Pale Oak Beauty, Hypomecis punctinalis – Where have you been for the last 106 years?

 General interest, Rare sightings  Comments Off on Pale Oak Beauty, Hypomecis punctinalis – Where have you been for the last 106 years?
Mar 302021
 

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…

Gareth O’Donnell