On Mon 12th July I noticed a large white larva with black and yellow markings feeding on Figwort in my garden. Knowing we don’t have Mullein, Toadflax Brocade or Striped Lychnis in Ireland I was surprised and excited. Many photos later, which I submitted to the Mothsireland FB page, I got confirmation that it was a Mullein Moth larva.
My garden is large and in rural north Co Dublin surrounded by tillage farms. The garden is managed for insects and, this year, has the best growth of Figwort I’ve ever had. Mullein/Verbascum grows in the front garden. While I’ve longed to see the larva of a Mullein Moth and always examined the Mullein plants, I never expected to see one here. A bigger surprise came on Tuesday evening when another larva was discovered on a poor specimen of Figwort in another part of the garden. That one has gone down into the plant pot and hopefully will be OK. The original larva is happily munching away. I will keep watch on the larva and continue to photograph it as it matures. This has to be the highlight of the year for me.
Mullein Caterpillar, Co.Dublin. July 2021
Mullein Caterpillar, Co.Dublin. July 2021
Mullein Moth has not been recorded in Ireland since 1952 and was classified as Regionally Extinct in the Red List of Ireland’s macro moths published by the NPWS in 2016. In GB, Mullein Moth is common and widespread across the south of England, becoming more patchy in its distribution in north England and Wales.
UncategorizedComments Off on The Thrift Clearwing Moth on Loop Head.
The Irish Red List on Macro Moths (2016) has the following to say about the Thrift Clearwing moth (Pyropteron muscaeformis)
I have been studying the sod hedges on Loop Head for several years, principally to assess the solitary bee populations that they support. I have also been aware of the decline of the Thrift Clearwing moth in Ireland. It seemed to me that if you want to find something rare that feeds on thrift, then go where there’s the most thrift, so I have also spent some time in recent years looking for this insect there. Until this year, I was unsuccessful: probably I had been looking too late (early – mid July).
On Saturday 29th May 2021, I discovered a female Thrift Clearwing moth calling amongst the thrift in the sod hedges, close to the Grave of the Yellow Men. If the Red List account is still current, this is only the third record since 2000. The location is 150km from the ‘recent’ west Cork records and, even taking into account the pre-2000 data, is a new one.
On foot of this find, I obtained a pheromone trap and lure for Thrift Clearwing, and twice returned to the area to do a more systematic survey. A visit on Sunday 13th June was thwarted by bad weather, but a return on Friday 18th June yielded moths at all three of the survey sites that I had selected.
Survey Details and Results
Based on my initial find, I identified three sections of sod hedges to survey:-
A – Kiltrellig: along the coast road west, north of the bridge at Cloghaun Lough. Map Ref. Q752483. This is also where my initial find was;
B – Kilclogher: along the coast road east, south of the bridge at Cloghaun Lough. Map Ref. Q759481;
C – Kilbaha south: along the approach road to Loop Head lighthouse, and the track northwards to the cliffs. Map Ref. Q699476.
The pheromone trap consisted of a small cage to hold the lure (a rubber bung that had been soaked in the pheromone chemical), located above an ingress area and a funnel leading to a collection pot. The trap was set up at the mid point of each location, being suspended near the top of the sod hedge, so that it hung down amongst the thrift plants. It was left in place for 40 minutes (research on-line suggested that 40 minutes was reckoned by regular users of pheromone traps to be sufficient time to get a catch, if the subject insect was present in the area). The trap was then checked. The results were as follows:-
1 calling female
1 calling female, 1 male attending
I was particularly struck by the success at location C, which was on the more exposed, north-facing side of the peninsula. The general numbers of insects active here were far lower than the comparatively sheltered locations A and B, which were busy with bees, wasps, hoverflies and other Diptera. Site C is also, relatively speaking, inland. At site C, the two moths were not caught by the trap but were a casual observation nearby. Since one was a calling female, it was likely in competition with the trap for males.
Based on the outcome of this small, informal survey, one can make the following observations about the status of the Thrift Clearwing moth in Ireland:-
Given the scale of this find at Loop Head, it is reasonable to assume that there are undiscovered populations of Thrift Clearwing moths at suitable locations elsewhere in Ireland;
The Critically Endangered status afforded the moth on the 2016 Irish Red List may be unduly pessimistic;
The received wisdom of the moth’s apparent preference for stressed host plants in the splash zone is, at best, not the whole story, at worst, somewhat misleading;
There is a good case for planning and executing a wider survey of candidate sites, using pheromone traps;
The key criterion for site selection should be that there is a large amount of thrift present.
