During the lockdown in April/May 2020, I spent a lot of time across the fields in Knocksink Wood O213182 in north Co. Wicklow. With the fine weather, two or three days a week were spent in the wood netting anything that flew – wasps, bees, moths, the lot. The normal method was to net, bottle, identify and release.
Anything that was not readily identified in the field was taken home to the fridge. Each jar was then taken out, the insect identified if possible and photographed if in good condition.
Eventually there was one or two jars left with problematic creatures. These were again checked, photographed and the photos filed for further study. The next day everything was taken to the woods for releasing.
It was into this last category that a small micro moth fell. It wasn’t until 2 Feb 2021 that I contacted MothsIreland to see if they could help with the identification. A few days later I was informed that Eamonn O’Donnell had identified the moth as Pachyrhabda steropodes. It was new to Ireland and was native to Australia! It is classified as an adventive species that probably arrived here with imported plants.
Pachyrhabda steropodes was first found in England in Dorset in 2010, and has since spread to Devon and Wales.
My task for 2021 is to find another Pachyrhabda steropodes for the Natural History Museum!
It has been 106 years since the first and only other record of Pale Oak Beauty, Hypomecis punctinalis and the second record found in a trap at home in West Cork. It was far more than unexpected! Strangely, I was aware of this species following a discussion with the ever helpful Ken Bond, in preparation for a year-long moth trapping survey I planned to start in late 2019 in Glengarriff Woods. Ken mentioned that I should be aware of Large Nutmeg, Apamea anceps (recorded in Glengarriff in 1950 by H. C. Huggins), Cream-bordered Green Pea, Earias clorana (Recorded in Glengarriff area in 1914 by Huggins), Pale Oak Beauty, Hypomecis punctinalis (Recorded in Glengarriff in mid-May 1914 by Huggins) and Blossom Underwing, Orthosia miniosa (last recorded in Ireland in 1961, associated with mature Oak woodland). Having noted the above, I did a little reading up on these four species, sure you never know…
Unfortunately the Glengarriff survey was interrupted in March 2020 due to government restrictions and I found myself unable to trap beyond the area close to my home. Also, trapping became a luxury due to the very large increase in my job’s workload. However, thankfully, I managed to get a few traps out when the weather was very suitable. By the middle of May I was trapping regularly again and on May 28th I had managed to get a large body of my job’s workload complete so decided to treat myself to two powerful traps out for the night. One 125 W M.V. Robinson in the garden and the same type of trap at a ditch in a field close-by. There was nothing exceptional about the weather and I had recorded all the regulars for the previous few nights that I had trapped. So, not expecting any change in my fortunes and continuously longing to get back to Glengarriff to resume my survey in the hope of finding some of the above mentioned specials, off to the traps I went on the morning of the 29th visiting the garden trap first. Garden trap: 31 of 18 species, highlights were Silver Y Autographa gamma, Diamond-back Moth P. xylostella and Lunar Marbled Brown Drymonia ruficornis, all singles.
Off to the trap by the ditch, which I could see was much busier. But all I could see at a glance, were the usual suspects for late May. I settled in, taking my time, enjoying each moth that had been kind enough to join me. With half the egg boxes emptied the back of my mind said in a school masterly manner “Have a proper look at that which is in the corner of your eye boy”. I obediently did so. Unfortunately or possibly thankfully, I am not experienced enough to have recognised the Pale Oak Beauty at first sight but Huggins’ name came to mind (synapses are incredible). Also, I thought “POT THAT MOTH!”. Again, obediently I did so, closed the trap and had a look in Waring & Townsend. Lewington’s wonderful image gave me so many reasons to believe I had this very special moth and the text didn’t dampen my spirits with anything like “can often be confused with Engrailed” or any other heart-breaking statement. So, let’s see what the good folk on the MothsIreland FB page say. The first comment from Michael O’Donnell started with “Wow!”. The fabulous comments from so many good, encouraging folk was the icing on an already well iced cake.
