Sunday 15 November 2020

VC47 butterfly updates

Bit of butterfly news: I have now processed all of the 2019 data (which included a large number of historic records, a lot of which were from Lake Vyrnwy). Thank you to everyone who sent me records directly, on iRecord, or via Peter.


We now have 33,400 records of 42 species in the database. There were two additions: Brown Hairstreak records (from the 1970s in two sites in the Dovey Valley, raising the exciting prospect that this secretive species may well still be present) and also Scarce Swallowtail records from a plant nursery from near Welshpool (adventive).

I plan to update my digital atlas in early 2021 once the 2020 data is in. This is much needed as there are now several new additions to the VC47 list since the previous update (including Essex Skipper) and many changes in distributions (including recent Marbled White records in the south of the county). Please do send any records from either this year or any previous years to my email (though feel free to wait until the New Year in case of any late sightings): email contact on sidebar. Remember records of all species are welcome and needed! As the maps show, much of the county is very under-recorded.

Saturday 14 November 2020

5th. In the series ‘One to look out for’, the Northern Winter Moth

Over the past couple of years, I have been highlighting some species found in Montgomeryshire in the 'one to look out for' series, which are either uncommon or are confused with other species, today I’m looking at the rather elusive Northern Winter Moth.

The Northern Winter moth is definitely a species which is overlooked by moth-ers in general, either because of its flight season, which as its name suggests is a winter flying species, secondly because it’s often confused with the Winter Moth and finally it is generally much more uncommon than the Winter Moth here in Montgomeryshire, therefore you normally have to put in a bit more effort in to record it. In the past ten years it has only been recorded at seven sites in Montgomeryshire, but I think this figure could be significantly increased with more recording. 

There are some subtle differences between the two species which I’ll outline here and these should help you to separate the two species with a fairly high degree of certainty.

                                        Northern Winter Moth - Operophtera fagata

                                               Winter Moth - Operophtera brumata

As can be seen from the two images above (only the males are shown for this comparison, the females only have vestigial wings and therefore can’t fly) the Northern Winter Moth (top) is somewhat larger than the Winter Moth (bottom) with a more tapered forewing, it is also paler with more fine markings and has a general silky sheen to the eye.

It’s on the wing from late October until December and the males are attracted to light traps. When the females emerge they will just climb up the nearest tree or bush, release their irresistible pheromones and wait for a male to come along and mate with her. Eggs are laid on the foodplant where they  overwinter until they hatch in the spring. The larvae feed on a number of deciduous tree species which include; Birch, Alder, Beech and has also been found on some fruit trees; Apple, Plum and Cherry. It’s found in various habitats, such as woodland, heathland and gardens. It pupates underground.