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Llanymynech Moth Night

Llanymynech Heritage Centre

The Stables – Educational Room

It’s July 12th, 2012 and along with County Butterfly and Moth Recorder, Tony Jacques, I was asked by Dr Gareth Parry – Community Biodiversity Project Officer for Shropshire Council to present a Moth Identification Session to help and inspire newcomers to our beautiful, mostly nocturnal, insects. Following that we then ran a live moth-trapping session which members of the public were invited to help pot-up, identify and record all the moths that came into the 4 traps we operated between 9pm and midnight.

This was Gareth collecting eggs from the Heritage Centre resident hens and blowing bubbles at the same time! Actually, that’s rain on the camera lens and the egg boxes are used in the traps for the moths to settle down in but I just couldn’t resist it!

The evening proved to be a little damp with intermittent but mainly light showers which fortunately didn’t have a particularly adverse effect on our moth count – in fact many species seemed to be enjoying the damp, rather humid, conditions and some interesting results transpired.

For example between us we recorded 3 of this lovely woodland species – Aethes rubigana – the larvae of which feed on the seeds of Burdock. Although designated ‘common’ in England and Wales it was the first time I had seen it – so that’s a first for me!

The top two macro’s (larger moths) of the night represented 2 of the most colourful and delicate that appear this time of year. Both belonging to the group known as Geometrids.

We had 39 x Brimstone moth

And 13 x Swallow-tailed Moth

Another first for me was this Muslin Footman which turned up in Tony’s Robinson trap

The top Ten macros and micros for the night were:-

Brimstone Moth
Garden Grass-veneer (micro)
Dipleurina lacustrata (micro)
Swallow-tailed Moth
Riband Wave [non-banded form]
Large Yellow Underwing
July Highflyer
Heart and Dart
Double Square-spot
Agapeta hamana (micro)

One of the uncommon micros found in Shropshire was Piniphila bifasciana of which there are only around 12 records for the county since records began 150 years ago.

There are a similar number for another micro found on the night:-

Epinotia subocellana

All in all we identified a total of 259 individuals across 62 species which was quite a good result and endemic to the wonderful mixed habitat found around the Llanymynech Heritage Centre where I must give a special thanks to Joan Zorn for organising the Stables for the presentation and laying on tea and biscuits (or were the biscuits Gareth’s?).

As we were wrapping up at just before midnight I was running the final counts in my Skinner trap with its 125w Mercury Vapour lamp and discovered this beautiful moth resting in an egg box cell

The Peach Blossom larvae feed on bramble so the moth is most likely to be found wherever there are good supplies of its foodplant but the adult particularly likes light woodland and once again the Llanymynech Heritage Area fits the bill perfectly.

All things considered the results were widely varied across species giving us quite a diverse species count – so a successful night in which we hope the small nucleus of people who turned up for both the presentation and the moth-trapping also found the event of great interest.

If you would like a full list of the moths we recorded please click the link below to download the Excel file. Click on any of the Code Numbers in the first column and it will display a picture and short bio of that particular moth.

Download File

Thanks to all who helped to organise the event and a special thanks to all who turned up on a somewhat wet night to witness the spectacle that I know as ‘The Magic of Moths’

Paul Watts

The Novers Moth Night Public Event + Fungus Foray

What a fabulous Friday night September 23rd, 2011 turned out to be!

We – the Wrekin Forest Volunteers Moth Group (The WuFuV MuGs!) – were invited along to run a moth night which was a public event hosted by Glynn & Sue Barratt along with Jan Vail and many others too numerous to mention in this short post.

I think the organisers were a little concerned that no-one would turn up. They needn’t have worried – I counted 35 at one stage. I’m guessing it was the camp fire, rabbit stew, mulled cider and pleasant company that enticed many along but nevertheless everyone showed an interest in the fluttery things as night descended and moths started to arrive in the traps.

The Novers is 30 acres of mixed woodland owned by The Titterstone Clee Heritage Trust and includes a disused limestone quarry. It’s proving to be a fascinating area to explore as hands-on organiser Glynn Barratt encourages various groups to come along and discover what’s lurking!

