On 16th of May 2022, I took the opportunity of a mild, calm and dry night to target Red Twin-spot Carpet, Xanthorhoe spadicearia, in Glenmalure, Co. Wicklow. T09 didn’t yet have this species recorded in it so I wanted to try in suitable habitat. The location (T067943), which I had picked out sometime previous in a daytime scout was about 200 meters up the very steep sided valley above the Baravore carpark. It consisted of a boulder field with some heather, bilberry, bracken, gorse, holly and small amounts of blackthorn and whitethorn. This valley is heavily overgrazed by deer, goats and sheep making heather and bilberry rather scarce now, except for a small amount in this area. The elevation is approximately 230 meters.
The walk up is relatively easy carrying a light weight 125MV trap along with a lithium battery as it was still just about bright but the return journey down at 1am over rough stony ground was bordering on the insane. Finding a spot to place a moth trap on the level and a comfortable spot to sit on a 45 degree boulder field for 3 hours…..well suffice to say it probably took a few months off the life of my joints!
The three hour session was fairly good for May with Striped Twin-spot Carpet Coenotephria salicata, Dark Brocade Mniotype adusta, Beautiful Brocade Lacanobia contigua and 3 possible Red Twin-spot Carpet (later confirmed by dissection) among the 106 moths of 43 species. During the session, a Eudonia came to the light and as it was my first for the season, I potted it. It immediately struck me as rather black and white and narrow so I quickly opened up the relevant page in the Micro Moths of Great Britain and Ireland and eyed up the most similar without looking at the names first. It was Eudonia murana. A quick read revealed the right habitat but that it had never been recorded here. When I returned home, I had another look and realised the most likely confusion species, E. truncicolella, had a flight season with its earliest record in Ireland a full two weeks later. In descriptions it was also mentioned that the flight period of E. murana usually started before that of truncicolella. I posted it among some Irish experts and Ken Bond responded positively as he had experience of it from northern Wales. Unfortunately, the literature mentioned that even dissection wasn’t necessarily going to separate these species although Ken with all his experience was confident he could, having dissected many of the Eudonia/Scoparia group. I also posted a photo on a UK forum but the two respondents both sided on the trucicolella side but saying dissection was the only possible way to ID for sure. So off it went to KB.
In early January 2023, having all but forgotten about it and not being very hopeful, Ken returned the news that it was indeed Eudonia murana.
Having had it confirmed, many aspects of the identification should be easier in future. The early date, the upland habitat, the very black and white colours and the almost white thoracic spot all point towards E. murana. Although I can’t find mention of the white thoracic spot in any literature, a couple of experienced moth-ers in the UK said this was a classic feature. Also mentioned by Ken and obvious in many online images is the heavy black spot at 1/3 along the costa which has a downward angle where it meets the edge of the wing (normally upward or straight out angle with truncicolella, etc). This group is often ignored by many as it is notoriously difficult and I personally struggle to ID any bar the most obvious in the field and usually have to bring them home to photograph and/or squint at for several minutes before coming to a conclusion. This one however, was immediately obvious to me as this species even in torch light in the field. Doubts obviously set in when I realised it hadn’t been recorded here but, with the combination of the above features, I feel confident that this will be found again.
Thanks to Ken Bond for much useful information and dissection and my lucky stars for keeping me safe while coming down that dangerous slope in the black dark!