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.
UncategorizedComments Off on 11.005 bf179 Lichen Case-bearer Dahlica lichenella -New to Ireland
Cliff Henry found a number of case-bearing moth larvae (bagworms) on the walls of the National Trust, Giant’s Causeway offices 25th October 2018. Cases of these Psychids are not always easy to speciate and after Cliff brought them to me I circulated images to Ben Smart and J.R. Langmaid. Based on the larva they initially thought they were likely to be 11.002 175 Narycia duplicella. This was proved incorrect when I bred through a female in early 2019 which was wingless (Narycia has fully winged adults) and led me to believe it was in fact a Dahlica species. Images were circulated and a specimen sent to Ken Bond for dissection. Unfortunately the various structures examined did not lead to a definitive answer as the results were ambiguous.
As a last resort a freshly collected specimen was sent to the editor of Atropos journal who arranged DNA analysis to finally get a definitive identification. This finally confirmed the specimens as Dahlica lichenella. This was the original putative identification by Cliff! This species is new to Ireland.
11.005 79 Lichen Case-bearer Dahlica lichenella. Photo by Roy Anderson
UncategorizedComments Off on 15.065 Phyllonorycter esperella – New to Ireland
15.065 BF343 Phyllonorycter esperella. (Goeze, 1783). New to Ireland
Two things conspired, firstly I had to attend the Royal Victoria Hospital, Belfast on 9th October 2019 for a check-up. Secondly I had an increased interest in hornbeam after Eamonn O’Donnell had found what appeared to be the tentiform mines of Phyllonorycter tenerella in Dublin. It turned out that the avenue between the main car park and the main building at the Royal is lined with hornbeams. It did not take long to notice the gallery mines of Stigmella microtheriella and S. floslactella and then I saw the first distinctive upper surface tent mine of P. esperella.. and then another… none of the other similar mines (such as P. coryli on hazel) are found on hornbeam. I collected a couple of specimens and went for my appointment… slightly late. After the appointment I called into Musgrave Park (next to another hospital!) in the knowledge that there is a well-established hornbeam hedge around the small car park. On parking up I could actually see esperella mines from the car window…
The hornbeams around these two Belfast hospitals are obviously imported as established trees, the moths have arrived with them. Long established hornbeams in Botanic are so far devoid of esperella but it is likely that they will move out over the next few years. As for tenerella I have had no luck. Occupied mines which look like this species have turned out to be the polyphagous (and rather annoying) P. messaniella but I will keep looking.
UncategorizedComments Off on 62.065 Ephestia woodiella – New to Ireland
On 24 May 2017 I caught an unfamiliar species in a light trap at Tramore, Co. Waterford (grid reference S577013). I tentatively identified it using British Pyralid Moths and Moths of Europe Vol.4. as Ephestia woodiella. The moth was subsequently dissected and confirmed by Ken Bond as a male of the species and new to Ireland. The specimen will be lodged with the National Museum of Ireland, Natural History, Dublin.
In Britain it is reported to fly from May to September. Unlike other British members of the genus, it is not a pest of warehouses and is encountered outdoors, having been beaten from ivy, yew and alder and it also comes to light. The larva is suspected to feed on dried plant material, dried berries and the dead stems of ivy. Recorded from England, Wales and the Channel Islands, it is widely distributed across much of central Western Europe.
Tony Bryant and Ken Bond.
Bryant, T. & Bond K.G.M., 2017. Ephestia woodiella Richards & Thomson, 1932 (Lep.: Pyralidae) new to Ireland. The Entomologist’s Record and Journal of Variation 129: 230.
UncategorizedComments Off on Five species New to Ireland all within a few miles of Belfast City Centre!
This just proves that you do not have to always travel far to find things of interest, sometimes they are just on your doorstep…. It is worth noting that the four leaf-mining species addressed here are all found on non-native host species although lime (Tilia spp.) are long established. Increased movement of plant species around Europe and from further afield will continue to inadvertently introduce species to new areas where they may become permanently established.
The first three records have been published in the annual Microlepidoptera report in The Entomologist’s Record and Journal of Variation as well as being included in an update paper on Irish Microlepidoptera by Ken Bond in the same journal . The latter two records are yet to be published.
14.009 Bucculatrix thoracella
18th August 2013: This is the one that really started me looking at leaf mines. After checking my actinic trap in the garden I was walking back along the garden path. As usual it was an appalling catch but then the sunlight illuminated what appeared to be a small leaf mine on a lime (Tilia sp.) leaf. Closer examination revealed a number of tiny gallery mines and small patches of feeding damage. A check on the usual websites strongly suggested they were mines of B. thoracella. I then checked the Moths Ireland on-line maps to find there were no records of this species. I emailed the scanned images to Dave Grundy, Ben Smart and John Langmaid who all confirmed my identification. In Britain the species appears to have more southerly distribution reaching as far north as Cumbria. In Ireland the species has subsequently been found in Dublin and Cork and must have been over-looked.