Tony Jacques (Shropshire County Moth Recorder) and I had previously ran moth traps in April and August 2011 as surveys for the trust and were keen to return for a third visit. The numbers and species recorded on this night were greater and better than the previous surveys, aided by the fact that 4 of the 5 traps ran right through the night until dawn on Saturday. The count for the night across all traps was 234 individuals across 48 different species.

At least one person at the event had a terrible moth phobia. Jan explained that one of the reasons for her attending was to face her foes and try to rationalise her phobia. I encouraged her to take a closer look at some of the beautifully coloured moths that were arriving. With trepidation and much hesitance she slowly started to get a little closer. That’s Jan on the left. She eventually held a moth in her hand (albeit inside a clear plastic pot!) but she felt she’d achieved quite a lot and in fact Jan thanked me the next morning  for helping her on the first stage to understanding why she has such a deep-rooted fear and how she can, hopefully, find a way forward from here.  So, I’m sure, very soon there’ll be moths flying freely through her bedroom window with nothing but enthusiastic adoration from Jan. We’ll see!

In talks and presentations that I do around the county I usually meet one or two people (not always ladies I hasten to add!) who have similar fears. I think by showing them that moths are not all horrid brown furry things, and indeed many are more colourful than some of their cousins the butterflies, they come to realise that their fear of moths and often, surprisingly, their simultaneous love of butterflies is irrational. But who am I to speak? I have a deep-rooted fear of dogs – but then they do have a tendency to run straight up to me and either bowl me over or just take a chunk out of my leg or sometimes both! You don’t get that with moths!

Onwards…

The star of the night in terms of moths was undoubtably the fabulous Merveille du Jour – always a treat when they turn up this time of the year. On this night there was just one that came to visit Tony’s trap.

It’s a moth that’s not uncommon but isn’t often seen which sounds like a bit of a contradiction but the fact is you’re unlikely to see it unless you have a light source in or near woodland. The adult female lays her eggs on the branches or in bark crevices of oak trees which overwinter and then hatch as caterpillars in April-June. After pupation they emerge as these really colourful adults in September/October.

There were also a couple of unusual ones and in fact two that were new to me. One of these was a variant of a Noctuid moth – The Sallow – which is quite common this time of year but not so the variant.

I managed to trap a singleton of each in each of my two traps.

                  

The Sallow                            variant Form flavescens

The Barred Fruit-tree Tortrix is again – not at all uncommon – but one that I just hadn’t recorded previously. Seen it a couple of times before, but not in my trap! So this counts as a first for me!

Tony managed to trap another micro which was scarcer with, according to my records, only 4 previous sightings in the county and that was the rather striking Ypsolopha sequella:-

A couple of the more colourful noctuids also arrived – Frosted Orange and Brimstone.

We sat around the campfire exchanging stories which included the US climate satellite which was crashing to earth sometime during the night,  location unknown. We looked to the skies and hoped it wasn’t about to land at The Novers, especially as 3 of the moth crew were camping over.

Glynn then related the numerous accounts of sightings of a prowling big cat – the infamous black panther apparently seen in this very wood by a local resident. Tales of lamb carcasses being found high up in trees and huge footprints embedded in mud made us all listen intently. What was that noise? A twig being broken under foot? Did anyone else see that low black shadow through the undergrowth? Oh well… time for bed!

Despite all this, we slept well in our little tents and in fact Les and I – normally awake and emptying the traps at dawn, both slept through till 8:15am! Liz was already up but slept well too. No sign of space debris or hungry black cats looking for – well… looking for anything at all to eat!

We emptied the traps, did our final ID’s and then joined John Hughes from the Shropshire Wildlife Trust for a fascinating Fungus Foray. A member of the moth crew is also a fungus expert and has led similar events himself, and that’s Les Hughes who shares the same surname as John but they’re not related apparently.

