Thanks to a small grant from CEDaR Environmental Recorders Group I was to spend a bit more time than usual looking at leaf mines in Northern Ireland. One of my search areas, which I have rarely visited, was Ormeau Park, Belfast (Co Down) not very distant, but an area with many mature trees and a good under-storey.
A gentle stroll into the park on 22nd July 2022 quickly revealed a number of common species on beech and hazel. A mature Norway maple (Acer platanoides) then drew my attention. In Ireland I have been looking in vain for “samara miners” for over six years. I have seen two species with ease in France so my eye is “in”. A number of samaras were on the ground, I was totally flabbergasted to immediately find two mined samaras. The mines were of Etainia sericopeza (field maple and sycamore have different miners).
The egg is laid on the wing of the samara, the larva then mines a thin gallery towards and into the seed. Depending on the age of the samara the mines can be obvious or more cryptic.
On 23rd July I could not believe my luck in finding another mined samara, this time at Shaw’s Bridge, Belfast (Co Antrim).
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.
UncategorizedComments Off on Triple-spotted Clay, Xestia ditrapezium. Rosbeg, Co. Donegal – Last recorded in 1956! July 2021
July 2021 was mostly warm and sunny, a good month for moth trapping in south-west Donegal and a hot, dry, tropical weather system was being drawn up from the south-east between 15 –25 July. This was my 2nd summer of trapping and I set my Skinner 20W trap on the night of 23 July at the back of my house in Rosbeg, Co. Donegal where there is heathland and some willow trees.
My sister Amanda was due to visit the following day and I thought I would have any trapped moths more or less sorted by then. I duly unpacked it early the next morning with 21 species and 71 moths.
I had had several Double-square Spot Xestia triangulum already that month however, the specimen I was checking that morning was decidedly purple, shimmering and just had a different “jizz” about it.
As a relative novice with just Waring, Townsend & Lewington’s field guide the picture was a very good match for Triple-spotted Clay Xestia ditrapezium. Though it couldn’t be as it had not been recorded in Ireland since 1956 and that was in Dublin. Or could it be?
It went into the fridge for further inspection, and the photo and query went up onto MothsIreland Facebook page.
Amanda arrived and we both waited in anticipation for the expert’s view. Possibly, and probably not were the responses, but to freeze it anyhow for Ken Bond’s expert analysis.
Two nights later we took Amanda’s battery-operated Skinner 20W trap to Sheskinmore Nature Reserve for the first time with kind permission from NPWS. It is about 4km from the house. We found a suitable location at the edge of the machair, bordering a small wooded area.
On the twenty min walk back to the car we met a fellow moth enthusiast with his traps. It was Timothy McKillen who said he had been trapping in Sheskinmore for around ten years. We mentioned the possible Triple-Spotted Clay and he remarked that he had found a number of moths over the years which he thought matched the identification though they were not confirmed as they had not been not dissected. Encouraging and interesting news.
The following morning at 06.15am we opened the trap in Sheskinmore and found a very similar moth to the Rosbeg specimen, which also went in the freezer.
The 2 specimens were posted to Ken Bond.
Big excitement at 07.15am on 11 November. Ken Bond had confirmed that both specimens were indeed Triple-spotted Clay, Xestia ditrapezium. A possible small population of this native species.
Hidden in plain sight in Rosbeg Co. Donegal.
Triple-spotted Clay is local but widespread across England, Wales and western Scotland in open and damp broadleaved woodland.
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.
I’ve been moth trapping in my suburban garden in Baldoyle, Co Dublin since 2010, usually with a 40W actinic Skinner trap. The weather forecast for the night of the 21st/22nd July 2021 looked OK for moths so I set up the trap in its usual spot against the wall of my garden shed. The next morning the minimum recorded temperature overnight had been 14.8 deg. C and a quick peek into the trap showed a lot of moths in among the egg trays (after processing the catch, I had 44 species, quite a good haul for my area).
I noticed a somewhat striking micro moth on the shed wall and took a couple of shots with it before going through the contents of the trap. For some reason I thought it looked familiar and didn’t pay it too much attention. How wrong I was!