During the lockdown in April/May 2020, I spent a lot of time across the fields in Knocksink Wood O213182 in north Co. Wicklow. With the fine weather, two or three days a week were spent in the wood netting anything that flew – wasps, bees, moths, the lot. The normal method was to net, bottle, identify and release.
Anything that was not readily identified in the field was taken home to the fridge. Each jar was then taken out, the insect identified if possible and photographed if in good condition.
Eventually there was one or two jars left with problematic creatures. These were again checked, photographed and the photos filed for further study. The next day everything was taken to the woods for releasing.
It was into this last category that a small micro moth fell. It wasn’t until 2 Feb 2021 that I contacted MothsIreland to see if they could help with the identification. A few days later I was informed that Eamonn O’Donnell had identified the moth as Pachyrhabda steropodes. It was new to Ireland and was native to Australia! It is classified as an adventive species that probably arrived here with imported plants.
Pachyrhabda steropodes was first found in England in Dorset in 2010, and has since spread to Devon and Wales.
My task for 2021 is to find another Pachyrhabda steropodes for the Natural History Museum!
It has been 106 years since the first and only other record of Pale Oak Beauty, Hypomecis punctinalis and the second record found in a trap at home in West Cork. It was far more than unexpected! Strangely, I was aware of this species following a discussion with the ever helpful Ken Bond, in preparation for a year-long moth trapping survey I planned to start in late 2019 in Glengarriff Woods. Ken mentioned that I should be aware of Large Nutmeg, Apamea anceps (recorded in Glengarriff in 1950 by H. C. Huggins), Cream-bordered Green Pea, Earias clorana (Recorded in Glengarriff area in 1914 by Huggins), Pale Oak Beauty, Hypomecis punctinalis (Recorded in Glengarriff in mid-May 1914 by Huggins) and Blossom Underwing, Orthosia miniosa (last recorded in Ireland in 1961, associated with mature Oak woodland). Having noted the above, I did a little reading up on these four species, sure you never know…
Unfortunately the Glengarriff survey was interrupted in March 2020 due to government restrictions and I found myself unable to trap beyond the area close to my home. Also, trapping became a luxury due to the very large increase in my job’s workload. However, thankfully, I managed to get a few traps out when the weather was very suitable. By the middle of May I was trapping regularly again and on May 28th I had managed to get a large body of my job’s workload complete so decided to treat myself to two powerful traps out for the night. One 125 W M.V. Robinson in the garden and the same type of trap at a ditch in a field close-by. There was nothing exceptional about the weather and I had recorded all the regulars for the previous few nights that I had trapped. So, not expecting any change in my fortunes and continuously longing to get back to Glengarriff to resume my survey in the hope of finding some of the above mentioned specials, off to the traps I went on the morning of the 29th visiting the garden trap first. Garden trap: 31 of 18 species, highlights were Silver Y Autographa gamma, Diamond-back Moth P. xylostella and Lunar Marbled Brown Drymonia ruficornis, all singles.
Off to the trap by the ditch, which I could see was much busier. But all I could see at a glance, were the usual suspects for late May. I settled in, taking my time, enjoying each moth that had been kind enough to join me. With half the egg boxes emptied the back of my mind said in a school masterly manner “Have a proper look at that which is in the corner of your eye boy”. I obediently did so. Unfortunately or possibly thankfully, I am not experienced enough to have recognised the Pale Oak Beauty at first sight but Huggins’ name came to mind (synapses are incredible). Also, I thought “POT THAT MOTH!”. Again, obediently I did so, closed the trap and had a look in Waring & Townsend. Lewington’s wonderful image gave me so many reasons to believe I had this very special moth and the text didn’t dampen my spirits with anything like “can often be confused with Engrailed” or any other heart-breaking statement. So, let’s see what the good folk on the MothsIreland FB page say. The first comment from Michael O’Donnell started with “Wow!”. The fabulous comments from so many good, encouraging folk was the icing on an already well iced cake.
This species is recorded regularly in South-eastern areas of England, with a scattering of records elsewhere in Great Britain, a few reaching to West Wales. Might we start to see appearances on our South-eastern and South coast?