This was an oyster fungus which John explained is usually edible but the fact that this one was growing on yew probably makes it poisonous as it would have absorbed the toxins from the tree. You really do have to be careful with these things don’t you?

And some that look quite appetising can taste pretty revolting as Claire discovered as she sampled a tiny piece of Sulphur Tuft!

A total of 26 different species of fungi were found which was impressive given that lack of rain has meant for a very low appearance this year and some fungus events have even been cancelled as a result! Please let me know if you would like a copy of the list created by fellow WuFuV Les Hughes.

On my stroll around I couldn’t help capturing this image of a handsome Hawthorn Shieldbug

And this pretty-looking Harvestman Mitopus morio

All-in-all, an excellent night and morning spent with moth-ers, fungi folk and people who just enjoy being in the woods in early autumn.

Thanks again to all who participated and maybe we can do it all again next year?

Paul Watts

PS. Enjoy the slideshow…

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Last Night’s Moths 27-09-2011

With a talk and slideshow presentation for the Market Drayton Townswomen’s Guild tonight,  I set the 15w Actinic trap in the garden last night to collect live specimens to take along with me.

Not only did a pristine Merveille du Jour turn up –  one of the most beautiful moths at this time of year

but a first ever for me with this lovely little micro who goes by the name of Acleris cristana.

It’s quite a scarce species with (according to the dataset at my disposal) only 11 other Shropshire records going as far back as 1935.  Nine of these were in the Wyre Forest, one at Chelmarsh, one at Whixall Moss and now one in Midways Garden, Shifnal!

It has two quite distinctive black tufts in the centre of the wings. The markings and colourings are very varied with over 100 different forms noted so far but the black tufts are the diagnostic feature which are constant throughout all the forms.

And although I’ve seen this Noctuid a couple of times before it’s always a welcome sight: An Orange Sallow.

Only 28 moths arrived but there were 13 species and some interesting ones too, I think you’ll agree?

Here’s the list:-

998    Epiphyas postvittana    Light Brown Apple Moth    1
1054    Acleris cristana                        1
1738    Epirrhoe alternata    Common Carpet            2
1914    Ennomos fuscantaria    Dusky Thorn            1
2107    Noctua pronuba            Large Yellow Underwing 12
2117    Eugnorisma glareosa    Autumnal Rustic            1
2232    Aporophyla nigra    Black Rustic            1
2240    Lithophane leautieri    Blair’s Shoulder-knot    2
2247    Dichonia aprilina    Merveille du Jour    1
2264    Agrochola macilenta    Yellow-line Quaker    1
2266    Agrochola litura    Brown-spot Pinion    2
2267    Agrochola lychnidis    Beaded Chestnut            2
2270    Omphaloscelis lunosa    Lunar Underwing            1

Catch you all soon

Paul Watts

PS.  I hate WordPress!  Blogger is much easier to use in my opinion! The table above for some reason appears below too and I can’t for the life of me find a way to delete it. Anyone any ideas? No – I thought not. Might switch this blog to blogger at some time!

Last night’s moths…

Last night both my moth traps were set up in the garden. Despite the fact that a two- month drought culminated with a fair amount of rain filling two of my water butts, the moths still came in, between showers!

I’ve had quite a few Lime Hawkmoths this year including one last night.

Sometimes they just take you by surprise

So in spite of, or maybe because of, the rain, I had a good tally for this time of year, unlike Tony who had to abandon his trapping at Ballstone Quarry after only an hour due to high wind and heavy rain! You’d have been better off staying in and watching Corrie TJ!

