Moth moments

Within the space of a few days several moth-related happenings have occurred, even without looking at any actual live moths. I’ve barely scratched the surface of exploring the world of moths, and until I went on my first ever moth trapping exercise at last year’s Gatwick wildlife recording day and a subsequent evening at Goat Meadow, my only moth interactions were with a few I’d come across during the day time or which had wandered into the house.

Cover of British MothsHowever, those two evenings led by Jake Everitt at Gatwick stirred my interest, not least since there’s such a large number of species, and because many of them are spectacularly beautiful. So, rather late in the season I joined the Sussex Moth Group, and started reading some books over the winter. Then, a few days ago I acquired the gorgeous new edition of Chris Manley’s British Moths.[1] It is a very lovely work, containing over 2000 species, over half of which are the micros, of course. Importantly, it includes distribution maps for most species, as well as pictures of many of the leaf mines. Illustrated with photos, sometimes several of a single species, it gives a great ‘real world’ illustration of what the species (may) look like. The species descriptions are perhaps a little brief, but that is reasonable given the space available in a single volume, but all the important stuff is there. British Moths is published by Bloomsbury, whose natural history list is quite wonderful. They have also just acquired British Wildlife Publishing, so this book sits perfectly alongside the two Field Guides, with their beautiful illustrations drawn by Richard Lewington and their longer descriptive text.[2]

Now, an email arrived this morning from Wendy Alexander of the Sussex Moth Group, which made me start browsing the group’s website. I couldn’t help but notice the map on the home page showing that my home square (TQ43) is one of those relatively under-recorded (ie 365 species, and 306 since 2000).

Sussex moth species mapRemembering that I have some unsubmitted records, I thought it might be prudent to send them off, just in case they might be useful. All I’ve done in the past has been to photograph moths when I found them in daylight and post them on iSpot when I couldn’t identify them (as was most often the case). In the end there were 53 records, almost all of which had a fairly likely species identification from a wide range of iSpot users.

Picture of Elephant Hawk-moth (Deilephila elpenor)

Elephant Hawk-moth (Deilephila elpenor)

Picture of Flame Shoulder (Ochropleura plecta)

Flame Shoulder (Ochropleura plecta)

So, I sent them off to Colin Pratt, the county recorder, and was then slightly surprised to get a mail back from him containing the phrases “highly interesting list of moths” and “some very important records”. I then started looking at the current distribution maps on the SMG website for each, and noticed that, though most of them were of course quite common and well recorded (such as Brown Silver-line (Petrophora chlorosata), Flame Shoulder (Ochropleura plecta) and the micro Pyrausta purpuralis), there were others which, though fairly common are somewhat under-recorded and didn’t have a recent record in TQ43, such as the micro moth Plain Gold (Micropterix calthella) which I found feeding on sedge in a wet wood, the indoor visitor Brown House Moth (Hofmannophila pseudospretella), and some leaf mines such as those of Nut Leaf Blister Moth (Phyllonorycter coryli), Apple Leaf Miner (Lyonetia clerkella) and the Horse-Chestnut Leaf-miner (Cameraria ohridella).

Picture of Large Ranunculus (Polymixis flavicincta)

Large Ranunculus (Polymixis flavicincta)

That was quite nice, and I could surmise that some of these may well be under-recorded if they are mostly in evidence from leaf mines, which some of my records were, or a few day-flying micro moths.

Picture of Mine of Horse-Chestnut Leaf-miner (Cameraria ohridella)

Mine of Horse-Chestnut Leaf-miner (Cameraria ohridella)

However, Colin later mailed me again saying “The most important records are of your Little Thorn (in serious decline, with just half a dozen known Sussex colonies left), Grass Wave (in danger of extinction in Sussex), and the [Prochoreutis] myllerana (second all-Sussex record this century).”

Picture of Little Thorn (Cepphis advenaria)

Little Thorn (Cepphis advenaria)

Current distribution map of Little Thorn (Cepphis advenaria)

Current distribution map of Little Thorn (Cepphis advenaria)

Picture of Grass Wave (Perconia strigillaria)

Grass Wave (Perconia strigillaria)

I was somewhat staggered. That wasn’t a bad haul for such a small number of records, most of which were as a result of walking the dog on the fringes of the Ashdown Forest Golf Club; indeed, these last three were all found on the fringes of one particular pond. It just goes to show that (as I’ve noted before) even a little bit of non-expert recording can uncover some valuable finds. Now armed with my new book I’ll see if I can more consistently identify some of them myself…

Picture of Prochoreutis myllerana

Prochoreutis myllerana (Nationally Scarce B)

 

[1] Manley, Chris. British Moths: A photographic guide to the moths of Britain and Ireland. London: Bloomsbury, 2015.

[2] Waring, Paul and Martin Townsend. Field Guide to the Moths of Great Britain and Ireland. Gillingham: British Wildlife Publishing, 2009; and Sterling, Phil and Mark Parson. Field Guide to the Micro moths of Great Britain and Ireland. Gillingham: British Wildlife Publishing, 2012.

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One thought on “Moth moments

  1. Great stuff, I recently got into moths myself and have purchased a light trap and ID guide, coincidentally I live in Crawley not far from Gatwick and have been recording moths caught in my garden – nothing quite as special as what you found yet but any record is useful in what is as you say an under-recorded area. You’re welcome to take a peak at my blog @ http://wildlifeandwords.com/

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