I wish to thank Ken Bond for his encouragement, advice, his identification confirmation and for his specimen preparation for inclusion in the National Museum of Ireland – Natural History collection. This record I dedicate to Mr. H. C. Huggins in thanks for all the records. Now to find a Cream-bordered Green Pea, or two! Sure you never know…
In early July 2019 I mentioned to my wife that we should have a family day out at Kilbroney Forest Park near Rostrevor, Co. Down. Subsequently, I forgot all about it (to venture so far from my favourite haunt of Murlough NNR was an odd thing for me to suggest). So, on the morning of the 11th of July I was dragged (kicking and screaming) to the famous Cloughmore Stone (a glacial erratic), which sits on the slopes of Slieve Martin (with a little bit of help from Finn MacCool).
On arrival a further round of protestations fell on deaf ears and I begrudgingly decided to tag along with my family rather than sit alone in the car park. On the way up the hill the kids were having a great time (perhaps the only drawback was having to listen to me complain). Throughout the Kilimanjaro-like ascent of around 100m from the car I was keen to point out the agony of my feet, my creaky knees and how changes in altitude might be exacerbating my tinnitus… but to no avail.
Thankfully moths came to my rescue and gave me the perfect excuse to pause – that’s not strictly true, to be honest what I actually saw were heavily-laden blaeberry (bilberry) bushes and I started to stuff my face. With my head inside a bush at the side of the track I looked down to my right and saw what I was sure was a type of Cosmopterix moth. I was able to catch and confirm that it was Cosmopterix orichalcea, the 2nd record of this species for NI (the 1st confirmed only a week before). What were the chances of that? Pure luck! It turned out that operating outside my comfort zone had paid dividends (at that moment I would have been quite happy to head back home). I told my wife about it and got a hefty dose of “I told you not to be so lazy” etc.
The berry crop was too hard to resist though, they were at peak ripeness and really tasty, so I hung around in the same area grazing contently. As I munched my way around the area, I kept disturbing and catching moths of an Apotomis species that looked quite interesting. They wouldn’t venture far out from the bushes, hastily retreating for cover – I took a couple to look at later.
On arriving home, it didn’t take long to find the unknown species in the field guides – Apotomis sauciana! But that presented a conundrum as it had not been recorded in Ireland before. That’s the bit that always stops you in your tracks, the self-doubt, am I going mad? It looked good to me and seemed a perfect fit, but with something of that potential, it’s best to be cautious. Thanks to the help of Ken Bond this species was subsequently confirmed as A. sauciana and a first for Ireland – brilliant! It turns out that this species was recorded around the same time at other locations in Ireland, including at light. To get a second record for NI and a new species for Ireland on the same day equates to an extremely successful outing for a lazy man. All that remained was finding the courage to admit to my wife that she was right, again.
The story begins with finding a small Water Carpet Lampropteryx suffumata type on the 17/5/2019 with a wing length of 13mm at Ballinclare, Glenealy, Co. Wicklow. 13mm was smack bang in the middle of Devon Carpet Lampropteryx otregiata size and apparently outside the normal Water Carpet range of 14-17mm. Although the jury was out as to its identity from the external appearance, Ken Bond dissected it and found it to be just a female Water Carpet.
On the 28/5/2020 I trapped with a 50w MV at a spot 170m away from the above spot at the edge of a small natural Aspen Populus tremula copse (Grid Ref. T258893). I caught another small Water Carpet type with a wing length of 13mm. It was missing the apex of one of its wings but it still immediately stood out as not normal for Water Carpet. I posted a photo on the MothsIreland Facebook page and there followed much discussion as to its identity but as there was little actual experience of Devon Carpet in Ireland, I also posted on UK Moths where it was thought to be this species. As my first experience had thought me, I decided to again send it to Ken Bond for dissection. Eventually the news came through that this was indeed a Devon Carpet, Ireland’s first.
Unbeknownst to me, Dave Allen had previously predicted this as a potential new species to find in Ireland as they were spreading west in the UK. On the 30/7/2020, I trapped another fresh one at the same spot. This was probably a 2nd generation, something that does not occur in Water Carpets. It was also small and showed all the features of a Devon Carpet so it was released after some good photos were obtained. The habitat beside the trapping area is very wet under the aspen wood and probably contains the food plant of Devon Carpet, Marsh Bedstraw Galium palustre. As it is a tiny plant and I am not familiar with it, I have not actually seen it here. With the two specimens found at the same site of first and second generations in one season, I would conclude that they are probably breeding here.