My 2 traps for the night gave:-

Clouded Silver

Shuttle-shaped Dart (bucket loads)

Brindled Pug

Heart & Dart

Lime Hawkmoth

May Highflyer

Clouded-bordered Brindle

Marbled Minor agg

Buff Ermine

Common Carpet

Hebrew Character

Alder Kitten

Poplar Hawkmoth

Bright-line Brown-eye

Mottled Pug

Small Quaker

Pale Tussock

And the micro’s:-

Evergestis forficalis

Crambus lathoniellus

For those who are interested and don’t already know;

The Wrekin Forest Volunteers Moth Group have their first all-night outing next Friday – May 13th at the Ercall. Please contact me if you need further info paulewatts@googlemail.com

Paul Watts

Apley Castle Moth Night

I’m sure everyone, without exception, who went along to the moth night at Apley Castle on Tuesday, August 18 would say it was a huge success! Not just for the fabulous moths we encountered but for the almost palpable enthusiasm that poured out from everyone. Just look at the expression on the little girl’s face as she gets up close and personal to a moth in the pot!

Boring? Moths? Get outta here!

It really does go to show that moths are not all brown, furry, uninteresting and a menace when they fly through an open bathroom window when the light’s been left on! Many are really quite pretty with beautiful colouring and markings, like the charming Sallow that poppped in to say hello…

And the Gold Spot which I initially identified incorrectly but thanks to Tony Jacques, the County Moth Recorder for Shropshire, who soon spotted my mistake and put things right! I guess it’s easily done when caught up with the excitement and shared enthusiasm!

Liz then potted up, from Les’s moth trap what was, for many, the star of the show – the huge almost bat-size Poplar Hawkmoth…

First recording

This was the first time an organised moth-trapping event had taken place at Apley Castle with its widely diverse habitats of meadow, woodland and pools, which is why we were all very keen to run the traps here as we felt that species would be pulled in from all 3 habitats. We were right!

The elements were kind to us

The weather throughout the night was almost perfect; no rain, no wind with around 60% cloud cover and in terms of numbers of moths I certainly had a personal best for my trap with well over 200 moths across 30 different species not including the tiny micros of which there were scores, maybe hundreds!

Species List

The final count across the 4 traps is being done as we speak with the results then to be collated together. I will then send everyone who left an email address on the night a file of the full species count. If you didn’t leave your address, weren’t able to attend or simply otherwise just interested please email me and I’ll send you a copy as soon as it becomes available paulewatts@googlemail.com

Around 30 people turned up on the night with others who just dropped in as they were walking the dogs or just out for an evening stroll.

Five of us – Tony Jacques and 4 members of The Wrekin Forest Volunteers stayed through the night til dawn in order to get a full night’s records as different species fly at different times of the night from dusk to dawn.

Most moths were identified and recorded on site, others were photographed and a handful were taken back home for later identification. All were then released unharmed to go about their business which essentially is to find mates, lay eggs and then die. No different to any other life form really including Homo sapiens!

And talking of dawn this was the tranquil scene looking over Apley Pool in the very early hours of the next morning…

It just remains for me to say a huge thanks to everyone who came along – it was great to see you all there. I also and especially want to thank Jenny Joy from Butterfly Conservation for the loan of the generator, Tony Jacques – County Moth Recorder for his help, assistance and huge experience of moths and trapping and a very special thank you extends to Sean Thomas and his many helpers for organising the event, gaining the necessary permission, creating, printing and placing the posters in the area and for the wonderful and much appreciated magnificent breakfast that was laid on for us. Thanks again Sean and…

We will be back!

.

Last night in the garden…

As I write it’s a very wet Sunday morning – October 3rd.  I was checking the moth-traps at 7am this morning and it was raining then but I’ve no idea what time it started.  Fortunately, it didn’t stop a few moths coming in though. In fact I caught my first-for-the-garden Merveille du Jour (pictured) so it was worth switching on the lamps just for that. This is one of our most beautiful of UK moths and when freshly emerged its colouring and markings are stunning. It’s not an uncommon species in Shropshire and often comes to light but it’s still the first for my Shifnal garden.

For all it’s beauty though looking at it head on and magnified,  some would say it looks a little menacing.

The lowest temperature recorded during the night was 12 deg C so it was quite mild and it followed a nice warm day too which would have certainly encouraged the moths out until the heavy rain arrived.

Another species that popped in to say ‘hello’ was this slightly worn Orange Sallow – another quite attractive moth and again not uncommon but still a rather striking moth.