15.066 Phyllonorycter strigulatella
9th November 2016: This was a species I had been looking for without success but whilst walking down the Lisburn road in Belfast, heading for the bank, I noticed three or four grey alders in Drumglass Park. I immediately found a number of the typically long, tightly rolled tent mines positioned between leaf veins. There were multiple small creases on the “tent”. The occupied mines contained bright yellowish larvae with a distinctive pattern on dorsal surface of the head. This species doesn’t feed on other alder species in Britain. Identification was quickly confirmed by John Langmaid. It is known from various isolated sites from north-west England and south-east Scotland, south through Wales to East Anglia and southern England.
11.007 Bankesia conspurcatella
10th March 2018: Myself and my wife, Avril, were over my step-daughter’s house on the Belmont Road, Belfast. As we were leaving Avril noticed a small moth on the hallway wall. I duly caught it and brought it home. I don’t spend much time looking at adult micros but I expected this to be a cork moth Nemapogon cloacella. This quickly proved incorrect. I took images and posted on a closed site where after some head scratching Ben Smart suggested it was Bankesia. This proved correct, it was a totally unexpected discovery as this species is very uncommon with a very patchy distribution in Britain having only been rediscovered in Kent in 1984 after years of having “gone missing”. It is one of the Psychids or “bagworms”. The larvae of these species live in cases constructed of detritus, algae or lichens, the adults of some species are wingless and some are parthenogenetic. I decided that the larvae would not be far away and on 2nd April I discovered a colony of c. 45 cases on my step-daughter’s garden fence! This remains the only known site in Ireland! The adult specimen was set by Ken Bond and now resides in the National Museum in Dublin.
15.050 Phyllonorycter cerasicolella
9th October 2018: Two days previous Andy Banthorpe had posted images of the mines of this species from North Wales. This prompted me to think as to where I might find the host plant, Prunus cerasus, in Northern Ireland. The answer came quickly enough… B & Q at the Belfast Harbour Exchange. Three shrubs and two tent mines! The mines lie typically between leaf veins, long and contracting the leaf into a tube. These were confirmed by Andy and John Langmaid. In Britain it is largely restricted to the area south of a line from the Mersey to the Humber.
15.051 Phyllonorycter lantanella
17th April 2019: I had been searching unsuccessfully for this species for a while after posts by Patrick Clement and others on the excellent Micro-moth Field Tips Facebook site. It is found on various species of Viburnum, various species of which are frequently used for structural planting in parks, gardens and around shopping complexes! My luck changed whilst walking down the Lisburn Road when Andy Crory rang me on the mobile. Because of the traffic noise I diverted into Drumglass Park. Whilst continuing my conversation I wandered towards a patch of Viburnum tinus where to my surprise was a Phyllonorycter mine of what I presumed would be P. lantanella. Once home I examined and photographed the mines and quickly received confirmation. The following day I rechecked the garden Viburnum and found more mines which I had obviously overlooked. Attempts at breeding through proved fruitless but did produce a number of tiny parasitic wasps. In Britain it is largely confined to South Wales and Central and Southern England. .
Lempke’s Gold Spot – First confirmed Irish records
I have been lucky enough to live on Rathlin Island for nearly three years now and, with my husband Ric Else. We have been recording moths whenever the weather allows. In this time we have managed to record 337 species, and 143 of these were new for the island’s all-time moth list, which now stands at 376 species.
Before we arrived, moth recording on Rathlin had only been very sporadic and many of those moths we’ve recorded here for the first time are relatively common and widespread species that have presumably been here all along. While it is always rewarding to add new species to the list, we had yet to discover anything of real national significance. But the morning of 23rd July 2019 was to bring us a real find, and it was one we could so easily have missed!
That morning I had struggled to drag myself out of bed and was lagging behind the others. Still half asleep and with a mug of much-needed coffee in hand, I stumbled over to the mothing station where Ric was already getting on with the business of looking through the moth trap, assisted by a few of the keen RSPB volunteers from the cottage next door. Overnight the trap had been out in a nearby garden, where the McFauls very kindly provide excellent habitat for moths and moth-ers alike.