I was more interested in a Yellowtail and a Chevron, both fairly infrequent records for me. It was only later when I started going through the photos of all the species that I wasn’t able to identify on sight, that I realized I had caught something special. Of course, when I rushed back down to the shed it was gone (hopefully not down the gullet of my opportunistic resident Robin).
Despite it being a quite unique looking micro moth, it didn’t leap off the page when I was going through the Sterling field guide but posting a photo on the MI Facebook page quickly had me pointed in the right direction (thanks everyone), Epiblema foenella. As usual, when I went back to the field guide I was left wondering how I missed it first time around. There isn’t really anything else it could have been.
The map in Sterling confirms its presence in north Wales including Anglesey and also the Isle of Man, so it really was only a matter of time before it turned up on our shores. The larval food plant is listed as Mugwort Artemisia vulgaris which is certainly common along the east coast.
2021 has been a somewhat unusual year for mothing in my garden. As well as the Epiblema foenella record, I had shared a joint first Irish record of Euzophera pinguis with Gareth O’Donnell just a fortnight earlier. I had also recorded quite a few ‘firsts’ for my garden, both macro and micro moths. After running a trap on the same site for so many years it was very unusual and very exciting to add so many new species to the site list in a single season. Adding two to the national species list is an added bonus. All this excitement is tempered somewhat when I look at the number of species that have completely disappeared from my garden since I started recording or others whose numbers continue to decline with each passing year.
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.
On 1 June 2020, while walking along the clifftops at Islandikane East, Co. Waterford (Vice-county H6; Irish grid reference X536983), on the south-east coast of Ireland, TB disturbed a moth which he recognised as a pyralid belonging to either Homoeosoma or Phycitodes. Knowing the difficulty in separating some of these species, the temptation was to simply ignore it, but considering the early date TB decided to retain the moth for further inspection. Along with some other specimens it was eventually sent to KGMB who by both female genitalia examination, and by the details of the forewing markings, determined the moth to be Homoeosoma nimbella (Duponchel, 1836).
There are no Irish specimens in the National Museum of Ireland, Natural History (NMINH), and this species is believed to be new to the Irish fauna (see Bond & O’Connor, 2012. Additions, deletions and corrections to an annotated checklist of the Irish butterflies and moths (Lepidoptera) with a concise checklist of Irish species and Elachista biatomella (Stainton, 1848) new to Ireland. Bulletin of the Irish Biogeographical Society 36: 60-179). Goater (1986. British Pyralid Moths: A guide to their identification. Harley Books) states that the British distribution is imperfectly known and does not include any reference to Irish reports. The species is mapped on the National Biodiversity Network website (accessed 7 May 2021) from England, Wales, Scotland and the Channel Islands, but not from Ireland. Ireland is similarly lacking in representation at the Fauna Europaea website (https://fauna-eu.org/). The moth will be lodged with the NMINH, Dublin.
The larvae of H. nimbella feed on Sheep’s-bit Jasione montana, with the adults flying from May to August, inhabiting sand dunes, sea cliffs and stone walls on the coast (see e.g., Sterling, P., Parsons, M. & Lewington, R., 2012. Field Guide to the Micromoths of Great Britain and Ireland. British Wildlife Publishing).
Bryant, T. & Bond, K.G.M., 2021. Homoeosoma nimbella (Duponchel, 1836) (Lep.: Pyralidae) new to Ireland. Entomologist’s Record & Journal of Variation 133: 160-161.
73.0041 (BF 2433a) Boathouse Gem Thysanoplusia daubei (Boisduval, 1840) (Lep.: Noctuidae), a migrant new to Ireland
An example of the Boathouse Gem Thysanoplusia daubei (Boisduval, 1840) was taken by me at light at Tramore, Co. Waterford (Vice-county H6; Irish grid reference S577013), on the south-east coast of Ireland on 2 September 2020. Other migrants trapped at the time included a Diamond-back Moth Plutella xylostella (L.) and Palpita vitrealis (Rossi.), two Convolvulus Hawk-moths Agrius convolvuli (L.) and two Silver Y Autographa gamma (L.). Additionally, at dusk five Hawk-moths were seen nectaring simultaneously at the Tobacco plants Nicotiana spp., although I suspect three or four more were probably visiting them. A Dark Sword-grass Agrotis ipsilon (Hufn.) was also noted nectaring.