This species is recorded regularly in South-eastern areas of England, with a scattering of records elsewhere in Great Britain, a few reaching to West Wales. Might we start to see appearances on our South-eastern and South coast?
I wish to thank Ken Bond for his encouragement, advice, his identification confirmation and for his specimen preparation for inclusion in the National Museum of Ireland – Natural History collection. This record I dedicate to Mr. H. C. Huggins in thanks for all the records. Now to find a Cream-bordered Green Pea, or two! Sure you never know…
The story begins with finding a small Water Carpet Lampropteryx suffumata type on the 17/5/2019 with a wing length of 13mm at Ballinclare, Glenealy, Co. Wicklow. 13mm was smack bang in the middle of Devon Carpet Lampropteryx otregiata size and apparently outside the normal Water Carpet range of 14-17mm. Although the jury was out as to its identity from the external appearance, Ken Bond dissected it and found it to be just a female Water Carpet.
On the 28/5/2020 I trapped with a 50w MV at a spot 170m away from the above spot at the edge of a small natural Aspen Populus tremula copse (Grid Ref. T258893). I caught another small Water Carpet type with a wing length of 13mm. It was missing the apex of one of its wings but it still immediately stood out as not normal for Water Carpet. I posted a photo on the MothsIreland Facebook page and there followed much discussion as to its identity but as there was little actual experience of Devon Carpet in Ireland, I also posted on UK Moths where it was thought to be this species. As my first experience had thought me, I decided to again send it to Ken Bond for dissection. Eventually the news came through that this was indeed a Devon Carpet, Ireland’s first.
Unbeknownst to me, Dave Allen had previously predicted this as a potential new species to find in Ireland as they were spreading west in the UK. On the 30/7/2020, I trapped another fresh one at the same spot. This was probably a 2nd generation, something that does not occur in Water Carpets. It was also small and showed all the features of a Devon Carpet so it was released after some good photos were obtained. The habitat beside the trapping area is very wet under the aspen wood and probably contains the food plant of Devon Carpet, Marsh Bedstraw Galium palustre. As it is a tiny plant and I am not familiar with it, I have not actually seen it here. With the two specimens found at the same site of first and second generations in one season, I would conclude that they are probably breeding here.
In GB, Devon Carpet has historically been restricted to the south-west but has been spreading rapidly north up the west coast in recent years, reaching the Midlands in 2009 and Scotland in 2013.
I would like to thank Ken Bond for confirming the identification.
As moth recorders we visit some beautiful and very interesting locations for those with an inquiring, naturalists mind. Many types of woods, beaches, dunes, Limestone Pavement, Machair grassland, bogs, mountains, hills, marshlands, grasslands, etc. The list is a very long one when considering all the various habitats. And while we are there, it’s not just the moths that may hold our interest. It’s also the rest of non-Lepidoptera fauna and flora that amaze and delight. It might be the Red Squirrel or the Badger, the Goshawk or the Merlin, the Dragon Flies and Damsel Flies, the wild flowers and other plants. Often for me it’s the never seen before beetles, amazing jewel like looking flies and other insects. I am no Coleopterist and it’s hard to see how my Entomology interest could ever extend as far as all the other insects I see. I only have one life. I will stick with the moths!
Some of our sites may be considered by the general public to be damp, shaded, dark, windswept, barren, humid, cold or just plain boring! If I was to take most general members of the public to some sites I know they might enquire why I have brought them to such a dreary location? Especially those sites inhabited by healthy midge and tick populations! Hard to answer that question to anyone not interested in nature!
Some of the recording locations pictured here would be pleasing to general public eyes but many would be considered as unappealing, boring locations. How wrong they are! To me they are beautiful too. Mature, ancient wet Birch Woodland, extensive Sand Dunes with ‘prickly’ Marram Grass and Creeping Willow, Blanket Bog etc. and all getting rarer these days. Beauty is in the eye of the beholder! We are lucky. We know the secret beauty these places hold.
Guys, send in images of your own favourite trapping sites/locations and any other interesting info on these sites if you wish to and we can blog them. Countryside or gardens. It’s all interesting to me and no doubt many others.
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