My eyes had barely begun to focus properly when I glanced down at a moth on an eggbox that had already been examined. In my drowsy state I could have been still dreaming, but something about the Gold Spot caught my eye. Could it possibly be….? “Isn’t that a Lempke’s Gold Spot?” I said to Ric, who surely thought I was delirious, but humoured me by having another look. We all peered closely at the moth in question. The two Gold Spot species are almost identical, but the apical streak of this one was undeniably blunt-ended – a feature of Lempke’s Gold Spot. “Surely THAT IS A LEMPKE’S!” I proclaimed triumphantly, suddenly wide awake as the penny was starting to drop that this was potentially a very exciting find. Ric had to admit it did look promising. We potted the individual for closer scrutiny later, as there were still plenty of other moths to look at in the trap. Each egg box was examined in turn, revealing a total catch of 98 individual moths of 37 species, and despite a few other goodies including our first Cloaked Minor, nobody cared much because Gold Spots were all we were interested in by this stage. In our catch we had turned up another two Gold Spots – one with typical markings and, quite unbelievably, a second that also looked a good candidate for Lempke’s. How thrilling, if this is what they really were!
Lempke’s Gold Spot (Rathlin 2019)
By this time we were running late for work, so it wasn’t until later that we could have a closer look at the two possible Lempke’s Gold Spots. Having spent the day chilling out in the fridge, both cooperated obligingly for forewing measurements, and with both at 15mm they fitted exactly within the published range for Lempke’s and at the smallest end of the range for Gold Spot (all the Gold Spots we have measured have been 16–18mm). After poring over many online images of wing markings, we felt confident that our two were consistent with Lempke’s and others who viewed our photos agreed. However, for positive identification, and as a potential national first, the specimens would have to be kept and sent away for confirmation under the microscope. As moth lovers, it is bittersweet to make an exciting find like this and have to preserve them as specimens, but it is necessary for the scientific record. We laid these two beautiful creatures to rest in the freezer, and we were delighted when Dr Ken Bond requested the specimens to be sent over from Rathlin.
Mothing at Kinramer Cottage, Rathlin, Co.Antrim
We were even more delighted a few weeks later when Ken performed the dissection and confirmed that both specimens were certainly Lempke’s Gold Spots, one male and one female. He also confirmed that these would be considered the first and second verified records of the species anywhere in Ireland.
We are thrilled to have found an Irish first on Rathlin, but we’re sure there are plenty more discoveries to be made on this exciting island.
UncategorizedComments Off on Marigold Shark, Cucullia calendulae – New to Ireland
Ireland’s first Marigold Shark Cucullia calendulae,
A species of Cucullia was taken by Tony Bryant at Tramore, Co. Waterford (grid reference S577013), on 25 December 2018 at the beginning of a period of unseasonable immigrant activity on the Waterford coast emanating from the Iberian Peninsula and Western France. Migrants trapped at the time included a Diamond-back Moth Plutella xylostella (L.), Small Mottled Willow Spodoptera exigua (Hb.) and Dark Sword-grass Agrotis ipsilon (Hufn.) on 27 and 28 December, while on 30 December another Small Mottled Willow was recorded, with further migrant activity reported along the Waterford and Cork coasts. The moth was identified as a Marigold Shark Cucullia calendulae with reference to Barron, S. Zilli, A. & Tunmore, M. (2018. The First British Record of Marigold Shark Cucullia calendulae Treitschke, 1835. Atropos62: 51-62) and www.lepiforum.de, but to rule out a similar resident species, the Chamomile Shark Cucullia chamomillae ([D. & S.]), it was passed to KGMB who later set, dissected and confirmed the moth as a male Cucullia calendulae Treitschke, 1835 Marigold Shark and new to Ireland.
Known from the Canary Islands, Iberian Peninsula, France, the Mediterranean and further afield C. calendulae is on the wing from October to April, with the moth overwintering and its larvae feeding from February through to June on members of the Asteraceae family, including Marigold (Calendula spp.).
The specimen will be lodged with the National Museum of Ireland, Natural History, Dublin.
Tony Bryant and Ken Bond
Bryant, T. & Bond, K.G.M., 2019. Marigold Shark Cucullia calendulae Treitschke, 1835 (Lep.: Noctuidae), a migrant new to Ireland. Entomologist’s Record & Journal of Variation 131: 64-65.
UncategorizedComments Off on Ruddy Streak , Tachystola acroxantha – New to Ireland
Ruddy Streak. Not the greatest image but sufficient for identification and the only image of the first Irish Tachystola acroxantha.
I work in The King’s Hospital, a co-educational secondary school with a parkland campus between Lucan and Palmerstown — the school grounds extend down through wooded hillsides to the banks of the Liffey.