In GB, Devon Carpet has historically been restricted to the south-west but has been spreading rapidly north up the west coast in recent years, reaching the Midlands in 2009 and Scotland in 2013.
I would like to thank Ken Bond for confirming the identification.
General interestComments Off on Moth Recording Sites – Beauty is in the eye of the beholder!
As moth recorders we visit some beautiful and very interesting locations for those with an inquiring, naturalists mind. Many types of woods, beaches, dunes, Limestone Pavement, Machair grassland, bogs, mountains, hills, marshlands, grasslands, etc. The list is a very long one when considering all the various habitats. And while we are there, it’s not just the moths that may hold our interest. It’s also the rest of non-Lepidoptera fauna and flora that amaze and delight. It might be the Red Squirrel or the Badger, the Goshawk or the Merlin, the Dragon Flies and Damsel Flies, the wild flowers and other plants. Often for me it’s the never seen before beetles, amazing jewel like looking flies and other insects. I am no Coleopterist and it’s hard to see how my Entomology interest could ever extend as far as all the other insects I see. I only have one life. I will stick with the moths!
Some of our sites may be considered by the general public to be damp, shaded, dark, windswept, barren, humid, cold or just plain boring! If I was to take most general members of the public to some sites I know they might enquire why I have brought them to such a dreary location? Especially those sites inhabited by healthy midge and tick populations! Hard to answer that question to anyone not interested in nature!
Some of the recording locations pictured here would be pleasing to general public eyes but many would be considered as unappealing, boring locations. How wrong they are! To me they are beautiful too. Mature, ancient wet Birch Woodland, extensive Sand Dunes with ‘prickly’ Marram Grass and Creeping Willow, Blanket Bog etc. and all getting rarer these days. Beauty is in the eye of the beholder! We are lucky. We know the secret beauty these places hold.
Guys, send in images of your own favourite trapping sites/locations and any other interesting info on these sites if you wish to and we can blog them. Countryside or gardens. It’s all interesting to me and no doubt many others.
Creevy Coast, Co. Donegal.
Mature Wet Birch Woodland, Co. Donegal.
Rough Grassland/Meadow, ‘other side of my fence’, Co. Leitrim.
Fabulous long established sand dunes, Co. Donegal.
Coastal Sea Campion. Prime Netted Pug habitat. Tory Island, Co. Donegal.
My favourite Chimney Sweeper site. Superb habitat for them. Co. Donegal.
With the impending arrival of a granddaughter in Dublin, and air travel not an option, the opportunity to bring my 125w Robinson MV moth trap in the car to Ireland was seized. Having served the requisite two week quarantine period in a cottage in Co. Kildare, enjoying some good moth trapping, we relocated to Terenure to join our daughter and family.
Their house was only constructed in 2018 and the garden is, as yet, unplanted although there are older properties and gardens in the surrounding area. The moth trap could only be positioned down the side of the house, between two properties – placing it on the lawn at the back was not an option, being overlooked by adjoining properties, so I was a little pessimistic as to how many species I would catch in the ensuing three weeks!
The night of 11th July 2020 was relatively mild and still and we woke to find that our daughter was in hospital and we were in charge of our eldest granddaughter! She was most intrigued during the moth trap inspection, sitting on my husband’s knee whilst he scribed and I had almost finished sorting when I noticed a moth I did not immediately recognize.
A noctuid, of the same size and shape as Broad-barred White Hecatera bicolorata but clearly not that species. Nutmeg Anarta trifolii also crossed my mind, but the wings were held at a greater angle and the patterning was different. It was potted immediately and later in the day I had time to search the literature I’d brought and peruse the MothsIreland website to help with positive identification. The scales were slightly rubbed but with the subtle patterning, like grey lichen highlighted with orange flecks, I was becoming convinced I had caught a Small Ranunculus Hecatera dysodea. Not listed and no map in MothsIreland, so potentially a new species, but in a Dublin suburb?
