Thursday 27 September 2018

Deri Woods Moth & Bat Event

With a week of unsettled, stormy weather it was good to see a calm dry forecast for Saturday night though temperatures we’re looking a little cool. The forecast was spot on with overcast conditions but a chill in the air. This was a joint event with the Montgomeryshire Wildlife Trust who were providing a bat walk for visitors. Dan, from the Trust said this of the event:

'The ‘moth-ers’ made sure to get in early and set up a mix of traps, including a white sheet and UV traps, placed in a variety of open and closed woodland, and alongside the river (caddisflies were not in short supply…) While we waited for the skies to darken, attendees brushed up on their bat knowledge by guessing true or false to some batty facts and running around, as well as having a go at being a bat or a moth by playing the ‘echolocation game’! Play was cut short once the first bats started flitting about, which continued to be heard on the bat detectors as we spent the remainder of the evening delicately trapping a variety of ‘worn carpets’ and other marbled dusty delights in plastic pots, and diligently bringing them forth to ‘the lab’ for identification and recording. A fantastic night was had by all, particularly as it stayed miraculously bone-dry all evening!’

Just before starting the moth traps at 7:30pm, the gap in the trees above us was being bisected by several pipistrelle bats, a good sign insects were out and about.

A quick chat to the assembled visitors, including a handful of kids, about moths and the traps we had set up, they were all immediately attracted to the white sheet with their pots at the ready. It wasn’t long before the first few moths were potted, with Red-green Carpet and Barred Sallow being the first. The intricately marked Brick was soon brought back from the white sheet and then our youngest visitor brought back ‘the big one’, a nice Copper Underwing agg. 

Not just moths attracted to light
There was a decent selection of autumnal moths caught including Yellow-line Quaker, Red-line Quaker, Chestnut and the aforementioned Brick and Barred Sallow. The latter species was potted several times and though was the only sallow of the night, it did provide its two colour forms as shown in the field guide. A stunning Canary-shouldered Thorn helped brighten up the evening and wow the crowd.
Barred Sallow - two colour forms
Carpets were further represented by Green, Common Marbled and Spruce Carpets, but it was noctuids that continued to be found. A Dark Chestnut was a nice find, and despite the photo it was heard to be quoted as the best looking Dark Chestnut they’d ever seen. But its not easy photographing moths in the dark.

Dark Chestnut
Micros were unsurprisingly thin on the ground given the cool temperatures with just 3 caught – Acleris laterana, Ypsolopha parenthesella and Pandemis cerasana. Around 10pm it was felt the temperatures had dropped sufficiently that the number of moths had completely diminished, traps along the riverside path having not claiming a single moth throughout the night. However, perhaps the most interesting moth was briefly spotted while packing up, a small bright red-brown fluttering moth landed at the base of a tree and as it continued to flutter its wings a white spot on each wing could be seen, a male Vapourer! The attempt to swipe it with a net was too slow and it was quickly off into the darkness.

So a total of 21 species (full list here) wasn’t too bad given the cool conditions and a nice way to finish this year’s season of events with some very enthusiastic kids and of course some of Sue’s cake!

Finally, a big thank you to all those involved in this year’s events. Specific thanks to Douglas for arranging the timetable and locations, Peter for keeping an eye on the new team as we found our feet and to everyone who joined us at the eight events across the county! 

Happy Autumn moth-ing!

Thursday 20 September 2018

Third in the series of 'One to Look out for' - the Scarce Bordered Straw

As we leave our hot summer well behind us and drift into the autumn, we find ourselves looking for potential migrant species, especially during those milder spells of weather. This brings us nicely onto our third in our series 'one to look out for', and this time I'm focusing on the Scarce Bordered Straw a species which has only been recorded at three sites in Montgomeryshire during the past ten years and a total of just 16 records in our database.

Scarce Bordered Straw recorded at Commins Coch in October 2011

The Scarce Bordered Straw is as I've already said a migrant species, therefore numbers are like to fluctuate quite wildly each year depending on the weather. It's mainly a coastal species, but can be found inland as well. It has been recorded in every month of the year in the UK as a whole, but in Montgomeryshire it has only been found from mid August to late October. There are currently no records of it breeding in the county, but it has rarely been known to breed in other parts of the UK from adults which arrive early in the season.  The known food plants in the UK are, are Scarlet Geranium, Tree Mallow and Yellow Rattle.

Scarce Bordered Straw

Scarce bordered Straw

The two Scarce Bordered Straw photos above were taken from two moths recorded at Cors Dyfi during an MMG event in August 2006.

