Irish Macro-moth Validation Categories.

An essential part of the MothsIreland database is the validation of the records. This will enable the use of the dataset in future publications etc. Each species on the Irish macro moth list has been categorised on a scale of 1 to 5, and a further category 6 applies to species not on list.

The species categories can be viewed as web page(120kb) or as excel file (92kb)

To help recorders get to grips with the different Validation Categories we have expanded on what’s needed for each category.

Click on Cat. # for detailed description

Cat. 1 Common & widespread Usually no validation required, though out of season records may be questioned
Cat. 2 Uncommon or restricted distribution Photo may be requested
Cat. 3 Scarce or confusing species Photo may be requested Specimen may be requested
Cat. 4 Rare or easily confused species Photo must be supplied Specimen may be requested
Cat. 5 Extremely similar species Species must be dissected to identify and specimen may be requested.
Cat. 6 Any species added to the Irish list High quality series of photos needed Specimen may be requested

  1.  Common & widespread                             Usually no validation required though out of season records may be queried. 

    This is fairly self-explanatory. It applies to those species that are reasonably common, or at least fairly regular, in most areas of the country. Generally these records will be accepted without question except where a species is recorded well outside what would be considered the ‘normal’ flight period for that species.  Examples would include a Feathered Thorn Colotois pennaria in June or the recent October record of a Hebrew Character Orthosia gothica

    In these cases the record will be queried and a photo will probably be requested.  

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  2. Uncommon or restricted distribution              Photo may be requested.

    This covers those species that, while they may be widespread, are not particularly common and those that are restricted to a particular habitat or to certain areas of the country. Again records of these species will usually be taken at face value. 

    Where a query might arise is when a species is found in unsuitable habitat or well outside its known range. E.g. a coastal species found well inland or a species found in Louth but only known from the southwest. For these records a photo will be requested.
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  3. Scarce or confusing species                            Photo or specimen may be requested.               

    Species that come under this heading would be those that are only occasionally recorded or may be mistaken for another similar species by the inexperienced. They may be widely distributed but be very thin on the ground with very few records each year. 

    Plain Wave Idaea straminata and Red Twin-spot Carpet Xanthorhoe spadicearia are good examples of species in this category. Neither of these species is very common and a poorly marked Riband Wave Idaea aversata might be mistaken for a Plain Wave while the red form of Dark-barred Twin-spot Carpet Xanthorhoe ferrugata could be taken to be a Red Twin-spot Carpet. 

    We have included two species, or only one species depending on your point of view, in this category that don’t fit easily into any particular category. The Engrailed Ectropis bistortata and Small Engrailed E. crepuscularia have long been the subject of speculation as to whether there were two species or only one species involved. They cannot be distinguished on wing markings and there is ongoing study to see if they can be told apart on genitalia. Results so far are inconclusive. This leaves only flight time as a possible means of separating them. There appear to be two generations of Engrailed in Ireland from March – late April and in July. Small Engrailed appears to have only one generation from the beginning of May to late June. The only conclusions that can be drawn from this is that any records from March to about mid-April and from about mid July on would be Engrailed while records from mid May – mid June are likely to be Small Engrailed. 

    The majority of records of these species in our database, albeit quite a small number, 44 from a total of 52, are from May and June and are perhaps likely to be Small Engrailed. The Engrailed appears to be quite scarce in Ireland with only a few records outside this period. As a result of this uncertainty we have decided to map both species together.  A photo would generally be expected for records of species in this category and occasionally the recorder may be asked to keep the specimen for examination.
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  4. Rare or easily confused species                        Photo must be supplied – specimen may be requested.  

    Those species which have only ever been recorded on a handful of occasions or fewer come under this heading as do those species which are very similar but can be differentiated with care. Some of these species may not have been recorded for many years and might only be known from historical records or specimens in museum collections and some may even be extinct in Ireland. 

    Species, which have only recently been recorded in Ireland for the first time, also fall into this category. 

    For all species in this category a photo must be supplied to support the record and, as with Category 3 above, it may be necessary to retain the specimen. 