Two initiatives within the school led me to undertake three years (2016-2018) of weekly moth trapping as part of the Garden Moth Scheme. The first was the introduction of a tree trail of 100 notable trees of numerous species in the school grounds. The next step was (and is) to undertake research for a broader trail of flora and fauna. These nature trails are intended for the use of classes in subjects such as Art and Science as well as by visitors. The other initiative was the school’s environment committee’s pursuit of the Green Flag for biodiversity.
The campus includes two houses which had gardens prior to the school’s relocation from the city centre in 1971. I chose one of them as the site for trapping. I placed the Robinson Trap (60W Actinic) at the back of the garden between the house (Avondale) and the woods. Although it did not yield large numbers of moths, it did occasionally indicate interesting aspects of biodiversity on the campus. Some of the more unusual species were Oak Nycteoline, Orange Sallow, Pine Shoot Moth and Thistle Ermine.
During the summer of 2017, I had become aware of tiny moths associated with birds’ nests and similar indoor habitats (for example, Tinea trinotella, which I saw in my mother’s garden near Mullingar that May). There was a swallow’s nest in the outhouse where I stored the trap and I wondered if that might be relevant.
When I went to the trap on the morning of 5 August 2017, I could easily have overlooked a small moth in the trap. Likewise, I could have written it down as a strange-looking Brown House Moth and nothing more. I had, however, as I said, recently had my eyes opened to moths associated with nests, so I was interested and took what turned out to be a poor photograph just in case.
When I started looking at the picture in the office and comparing it with online information (I didn’t have the Sterling and Parsons field guide to hand), I began to wonder whether it could be a Ruddy Streak. I contacted my Garden Moth Scheme mentor Don Hodgers.
Here’s the conversation:
AW: Tentatively, Don, I have a Ruddy Streak (Tachystola acroxantha) sighting in the trap in Dublin last night. I’ve a poor photograph but it is clearly a Brown House Moth size and style of moth with orange termen. Is it common in Ireland?
DH: I don’t think it’s on the Irish list as yet so a photo would be very important. But it would have to be good enough to rule out other species. It’s always possible — 4 new additions to the list in the last fortnight or so!
AW: Here are the images from that trapping, Don.
DH: Yes, a Ruddy Streak, congratulations! I don’t know if any others have been found, as the latest records available are for the end of 2015 and someone might have it on their list — but I don’t think so. They are spreading through Britain and it was only a matter of time. They are originally from Australia… feeding on leaf litter with a number of generations a year, they could be the next Light Brown Apple Moth!
Although the image was poor, he was completely satisfied that it could be nothing else.
The first-ever sighting of Ruddy Streak in Ireland might be explained in the same way as its introduction to Britain as an adventive. A possible connection to the Bloom event in the Phoenix Park cannot be ruled out.
On Tuesday 20th August 2019, not having had a decent walk all week, I decided to go to Killenthomas Woods in the Bog of Allen, Co. Kildare (grid ref N668222) with my rescue dog George. I like going there in the evening as you are much more likely to spot wildlife when it is quiet. There are Foxes, Red Squirrels and Badgers as well as Cuckoos and Buzzards. On one occasion I rounded a corner and met a family of Badgers, two adults and half a dozen or so cubs. The woods are a wonderful place.
When I got there I set out on the Ballydermot loop past the wild gooseberry bush, which I checked in the hope I had missed one earlier in the year (I hadn’t). The walk was uneventful. It was too early in the evening for the mammals to be out. I noticed that there were a few early blackberries out and tasted a couple but they were a little bitter. I decided to go up onto the bog to see if there were any there.
I got to the place where there is a cut through the woods and climbed down onto the bog, stopping to pick and eat a few bilberries. Unfortunately the wild strawberries are finished or I would have picked some of those too. I walked to the bank where the blackberries grow – the ones that grow in that particular spot are sublime – large, juicy and as sweet as can be. To my dismay there were no blackberries ripe or otherwise. As I was looking I spotted a large, unfamiliar caterpillar on some willowherb. I took a number of pictures with various settings on the camera and went home.
The next day I posted a couple of pictures of the caterpillar to the Insects/Invertebrates of Ireland Facebook page for identification. It was identified very quickly by Owen Beckett as a Bedstraw Hawk-moth Hyles galii caterpillar and this was confirmed by others.
Bedstraw Hawk-moth H. galii is a very rare immigrant to Ireland with c.15 records scattered along the coast from Dublin to Kerry. It is resident in much of Europe, north to Scandinavia and east to Russia. All the records to date in Ireland have been of adults so this is the first confirmed breeding of the species in Ireland.