Colin Plant informs me (personal communication) that the night of 2 September 2020 was also a night of significant primary immigrant activity in Hertfordshire, south-east England. The moth was identified with reference to Tunmore (2015. The First British Record of Boathouse Gem Thysanoplusia daubei (Boisd., 1840), Atropos: 55: 3- 13), Waring, P. Townsend, M. & Lewington, R., (2017. Field Guide to the Moths of Great Britain and Ireland, 3rd edition, Bloomsbury Publishing) and http://www.lepiforum.de/lepiwiki.pl?Thysanoplusia_Daubei.
Native to Africa, and also resident along the European Mediterranean coastline https://fauna-eu.org/, T. daubei can be found on the wing from May to November frequenting garrigue scrub, coastal dunes and rough ground, where its larvae feed on members of the daisy family Asteraceae, sow-thistles Sonchus spp., chicory Cichorium spp., mint Mentha spp. and many other herbaceous plants (Waring et. al. op. cit.). It is most likely to have originated from the Iberian Peninsula or North Africa. The closely related T. indicator (Walker, 1858) is also a resident in Africa, where its range overlaps with that of T. daubei. The forewing of T. daubei is lighter and greyer than that of T. indicator and has the stigmata less defined and less “silvery” in colour. The genitalia of both sexes provide more finite differences (Behounek, Ronkay & Ronkay, 2010. The Witt Catalogue. A taxonomic atlas of the Eurasian and North African Noctuoidea. 4. Plusiinae 2. Heterocera Press).
Thysanoplusia daubei was added to the British list in 2014 from the Lizard, Cornwall (Tunmore op. cit.) and there was a second specimen reported from Littlehampton, West Sussex during late July 2020. The Irish example, thus represents the third occurrence in the British Isles as well as the first for Ireland. The specimen will be lodged with the National Museum of Ireland, Natural History, Dublin. I would like to thank Colin Plant for his help with this note.
Bryant, T., 2020. Boathouse Gem Thysanoplusia daubei (Boisduval, 1840) (Lep.: Noctuidae), a migrant new to Ireland. Entomologist’s Record & Journal of Variation 132: 218-219.
UncategorizedComments Off on 62.048 Euzophera pinguis. 1st Irish Records!
First Irish record, 5th July 2021, Cian Merne & Gareth O’Donnell.
It was very unexpected, in so many ways.
Being based in West Cork, the opportunities to visit family in the North Dublin suburb of Bayside have been very sparse since March 2020. So when an opportunity for a trip to the capital looked likely for early July 2021, planning started in earnest, with a last minute “ah sure, I’ll bring a wee battery powered light trap with me with the over-night weather looking reasonable and a bit of an Easterly wind blowing for most of the night. Sure you never know…..”.
Well, we often think we do know, with declarations in our head like “it’s a bit too cold tonight to bother” and “there’s far too much street light pollution here”, or “sure there’s so little flying at this time of the year”. The street light issue was certainly a consideration in this instance in Bayside since the house that I would be based had a great big street light beaming directly down into the small back garden, a garden surrounded by a typical suburban Dublin habitat, or lack thereof. But, something in the greater universe forced the “Sure you never know…..” to win out.
Feeling more than a little daft, I traipsed out to the back garden, a little later than expected as I had not noticed dusk with all the light pollution, to deploy the small, 2 x 2 W LED, heath trap in the nearly-bright-as-day nightscape. I thought I heard the street light giggling at my naivety. The battery was connected, the light came on, and not even a small elevation of the overall brightness in the back garden could be noticed, not by me anyway. Off to bed, after a good catch-up with family that evening and lots more time to chat in the morning on the cards on account of the “won’t be much in the trap tomorrow” spiralling in my sleepy mind.