    There is one exception to the rule stating that a photo must be supplied with each record. While all the species in this category are generally considered to be very rare, there are a few that can turn up in good numbers from time to time, in particular some of the migrants. 2006 turned out to be an extraordinary year for migrant moths. We would not expect recorders to provide a photo with every record of a particular species but we would require one for the first record from each recorder. If we were satisfied that the recorder had identified the species correctly we would happily accept further records of the species from that recorder without photographic evidence. 

    Because of the extreme rarity of many of the species in this category, it may be necessary for us to examine the actual specimen. We would ask recorders to notify us immediately of any records of these species and provide us with a photo. If we were happy that the species had been identified correctly, there would be no need to retain the specimen. 

    There are, however, some species e.g. Lempke’s Gold Spot Plusia putnami that cannot always be identified with certainty from a photo and must be examined directly. In these cases we would arrange for the specimen to be examined.
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  5. Extremely similar species                 Species needs its genitalia examined for specific identification and specimen may be requested to determine distribution.  

    There are a number of species that are so similar in appearance to other species that they can only be identified by examination of their genitalia. In some cases this can be done on an anaesthetised moth while in others dissection is required. 

    In most cases they will have to be recorded as aggregates and the main groupings this will apply to are: 

    November Moth Epirrita dilutata, Pale November Moth E. christyi and Autumnal Moth E. autumnata
    These are usually recorded as Epirrita sp. or Epirrita dilutata agg 

    Marbled Minor Oligia strigilis, Rufous Minor O. versicolor and Tawny Marbled Minor O. latruncula
    Recorded as Oligia sp. or Oligia strigilis agg. 

    Common Rustic Mesapamea secalis and Lesser Common Rustic M. didyma
    Recorded as Mesapamea secalis agg.  

    Large Ear Amphipoea lucens, Crinan Ear A .crinanensis, Saltern Ear A. fucosa and Ear Moth A. oculea
    Recorded as Amphipoea sp. or Amphipoea oculea agg. 

    There are a number of other species in this category that would normally require examination of the genitalia for a definite identification including July and Lead Belle and some of the pugs. Very well marked specimens may be identifiable from photos. 

    We don’t require recorders to retain every example of these species but we may, from time to time, ask recorders to keep some specimens and pass them on to us for examination to try to determine distribution. 

    Some recorders feel that several of the species in this category can be identified by the time of year they are flying (phenology). This may be the case for particularly early or late examples but we would prefer not to use this aspect to identify these difficult groups. The flight time for a particular species might be given as September – October but it could also be recorded in early August or well into November and overlap with the other confusion species and don’t forget that flight times can differ, possibly by several weeks, between northern and southern counties.

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  6. Species not yet recorded in Ireland                 A series of good quality photos must be provided and the specimen may be requested.          

    This is for any species that has not yet been recorded in Ireland. Traditionally, the practice has been to retain any first Irish specimens and present them to the Natural History Museum. 

    However we feel that identification of the vast majority of species, which may be added to the Irish list in the future, can be confirmed from photos. We would expect a series of good quality photos from different angles including side view, upperside, underside (through a glass container) and if possible showing the hindwing from above. 

    If you do come across a moth that you think may be new to Ireland we would ask that you hold onto it by placing it in a container in the fridge and contact us as soon as possible. Send us photographs and if we are satisfied with the identification the moth can be released. 

    In some cases a photo may not be sufficient for a positive identification and we will arrange to have the moth examined. In the event that the moth has to be killed and is confirmed as new to Ireland it will be presented to the Natural History Museum and the finder will be credited. 

    We would urge all recorders to write up and publish details of all species new to Ireland in either the Irish Naturalists Journal, the Bulletin of the Irish Biogeographical Society, Atropos or another recognised journal. 

    This Validation List is very much a work in progress and will be reviewed periodically. We may feel that a species warrants moving to a different category if we find that it is more common or scarce than previously thought. E.g. in 2002 when the first Blair’s Shoulder-knot Lithophane leautieri for Ireland was recorded in Co. Wicklow it would have been placed in Category 4 but it has since been recorded in four more counties and appears to be quite common in places. This has resulted in it being placed in Category 2.  

    It is only by receiving your records that we will be able to get a better understanding of the status of many of the species and we would hope that all recorders will send their records to us for inclusion in the Central Database.
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  ©Angus Tyner 2007