs of the Tortrid moth, the Pine Cone Piercer, Cydia conicolana.  The moth leaves an exit hole in a pine cone as it emerges. The tiny hole,  around 1mm in diameter, can be seen quite easily and so it's just a case of finding a tree where the moths occur and checking cones.  Easy!  Well,  maybe not. With only a few records of this moth in Suffolk,  some may have considered it a hopeless task but I decided to have another try this year.  Every Wednesday we walk through a cemetery on the way to play group with the kids.  It's quiet and peaceful and full of nature. There are also a few Scots Pine trees scattered throughout. Each week I ask the kids to bring me as many pine cones as possible for me to check. Week in, week out. No joy. 

This week was no different.  The kids asked if I would show them the bagworms again; we'd been looking at the Luffia lapidella cases the week before.  Then I asked them to collect some pine cones. I checked dozens without success although I did find some curious holes in a pine stem... hopefully further investigation will identify the culprit. 

Later the same day, having failed in my quest to find conicolana at the cemetery,  I entered my children's school grounds and as always,  picked up a couple of fallen cones from the path.  No conicolana.  My youngest comes out first and we normally make it to the car before my eldest catches up. Today I bumped into a couple of friends and ended up delayed enough for Nathan to catch up with us before we'd left the playground.  Walking up the path beside the Pine trees, while idly chit-chatting about what the kids had done that day (there was much excitement about a visit that day by the local fire brigade), I casually asked Nathan to pick up some cones for me to check to save my knees.  He picked up three and handed one to me with a withering look of "what's the point? We've looked at so many".  It was at that moment I saw it.... a tiny little hole. Small but perfectly formed. The unmistakable sign left by an adult Cydia conicolana as it exited the cone last year. Proof of breeding and a sign of a possible resident population. And here it is....


Exit hole of Cydia conicolana 
So. Success indeed.  This isn't the first time I have gone looking for evidence of a moth in an area with few or no previous records.  I seriously doubt that the number of Cydia conicolana records give a true representation of its status.  They simply have to be more widespread than records show.... Indeed, buoyed by the success of finding one, I carried on searching for more.  The result?  A new site already!  Refusing to give up searching in the local cemetery, we were walking back from the beach this morning (15.2.19) and I targeted 2 different Pine trees.  I recently read that they are more likely to be found under lone Pines in full sunshine.  These two trees looked perfect and so I began a quick search.


The two Pines
Within minutes I had found a cone with 2 exit holes.  Although this cone is older and not as neat, I am confident that I have found evidence that Cydia conicolana is more widespread than previously thought.


The second cone 
My next objective is to find further cones from these two locations before moving on to, hopefully, find even more sites.  Maybe there are suitable looking Pines near you.  If so, spend a couple of minutes every time you pass it and you too could find this seldom-seen moth. 

Sunday, 10 February 2019

You Beauty!

Dunwich - 9 February 2019

With a second opportunity in just three days to get out into the field, we decided to try a new area near Dunwich. The area of woodland is made up of mainly coniferous trees with some Oak, Birch and Elm along the rides.  This time of year is better in more deciduous woodland but we thought we'd give it a go anyway.  

To maximise our chances we set up with two 125w mercury vapour lights and two of our 20w Wemlites.  The Wemlites were the first to bring in moths with a few Tortricodes alternella and a Pale Brindled Beauty early on.  

Torticodes alternella

Torticodes alternella group

Pale Brindled Beauty - Phigalia pilosaria

Once set up,  we went off with our torches to check some tree trunks.  Unlike Thursday night when we found dozens of Chestnuts, Spring Usher and Pale Brindled Beauties, this time we only located a couple of Chestnuts.  However,  we did stumble across a superb Violet Ground-beetle.



Violet Ground Beetle

The Chestnut - Conistra vaccinii 

After a couple of hours and just Acleris ferrugana/notana added to the list, we started to pack up.  With only the MV on the tripod left, the final moth of the session plonked itself onto the white sheet... an immaculate Pine Beauty!  A slow and steady session ended with the best moth of the year so far.






Pine Beauty - Panolis flammea

Acleris ferrugana/notana


On the way home we stopped at a public toilet block by the side of the A12 to look for moths.  With lights left on all night, there are often moths on the walls and around the doorways.  Although Peter had checked there earlier in the day and found nothing from the previous night, there were a couple of Pale Brindled Beauties and an Early Moth by 8pm.  A visit the following morning produced two Spring Ushers and a Dotted Border.


Dotted Border - Agriopis marginaria
Spring Usher - Agriopis leucophaearia
Early Moth - Theria primaria




Friday, 8 February 2019

Down to the Woods!