The Scarce Bordered Straw is in fact quite a variable species in appearance as the images above clearly show, but there are only two species which it could be confused with, so confusion should be at a minimum. The Bordered Straw, of which we only have one record in the database and the Eastern Bordered Straw, of which we don't have any records, are the two species in question.

So please try to keep your traps going during mild spells of the autumn and this uncommon species may well pay you a visit.


Monday 10 September 2018

Ultraviolet Lepidoptera.

Since my night-clubbing days many moons ago I have often wondered what our British moths and caterpillars may look like when subjected to "black" ultraviolet light, in particular those which appear to have some form of luminosity already, such as the Elephant Hawk Moth, or striking patterns with white such as the Garden Tiger.

Browsing this thought on the internet a few days ago I came across a website by a Canadian guy - Brian Robin from Ontario who has recently looked into this and has the studio equipment to experiment and photograph the results.

He mainly focuses on caterpillars as this caught his attention first. Nonetheless, I found his site very readable, interesting and entertaining.  Well worth a read.

He also delves into macro photography of thin ice formation and light refraction (Birefringence), which I also found quite fascinating!

Does anyone out there know if UV light has been tried on moths/caterpillars in this country? I would love to see the results.

Phil McGregor.

Wednesday 5 September 2018

Coed Y Dinas event report

Our penultimate event of the year was at Coed Y Dinas the MWT (Montgomeryshire Wildlife Trust) wildfowl reserve near Welshpool. We have trapped here fairly regularly over recent years and found it to be an all round very good site so, we had high hopes that it would be a productive evening.

The two days preceding the event had been mostly overcast and the night time temperatures had been holding up well, so it was very good to see the same weather on Saturday evening, in fact, it was perfect mothing conditions with the minimum temperature not falling below 16.6c.

Those of us with kit were on site by 7:00pm and the traps were set up along all the footpaths. Before they were switched on we all did some dusking with the nets and a fair amount of species, especially micros, were netted - these included Epinotia tenerana, Lathronympha strigana, Acleris variegana, Celypha lacunana and Yponomeuta cagnagella; then the traps were fired up by 8:30pm.

The white sheet
Even as the last glimmer of evening light was melting away, filled pots were coming in thick and fast to the table, species included Common Carpet, Snout, Devon Carpet, Heart & Dart, Setaceous Hebrew Character, and a cracking Bulrush Wainscot. The micros didn't slow down either: Pyrausta purpuralis, Pandemis corylana, Epinotia nisella and a very nice Ypsolopha sequella.

Head shot of a Feathered Gothic
Bulrush Wainscot
Ypsolopha sequella
As darkness descended Trisha turned up with a box containing about a hundred micro moths which she wanted to run past me to id what I could. So, I had Trish's moths on one side of me and lots of moths coming in from the event, on the other side, all needing to be id'd; to say things got a tad hectic at the table would be rather an understatement, but, I ploughed my way through and kept going somehow although my brain was rather addled by the end of the evening!

A selection of species in one of the egg trays
Including; Large Yellow Underwing, Copper Underwing Agg. Flame, Flame Shoulder
and a Hornet (top left)
This site has been known to attract hornets at past events and we weren't to miss out on this wonderful insect on this occasion either. They were coming to the readily to the white sheet and especially to the trap which was set up in the meadow, in fact, they were attacking and eating some of the moths and it was in this trap that we found the wings of an Old Lady (moth that is) - there should have been a sign saying 'handle with care' when checking through this trap!

One of the Hornets
By mid-evening macros were still coming in in good numbers, these included: Centre Barred Sallow, Straw Dot, Sallow, Canary-shouldered Thorn, Barred Sallow, Clay Triple-lines, Brown-spot Pinion and Dusky Thorn. The micros also were also still very active: Clepsis spectrana, Hypatima rhombiodella, Acleris rhombana, Cataclysta lemnata and an excellent Prays ruficeps all came to the table.
Brown-spot Pinion
Barred Sallow
Clay Triple-lines
As it drew towards midnight moth activity was on the wain, so it was decided that we should start packing up. Final species added to the list included: Yellow Shell, Angle Shades and a rather nice Acleris forsskaleana. For a full species list please click here.

Acleris forsskaleana
The only migrant species of the night was the Silver Y.  
Silver Y
Many thanks to members of the 'events team' for doing an excellent job as always, and thanks to Gavin for taking the photos, and to Paul (standing in for Sue) for supplying us all with a selection of biscuits during the evening.