Author name: Lindsey

73.237 Large Ranunculus, Polymixis flavicincta – new to Ireland.

On the 19th of September 2022, I made a last second change of mind to head for the coast instead of inland to do a short session. The destination was below Arklow Rock in south east Co. Wicklow on the beach below a cliff at grid reference T252706. It requires a 1.2km hike along the edge of a huge quarry and down 3/4 of the said beach! Not exactly an easy location to cart a trap or two as well!

This site was worth the effort as it was proving rather special for invertebrates with a large colony of Dark Bush Cricket Pholidoptera griseoaptera, Broom-tip Chesias rufata, L-album Wainscot Mythimna l-album, Sharp-angled Peacock Macaria alternata among many other good species. I had only been trapping this location and nearby spots around the quarry grounds for a year. The habitat is particularly rare with not only a beach below a vegetated hard rock cliff but has an embryonic sand dune also.  L-album Wainscot was my target and I got 4 very quickly on the night. There were also a small number of migrants trickling in such as Turnip Moth Agrotis segetum and Pearly Underwing Peridroma saucia and with a background sound of Dark Bush Crickets calling, this was already a very fruitful session.

At 22.00 the excitement levels were cranked up several notches. A large noctuid landed on the side of the 125MV trap which superficially looked like a large Black-banded Polymixis xanthomista. I potted it and while trying to make sense of this, another similar one landed on the sand five minutes later. This was also quickly potted.

Black-banded was very much on my mind as I had accidentally found one at Galley Head, Co. Cork in 2010 and had plans to travel to Cork to re-find it a week or two later. So I was absolutely astonished that they could possibly have turned up here on the Wicklow coast…..potentially a bit of a mega given only 4 previous (Co. Cork only) records and fairly rare and local in the UK. This pair didn’t quite fit though, lacking the dark band and although not having a ruler, seeming much larger.

While looking at the illustrations of Black-banded and Feathered Ranunculus, Polymixis lichenea in the Field Guide to the Moths of GB and Ireland, I noticed that Large Ranunculus, Polymixis flavicincta was a better fit but I knew it hadn’t been recorded in Ireland.  I had no mobile reception at the base of the cliff so couldn’t look up online photos to confirm my suspicions. At home, I was able to research further and took some wing measurements. The wing lengths of the two moths were 20 and 21mm putting them well outside the range of Feathered Ranunculus (15-18mm) and Black-banded (16-18mm). I circulated photos to some of the Irish experts but hardly anyone had experience of it. They were finally confirmed by Steve Nash of the UK in words like, “if they were taken in my garden, I would have no hesitation in calling them Large Ranunculus”. One was retained for Ken Bond to dissect and as a specimen for the Natural History Museum.

Although there were migrants on the move that night and normal wisdom would have concluded these Large Ranunculus were immigrants, I had my doubts. My suspicion was that they were of local origin given that two came within five minutes of each other to the light.  These suspicions were confirmed when I trapped a further four at the same location 24 days later and a single another week later a little inland from the beach.

The distribution in the UK is southern but does extend all the way to the Welsh coast. I can’t find any mention of any major change in either distribution or abundance so I do wonder how long this little colony has existed at Arklow or if there are in fact others yet to be discovered. It uses a wide range of foodplants and habitats so can’t see why it shouldn’t spread from here.

Christian Osthoff

30 June 2023

63.068 Eudonia murana – New to Ireland

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!

Christian Osthoff

June 2023

4.076 Etainia decentella – New to Ireland

26th September 2022, I was near John Luke Bridge, New Forge, Belfast. Off on my regular morning jaunt with our dog, Milou, we ended up on the edge of Clement Wilson Park at the John Luke Bridge crossing the River Lagan. There are three Etainia species in Great Britain, E. sericopeza (feeds on Norway Maple) which I had found earlier in 2022 as New to Ireland, E. louisella  (Field Maple) and E. decentella (Sycamore). I have been searching for louisella without any luck but at the bridge there was an opportunity to search for the much harder to find (described as near mythical by one of the leaf mine gurus!) decentella. It is thought that it is hard to find as it feeds on samaras high in the canopy, in fact unusually the adult is more frequently encountered than the mine.

The bridge offers some height and a large sycamore branch with samaras overhung the path. I almost immediately found a single mine. Despite a thorough search of the samaras I could reach I found no others.

To my eyes the mine is shorter and stockier than that formed by sericopeza. On line I could only find a very small number of images so I posted on the Leafmines Facebook page just to get confirmation which was quickly forthcoming.

Since this discovery two records of adults have come to light, one in Wicklow in 2022 and a much older record from Kildare in 2009. So this represents the first Irish record of the hard to find mine.

Dave Allen 16/02/23

Epinotia cinereana, 49.256 – New to Ireland!

49.256 Epinotia cinereana (Haworth, 1811)

Aspen, Populus tremula is not a common tree in my area but is a species which has an associated rich moth fauna. There are a couple of fairly well known Aspen stands of around 20 odd trees each in Killarney National Park, in particular one nice group at Dinis. It is the only site where I can regularly record the Seraphim Lobophora halterata, earlier in the season.

On the night of 29th July 2022 I headed down there for a short moth trapping session, a 3km cycle on the bike with my 80mv trap balancing on the crossbar! It was a “good night” weather-wise with plenty of moth activity. Peppered Moths Biston betularia and Grey Arches Polia nebulosa providing a few shocks as they came crashing in!

Around midnight I was admiring a fresh Cydia splendana when another Tortrix landed on the sheet. Clearly something I had not had before. It was quite striking, clean and monochrome. I potted it and looked it up later and felt it was a good candidate for Epinotia cinereana.  It was sent to Ken Bond who confirmed by genital dissection that it was indeed a female Epinotia cinereana, the first confirmed record in Ireland.

This is a species once considered a subspecies of Epinotia nisella, but now considered a species in its own right. It feeds on Aspen whereas E. nisella feeds on Sallows Salix sp. and there are various genital differences.

Thanks to Ken Bond for confirming the identification.

Stephen Cotter

March 2023

Epinotia cinereana – Side view
Epinotia cinereana – Top view

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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