Jubilee Covert - 7 February 2019

We kick-started the field trip season with a rather productive trip to some l local woods on Thursday night, 7th February.

With a small window available between my normal after-school activities and a predicted change in weather,  Peter picked me up with a car full of traps, generators and moth-ing paraphernalia and we headed for some woods near Frostenden. 

Although it was already dark,  setting up wasn't too difficult as we had decided to deploy just 2 of our homemade traps with the 20W Wemlite bulbs. While we were setting up the traps, moths were already being attracted to our head torches which fueled our optimism.

First moths in and around the traps were Pale Brindled Beauty and Tortricodes alternella,  the latter being a first for Peter and my first for a few years. 


Pale Brindled Beauty - Phigalia pilsaria

Tortricodes alternella

Within seconds of lighting up the first trap, Spring Ushers were flying around us and a few were netted and placed in the trap for looking at later.  We deployed the second trap further up the track and returned to base where we took a few moments to grab a coffee and organise the pots.  Very quickly we noticed some Chestnuts in their usual positions of being low down on the narrow, smooth-barked trees. In total we counted over 60 Chestnuts using torches, scanning the most likely trees for the reflections of their eyes in the beams.


The Chestnut - Conistra vaccinii


As we searched the tree trunks, we found a newly emerged moth climbing up a small tree.  Although its wings were still wet and floppy, they were fully pumped up and I could tell it was a Dotted Border; a new species for 2019.  We left it in peace to dry its wings and continued our search.  


Dotted Border - Agriopis marginaria

Trunking also produced some more Spring Usher, Pale Brindled Beauty and some Dark Chestnuts while a couple of Psyche casta were found back at base on the trunks of mature Oaks.


Dotted Border - Agriopis marginaria

Dotted Border - Agriopis marginaria

Spring Usher - Agriopis leucophaearia


Spring Usher - Agriopis leucophaearia

A very respectable 109 moths of 7 different species in little over 90 minutes! Not bad at all for February!

The full List:

The Chestnut - 63
Dark Chestnut - 3
Pale Brindled Beauty - 9
Dotted Border - 5
Spring Usher - 20
Tortricodes alternella - 7
 Psyche casta - 2 

Saturday, 26 January 2019

Happy New Mothing!

And so it begins!


Last year was fantastic with nearly 13000 records between the two of us with 692 species recorded in our gardens and on field trips.

As always, January has been slow to get going as far as adults go; Winter Moths, the occasional Light Brown Apple Moth and a few Early Moths scattered around the monitored sites.  The most surprising find of the year so far was a lovely Pale Pinion found by one of my 20watt Wemlite garden traps on 6th January.  It is a hibernating species but can be found in milder weather.

Pale Pinion - Lithophane socia


A much smaller hibernating moth at home came in the form of a Mompha subbistrigella which turned up in my office on 23rd January.
Mompha subbistrigella


Lastly, a Psychoides filicivora emerged from a piece of Harts Tongue fern which I brought in a few weeks ago
 Psychoides filicivora


For the next couple of days I am visiting relatives in Surrey.  Of course, I have brought my trap with me for a rare opportunity to trap near woodland.  So far I have a Pale Brindled Beauty and a Spring Usher

 Pale Brindled Beauty- Phigalia pilosaria


Spring Usher - Agriopis leucophaearia


The next week or so look much colder again so I expect another dearth of moths.  For the time being it is back to searching for mines and early stages until the weather warms up again.  
Species List so far in 2019. 22 species recorded so far.  Here's a quick summary:

Taxon
Vernacular
Records
Individuals
Coptotriche marginea
a moth
1
2
Luffia ferchaultella
a moth
2
8
Bucculatrix thoracella
a moth
1
10
Phyllonorycter messaniella
a moth
3
2
Phyllonorycter leucographella
Firethorn Leaf Miner
5
292
Phyllonorycter maestingella
a moth
1
2
Stigmella tityrella
a moth
1
3
Stigmella aurella
a moth
6
21
Ectoedemia septembrella
a moth
1
2
Ectoedemia heringella
a moth
3
0
Mompha subbistrigella
a moth
1
1
Emmelina monodactyla
Common Plume
1
2
Epiphyas postvittana
Light Brown Apple Moth
3
4
Enarmonia formosana
Cherry Bark Tortrix
1
1
Operophtera brumata
Winter Moth
11
68
Phigalia pilosaria
Pale Brindled Beauty
1
1
Erannis defoliaria
Mottled Umber
3
3
Theria primaria
Early Moth
2
2
Eilema lurideola
Common Footman
1
1
Phlogophora meticulosa
Angle Shades
2
2
Lithophane socia
Pale Pinion
1
1
Noctua pronuba
Large Yellow Underwing
2
2



Roll on Spring!