The rather attractive Black Rustic is a common visitor to the traps this time of year too and a total of 3 dropped in last night. Common Marbled Carpets are still around too.

Black Rustic GMS 140909  226 Common Marbled Carpet

The full list for last night was:

125w MV Skinner trap
Light Brown Apple Moth x 3
Black Rustic x 2
Beaded Chestnut x 1
Common Marbled Carpet x 2
Garden Rose Tortrix x 1
Large Yellow Underwing x 2
Small Wainscot x 1
Orange Sallow x 1

15w Actinic Skinner trap
Dusky Thorn x 1
Merveille du Jour x 1
Setaceous Hebrew Character x 1
Silver Y x 1
Light Brown Apple Moth x 3
Black Rustic x 1
Common Wainscot
Beaded Chestnut

Head-on to a Small Wainscot

The final Wrekin Forest Volunteers organised moth nights out in the field for the year is at Ercall Woods next Friday October 8th. Please contact me if you’d like to pop along and see what we do and why we do it. To receive more details you’ll find my email address on the Contacts page (or even simpler you can request more info through the comments area too).

Bye for now

Paul Watts

Coalbrookdale Arboretum Moth Night

The night of Friday, September 3rd was a great night with lots of positive feedback from everyone who turned up for the event

Youngsters particularly enjoy moth nights, it gives them the chance to get up close and personal to many of the fascinating species that abound. I brought along a few of the previous night’s garden trappings to start the evening off before the stars of the show arrived as darkness drew in.

Coalbrookdale Arboretum

That’s a Common Wainscot taking a fancy to a nose!

The light soon faded and the moths slowly started to arrive in the 3 traps we’d set up.

Although moth numbers were low there were nevertheless some interesting species including a new one for both myself and Graham – Feathered Gothic which was one of the first to arrive.  We had a male and female in 2 different traps (3 traps total) and the female later laid around 150 eggs!

The Brimstone Moth was amongst the brightest coloured of the night

Two more colourful species were Green Carpet and Centre-barred Sallow

The Top Ten were

Large Yellow Underwing     Noctua pronuba   15
Square-spot Rustic     Xestia xanthographa   10
Blastobasis lignea   8
Green Carpet     Colostygia pectinataria   7
Mother of Pearl     Pleuroptya ruralis   7
Setaceous Hebrew Character     Xestia c-nigrum   7
Brimstone Moth     Opisthograptis luteolata   4
Flame Shoulder     Ochropleura plecta   3
Centre-barred Sallow     Atethmia centrago   3
Blastobasis decolorella   3

I know what you’re thinking… how did this compare to my Top 10 prediction on the Flying Tonight sheets?

Poor… very poor. I only got 3 of the 10. Must try harder! The 3 out of the 10 that I predicted would turn up were:-

Large Yellow Underwing
Setaceous Hebrew Character
Brimstone Moth

So a great night all round. It was all good fun! By the way, does anyone remember how to say Setaceous Hebrew Character? After everyone left Graham and I got down to some serious recording well into the night and then again in the early hours of the morning. We trapped, identified and recorded 94 individuals across 31 species. All moths released unharmed back into their environment.

There’s a great website for looking at moths – it’s the best outthere for UK moths – micro’s and macro’s.  Take a look  http://UKmoths.org.uk Just type in the first few letters of a moth into the search box and click GO! Try it – not only do you get a pic but a few details about the species too.

Thanks go to Tamzin Jones for inviting the moth crew along and for ensuring everything went with a swing. Special thanks go to Graham Statham for bringing along his Heath Trap and generally helping with the event. Also thanks to fellow Wrekin Forest Volunteers Nigel and Penny who popped in to see what was happening.

If anyone would like to get involved in moth recording we’re very keen to attract more Shropshire records, even if it’s just what flies through your bathroom window. Please contact me for more information. You can also email me pics of moths you find for identification. Plus The Garden Moth Scheme is also a great way to get involved

Kind Regards

Paul Watts

Enjoy the slideshow… ↓

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