Thanks to a small grant from National Parks and Wildlife Service I was able to survey leaf mining Lepidoptera in the Republic of Ireland. Although my focus was on the border counties where leaf miners are seriously under recorded I kept the brief broad. This allowed me to travel to Meath and Dublin where I teamed up with my old friend Eamonn O’Donnell and his partner Kerri Gorentz. One of our search areas was to be the Botanic Gardens and Cemetery at Glasnevin, Co Dublin. These places are usually good for leaf miners with an array of exotic, non-native trees and shrubs. I was also well aware of the recent discovery of Ectoedemia heringella on evergreen oaks Quercus ilex at the Botanic Gardens.
E. heringella was easily found in both the Gardens and cemetery. Typically, it is already abundant with multiple mines on many leaves. I knew from looking at leaf mines in France and London that another species could also occur on these trees, S. suberivora, but that finding it has become much harder because of the density of heringella mines which can obscure it.
After about fifteen minutes of searching I found what I believed to be two mines of suberivora. Both were on leaves lacking heringella mines. The heringella mines are small ad compact taking up on average less than a square cm whereas the two suberivora mines were long (just over 4cm) and along the leaf margin. Mines of both were packed with black frass and egg upper in both cases. Without backlighting the mines are buffish in colour. As heringella increases in numbers, which it will, then suberivora is likely to become increasingly difficult to locate. A number of UK experts concurred with the identification.
On arrival at Cape Clear Island, West Cork in October 2021 for my usual sojourn, it quickly became obvious that there were quite a few migrant moths and Red Admirals about. There were a few Rush Veneers Nomophila noctuella and uncountable numbers of Rusty-dot Pearl Udea ferrugalis seen throughout the island each day. The weather was generally drifting South/South-east all week and with mild nights my trap was put out most nights mostly because of the unending enthusiasm of James McNally.
During the week in a discussion with Michael O’Donnell he happened to mention that there was a large number of Radford’s Flame Shoulders Ochropleura leucogaster in Britain and that I should keep an eye out for it as it is a migrant species. We, James, Dr. Geoff Oliver and I, were a bit disappointed by the quantity and quality of what was in our trap most night with lots of Rusty-dot Pearl and on one night five Gem Orthonama obstipata being the only moths of note. Later that week we trapped a Flame Shoulder Ochropleura plecta, which is the only possible confusion species with Radford’s but as I am very familiar with this common species there was no sense of excitement.
However, on emptying the trap on the morning of the 16th, Chick (JMcN) took out an eggbox with just one moth on it and I quickly noticed it was similar to but different from Flame Shoulder. Could it be? I quickly potted it for closer examination and was pretty sure that what I was looking at was a Radford’s Flame Shoulder. The moth was longer and narrower than Flame Shoulder and the white edge to the wing reached the ‘shoulders’ and continued across the thorax to complete a white-lined loop. This feature is not mentioned in the literature but is very obviously different to Flame Shoulder. I was able to see that the moth had pure white hindwings which differ to the yellowish hindwing of Flame Shoulder. I was sure that we were looking at a first Irish record and this was quickly confirmed on a UK moths Facebook page.
This was the first but will not be the last. Of that I am certain.
Radford’s Flame Shoulder Ochropleura leucogaster Cape Clear Island, West Cork.
On the 22nd of June 2021 I was targeting a small stand of Elm (which I had found earlier in the year) for Clouded Magpie Abraxas sylvata, a species I have only seen once many years ago and was keen to find again. The trees are on both sides of the road at the southern end of Brittas Bay, Co. Wicklow (just south of the roadside carpark). My plan was to do a short session of approximately two hours using a 125MV trap west of the road (which I would stay with during the session) and a 20W Actinic CFL trap to the east of the road (T302816). As it turned out, it was a relatively quiet session for moths with the MV getting 72 moths of 38 species and none of my target so I decided to finish at 1.5 hours duration. I then went over to the actinic and went through that trap. Again, nothing major regarding moth numbers or apparently anything of great interest. The last moth at the bottom of the last egg tray, which I nearly missed, was an almost black pug, from what I could see in the torch light. With a hint of green, my initial thought was an extremely dark Green Pug Pasiphila rectangulata at which point I nearly chucked it into the undergrowth but thought better and potted it for later examination.
As it was after 1am and a “school” night, I forgot all about it when I got home. After work the following day, I remembered that I had a moth potted up still in my bag. On looking more closely, I again narrowed it down to a dark Green Pug but the outer edge of the dark bar didn’t have the kink it should have. The abdomen didn’t look right either. Bilberry Pug Pasiphila debiliata was also quickly eliminated owing to the complete lack of its foodplant in the region and being familiar with it, the lack of the classic black dots demarcating the cross bar. Even though the illustration of Sloe Pug in Waring and Townsend didn’t particularly look right, two features did match….that of the un-kinked outer edge of the crossbar and the pink bars on the abdomen. But of course, I knew that couldn’t be possible as we don’t have it in Ireland! Next port of call was Lepiforum (German moth website) which to my amazement had near perfect matches of my moth under Sloe Pug. With confidence levels rising and excitement levels off the scale…..dare I hope! I then posted it on the MothsIreland (FaceBook page) where the general consensus was that I was probably correct but would need to have it examined critically by Ken Bond owing to its significance. Needing people with direct experience of the species, I posted it on “Pugs in Flight tonight” (UK FaceBook group dedicated to pugs), where it was given the thumbs up too. A few months later it was confirmed by Ken Bond as Ireland’s first Sloe Pug.
Having looked again at the trapping site, there is plenty of its foodplant, Blackthorn, quite close by. I did trap again a little south at Buckroney where there is a big patch of the foodplant but no luck. As it is apparently only an occasional visitor to light traps, I won’t give up hope of finding more in future. I plan to target it again this year in an effort to try and find out if it was a once off wanderer or part of an embryonic colonization or perhaps even a long-overlooked resident. According to the Atlas of Britain and Ireland’s Larger Moths, it was not recorded in the UK until 1971 but has been found widely since but again it’s not known if it was overlooked or colonized rapidly.
Thanks to all on the various groups and websites for help and comments and Ken Bond for dissection of this first Irish record. I urge people to target Blackthorn during May- early July to see if this may in fact be an overlooked species.
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…