63.014 Sitochroa Palealis – First Irish record.

It was 17th July, and I was on my holidays at a place called Ballyconnery, approximately 7 kilometres north of Dungarvan, Waterford. My uncle Philip arrived down with a car full of moth traps and we set out to put several 125w Robinson’s MV traps in various locations around the house and farmland where we were staying. The habitat looked really good for trapping with a mixture of scrub, native meadow and mixed woodland nearby. Three traps were set up in the fields and scrub and were powered using a string of 50m mains extension cables thereby allowing us decent coverage. One was comfortably nestled at the front of the house among a mixed wildflower and Verbascum garden (no sign of any mullein moth activities unfortunately).

The week had been a hot one and the next was to be even hotter. Temperatures for the night reached a low of around 16-19 degrees Celsius and as day became night, the traps began to light up. Things were already looking good, and it was about to get even better. During the night, we checked the traps to see if any interesting species had entered. An obvious and striking record to be noted was the Orange Moth Angerona prunaria.

The sun rose early that morning, as it does in July, and we set off to inspect the traps just as it was rising. When going through the contents of the third trap, we came across what seemed to be a relatively large and pale micro-moth. I could only think of it as being an unusually large Timothy Tortrix Aphelia paleana. It was sitting in a part of the trap that made it difficult to pot and during its attempted capture it flew up and away before circling around and eventually landing on my T shirt! Luck was with us, and Philip made sure to seal the jar firmly, preventing any further calamity. 

The fourth trap was done thoroughly and with a sense of great anticipation at this mysterious moth’s identification. The process began immediately after any necessary clean-up. We made certain of the confirmation that it was indeed not a large Timothy Tortrix but after a brief additional surfing through multiple picture and photograph books, both of us were in agreement. The moth could only to be Sitochroa palealis, a moth previously unrecorded in Ireland. 

The moth was pale with dark vein-like patterns, living up to its description as “pale sulphur yellow to whitish…veins variably darker.” (Sterling and Parsons, 2012) It had an obscure dark spot as also mentioned in the book. The specimen was retained to ensure any further analysis could be done if needed. 

Sitochroa palealis is found throughout mainland Europe and also in the south of England. Its vernacular name is the Carrot Seed Moth as the larvae feed on wild carrot and similar plants. It is a species of the family Crambidae with a wingspan of 26–34 mm.

A combination of great habitat, perfect trapping conditions and the right time of year resulted in a very productive night’s trapping with approximately 150 species recorded. Other notable records included Cloaked Pug Euphyia biangulata, Pammenne regiana and Hedya ochroleucana.

Conor Strickland

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