Lempke’s Gold Spot – New to Ireland

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Feb 032020
 

Lempke’s Gold Spot from Rathlin

Lempke’s Gold Spot – First confirmed Irish records

Hazel Watson

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!

Lempke’s Gold Spot (left images) & and Gold Spot (right images)

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.

Marigold Shark, Cucullia calendulae – New to Ireland

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Jan 072020
 

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. Atropos 62: 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.

Ruddy Streak , Tachystola acroxantha – New to Ireland

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Oct 112019
 

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.

Andrew Whiteside.

69.014 Bedstraw Hawk-moth Hyles galii – First confirmed breeding record for Ireland

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Sep 152019
 

Irish 69.014 Bedstraw Hawk-moth, Hyles galii Caterpillar

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.

Julian Currie.

Goat Moth, large pink/reddish purple caterpillar

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Aug 242015
 

Goat Moth Caterpillar with €2 coin, © Andrew Kelly

 

We are in the season for Goat Moth caterpillar sightings. The caterpillars are unmistakable, pink or dark pink on sides and reddish purple on top, about 100mm or 4 inches long and as thick as a finger. Have you seen one? If so, we’d like to know.

The caterpillars spend many years munching away inside trees. Many species of trees can be host. During late summer many mature caterpillars leave the tree and wander looking for a place to pupate. They may remain in pupa state for years before the adult emerges. June is the usual flight season. It’s the wandering caterpillars that are being seen now. Caterpillars of varying sizes can be encountered at other times of year from trees being cut for firewood. Goat Moth is more common than previously thought. While adults are not often seen, there are caterpillar sightings annually from the SW and mid east region.About 20 sightings have been reported during 2015. Can you add other sightings?

 Posted by at 09:17