Meanwhile, down the road in Baldoyle, it was Garden Moth Scheme night and I put out my 40W actinic Skinner in its usual spot at the bottom of my garden against the shed wall. The next morning the thermometer had recorded a low of 12.7 deg C. Things looked OK, there was a Peppered Moth resting on the shed and a peep into the trap revealed numerous moths among the egg boxes. As I removed the first Perspex lid I spotted an unusual moth on it and quickly grabbed my camera. My cheap macro ringflash seemed to take an eternity to charge up but luckily I managed to get 2 shots before the moth flew. (Note to self, switch on the flash before opening the trap) I didn’t realize at the time that I had anything particularly interesting and proceeded to process the rest of the catch (28 species; pretty average for my suburban garden). Afterwards, I downloaded the photos and had a quick glance through the micro moth field guide but nothing jumped out at me. It was only later after breakfast when I got round to posting a photo of the mystery moth on the MothsIreland Facebook page that it became apparent that it was something special. As is often the case, once pointed in the right direction, another look in the field guide had me wondering how on earth I missed it first time around. It’s a pretty distinctive moth.
Back to Gareth:
After a relatively late breakfast, sure what was the hurry in opening a probably near-to-empty trap, I gathered my field guides, magnification loupes, small steel rule, my mammy and my partner Cindy to have a look inside. I had never opened up a trap with my mammy before, and was already preparing the “sometimes there can actually be loads of moths, honestly”. On approach to the trap, I noticed a few bits and bobs on and around the cone and close to the faint indigo-blue light, “…Oh goodie, some colourful stuff to look at and show to Mam”. The Brimstone received a good reception, as did the Peppered Moth, even with it being a bit worn. A Eudonia mercurella and a few other fairly unexciting micros needed to be dealt with without any ceremony to avoid Mam from worrying about my sanity.
All going well so, and then…..”Folks, I have NO idea what that is! Make sure that doesn’t fly off before I pot it…..please!”. Both Mam and Cindy appeared to sit up a tad more attentively with this call-to-arms. In what must be close to an involuntary action, a glass sample jar was in my hand with lid off, the egg box of specific interest carefully, but firmly in my other. My eyes out on stalks taking in everything possible in case…..”well, it looks happy where it is…” and other familiar famous last words and expressions speed through my mind. I just HOPE it doesn’t fly. Mam was excited, Cindy was excited, I was beside myself, and I still had no idea what I was looking at.
The moth was indeed happy to rest on the light-green, not too battered, egg box while I worked the photo-shoot like a pro at the side of a catwalk. There we go, that’s a nice bright, clear shot, good enough for some on MI fb to not make fun of the smudge in the photo that I was claiming might be a moth of note. Pot it in the ready glass sample jar. A reasonably quick look through the micros field guide, knowing at least that I should be looking among the Pyralidae, and BOOM, Euzophera pinguis looked very, very promising. Page 360 for the map and text, “oh my…”. June-Sept. FS looks good, FL of 11-13 mm looks good, wing pattern and shape look good, but the Ireland part of the map was very, very BLANK. Followed by a review of the MI maps list….. Mam seemed disappointed when I said “It’s not listed…..”, but a brief explanation helped raise her spirits once more, and lifted mine to a crescendo.
I need to post this on MI fb. How do I word this? Excitement very close to consuming me. I have never had a first-for-Ireland before. Maybe there has been one since the MI maps were last updated in 2015?……Oh dear, dare I hope……I’ll go low-key…….”Could this be Euzophera pinguis. North Dublin, last night. Eamonn O Donnell?”……..Ken Bond responded first and rapidly with a “Certainly looks like it. Not on the Irish list as far……” Well, as Ferdia says “I nearly fainted”. And to put the icing, on the icing, on the icing, on the cake, another comment is made by Cian Merne “Well, well, well! I had one last night too! Posted photos looking for confirmation of ID separately. I’m in Baldoyle, Co. Dublin”. Baldoyle, a mile or two from Bayside, where Cindy, my mammy and I sat all with very big smiles and bouncing with excitement.
Euzophera pinguis, 5th July 2021, joint first Irish record, Cian Merne with one individual to light and Gareth O’Donnell with one individual to light, both O 23, both first first Irish records. An Ash bark feeder and a fairly local species in G.B., with few, if any records in Scotland, few in Wales and many regions in England with no records, e.g. Cornwall and much of Devon. The most westerly record up to these Dublin records is on the Isle of Man (unconfirmed).
Sure you never know, sometimes the very unexpected does happen. Traps out folks…..
UncategorizedComments Off on 73.058 The Mullein Cucullia verbasci – rediscovered after 69 years!
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.