Monday 18 May 2020

Lockdown Life

Hello All
I have found my moth trap here in N.Wales to be fairly quiet recently so in order to add some variety I thought I might create some moths of my own.
One of my hobbies is woodwork and in the past I have carved several bird species which can take a long long time depending on its complexity. So I thought I would try downsizing and spent a week creating some moths. I chose relatively large species obviously and started with a tracing on a block of limewood. 

 They were then cut out on the bandsaw and carved into shape. The garden tiger moth had too much wood removed accidentally and so resulted in a smaller muslin moth!!
 Legs and antennae were formed from wire. The moths were then sealed and given a coat of white gesso before painting. 

 An image of the underside of the eyed hawkmoth proved difficult to find and thank you Peter for trawling through your photographic library.

Finally a visit to the firewood pile provided a suitable branch on which to  mount them.
 Some more dust collectors in the living room!

So if you find yourself with too much time on your hands all  you need is a block of wood.

Take care and stay safe everyone


Friday 1 May 2020

Mine of the Month – May

This is the first 'Mine of the Month'. For details of the challenge see the previous introductory post.

This month's challenge is to find Eriocrania sangii, a leaf miner on birch. Here's the MMG species page. We currently only have one county record for this species (an adult seen at an MMG event at Hafren Forest) but it's likely to be under-recorded.

An adult Eriocrania sangii. Like most of this group, these are hard to identify
as adults (even by dissection) so it's much easier to record them as leaf mines.

We have six species of Eriocrania in the UK and all of these are found on birch (a point will be rewarded for finding any of these). Four of these species have been recorded in Montgomeryshire (but all six have been recorded in North Wales so there's the possibility of finding a new county record!).

Eriocranias make large blotch mines, which often take up much of the leaf (so are relatively easy to spot!). The larvae typically produce untidy, spaghetti-like frass. Here's a key for the birch Eriocranias. The first important feature is whether the mine begins at the edge of the leaf, or away from the leaf edge. You can work out the start point of the mine as the early mine is a narrow corridor (or 'gallery'), which later widens to form the large blotch. The early mine is often absorbed by the blotch but usually remains visible. In the photo below, the early corridor is visible running down along the leaf edge from the tip.

Eriocrania sangii mine. Image: Janet Graham

Two species start away from the leaf edge: E. salopiella and E. sparrmannella (however, the latter does not appear until later in the year). The remaining species all start at the leaf edge. If multiple larvae are within a single mine it's E. cicatricella. The remaining three species all have a single larva per mine: E.sangii, E. semipurpurella and E. unimaculella.

Eriocrania sangii is easily distinguished by its slate grey larva (all other Eriocrania larvae are white).
The distinctive grey larva of E. sangii. Image: Janet Graham.

A tip: smaller, seedling birches can often be more productive for leaf-mines, and different species can show preferences for different sized trees.

This is a somewhat difficult one for the first 'Mine of the Month' (others will be easier, I promise!) and this is why a point will be given to finding any one of the six Eriocrania species. At this time of the year, there's a fairly limited selection of active miners to pick from. Most leaf miners are summer-flying (so the mines appear a bit later in the year); however, the Eriocranias are typically on the wing in March and April, which is why the mines can be found from now.

Do get in touch if you want any help with ID.

Happy hunting!


Update 07/05/20: With two new county records as a result of this challenge (E. unimaculella, Lake Vyrnwy, GBC and E. ciratricella, Middletown Hill, CBo), all six species have now been recorded in VC47!

Mine of the Month – an introduction

Hi all,

Julie had the excellent idea of starting a monthly challenge to find a specific species of leaf mine. At the start of each month, I'll post details of a leaf miner to look out for (here on the blog and also on the MMG Facebook group). A 'leaf mine treasure hunt', if you like. Every confirmed 'Mine of the Month' find equals a point and whoever gets the most points at the end of the year wins a 'virtual prize'! (don't get too excited!)

It should be good fun and, of course, will help to improve recording coverage of leaf-mines. I'm sure Peter will be thrilled to receive any resulting records. Leaf mines are a great way to find new species: I've recorded about 60 species of moth miners at my garden in Middletown. So keep an eye out and record any other mines you come across too! Some useful resources (including plant-specific keys) are and (which despite the name covers moth mines too).

It goes without saying that you should follow current government advice on Covid-19, i.e. only search for leaf mines in your garden, or at local sites as part of your daily exercise.

Get in touch with me via email, or on the Facebook group, to let me know how you get on with the challenge, or if you need any ID help. Please also remember to add any sightings to your records in the usual way to send to Peter at the end of the year. I will provide an update on how people have got on and a points tally with the following month's challenge.