I emailed a photo to Michael O’Donnell, with my tentative identification and awaited his response. Several hours elapsed, which made the whole situation more intriguing, then came the answer – I had just added a new species to the Irish list, no doubt about it!
The story does not finish there! I continued moth trapping at every opportunity for the next two weeks until our return to Yorkshire and on the night of 24th July, which resulted in a small catch of just ten species, there was another Small Ranunculus – this time a pristine specimen which posed beautifully for some photos. This one was also released (sadly the request to retain the specimen was received too late – my apologies) but there is clearly a small population of this attractive noctuid in Terenure at least.
Feeding on Prickly Lettuce Lactuca serriola, a plant of disturbed ground and orchards, which has become established around Dublin from the late 1990s, Small Ranunculus has recently recolonized England, is rapidly moving north through the UK and in the next five years, it should hopefully become resident in North Yorkshire!
Rare moth sightingsComments Off on Anania lancealis – back in the Argideen valley after 81 years – 2nd Irish record
This is my first year moth trapping. In 2019, following a recommendation by a friend, I gave moth recording a go using a white sheet and MV bulb to observe the species in the garden over a few evenings during the summer. I was hooked and with the limitations on travel during the Spring and early Summer of 2020, a step up to light trapping seemed like a good way to pass the evenings in lockdown. It has been very enjoyable adding to the garden list since April with a Delicate (Mythimna vitellina) on the first run out – talk about beginners luck!
The weather was humid and warm on the 25th June 2020 with a status yellow thunderstorm warning issued for the country. The evening was overcast, warm and dry in west Cork (W44) when I set up my trap. The next morning I went through the moths, recording the species I knew, identifying others at the time using my field guide and taking photographs of the others that I would check later when I had more time. I photographed one individual which I thought to be Mother of Pearl (Patania ruralis) as I had seen the species in 2019 and incorrectly assumed it to be the same. I released all the moths when I was finished and didn’t get a chance to go through my identifications until 30th June 2020.
I spent most of my time on the 30th June deciding whether I had correctly identified an individual as Gem (Nycterosea obstipata) which I was very happy to record in the garden. I uploaded my ‘mother of pearl’ with the rest of my identifications for confirmation or correction to the Moths Ireland group. Christian Osthoff initially flagged the possibility of the individual being Anania lancealis. Michael O’Donnell also showed interest in the markings on this individual and shared it with others for their opinion. It was later confirmed as Anania lancealis. It is a species that typically inhabits woodland and marshy fenland and flies at night in June and July. The larvae feed mainly on hemp agrimony but also other plants. In Britain, it occurs in the southern half of England and in Wales. It is found across most of Europe (UKMoths, FaunaEuropaea).
Michael described how there had only been one previous Irish record on the 21st June 1939 at Ummera near Timoleague by Mrs. G.E. Lucas, one of the Donovan family, notable early lepidopterists and naturalists in Cork and Ireland. Ummera, by coincidence, is only a short distance as the Argideen River flows from our place.
So a second Irish record of Anania lancealis primarily due to the depth of knowledge and generosity of time from the Moths Ireland group, in particular Christian and Michael in this instance, combined with a bit of luck on my part.
17th June 2020 was the fourth night in a row that I’d put the trap out (20W actinic, mains operated, heath trap). There had been a spell of relatively mild nights with temperatures staying above 12/13 degrees and I’d had a good run for my small suburban garden, near the coast in south Dublin. Several new species for my list had turned up including Pale Tussock, Iron Prominent, Lychnis and Lime-speck Pug. It was dull and cloudy when I checked the trap on the morning of the 18th and it looked quiet. There was a Peppered Moth beside the trap (as there had been each of the previous mornings) and some sort of carpet sitting on the outside of the trap. An initial glance suggested the carpet might be one of those indistinguishable Spruce/Grey Pine carpets but closer inspection ruled that out. I potted it, took a couple of photos, and popped it into the fridge. A scan through Waring and Townsend ruled out any of the likely species, so I posted the images on the Moths Ireland Facebook page for help. Before long, a cryptic message posted by Ken Bond (“Retain this!”) was followed by confirmation from Dave Allen that the species was in fact Cypress Carpet, a new record for Ireland. The species was first recorded in England in 1984 and has been spreading since, reaching south Wales in 2006. The specimen has been retained for mounting by Ken Bond and will be submitted to the Natural History Museum.