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.
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.
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!
In early July 2019 I mentioned to my wife that we should have a family day out at Kilbroney Forest Park near Rostrevor, Co. Down. Subsequently, I forgot all about it (to venture so far from my favourite haunt of Murlough NNR was an odd thing for me to suggest). So, on the morning of the 11th of July I was dragged (kicking and screaming) to the famous Cloughmore Stone (a glacial erratic), which sits on the slopes of Slieve Martin (with a little bit of help from Finn MacCool).
On arrival a further round of protestations fell on deaf ears and I begrudgingly decided to tag along with my family rather than sit alone in the car park. On the way up the hill the kids were having a great time (perhaps the only drawback was having to listen to me complain). Throughout the Kilimanjaro-like ascent of around 100m from the car I was keen to point out the agony of my feet, my creaky knees and how changes in altitude might be exacerbating my tinnitus… but to no avail.
Thankfully moths came to my rescue and gave me the perfect excuse to pause – that’s not strictly true, to be honest what I actually saw were heavily-laden blaeberry (bilberry) bushes and I started to stuff my face. With my head inside a bush at the side of the track I looked down to my right and saw what I was sure was a type of Cosmopterix moth. I was able to catch and confirm that it was Cosmopterix orichalcea, the 2nd record of this species for NI (the 1st confirmed only a week before). What were the chances of that? Pure luck! It turned out that operating outside my comfort zone had paid dividends (at that moment I would have been quite happy to head back home). I told my wife about it and got a hefty dose of “I told you not to be so lazy” etc.
The berry crop was too hard to resist though, they were at peak ripeness and really tasty, so I hung around in the same area grazing contently. As I munched my way around the area, I kept disturbing and catching moths of an Apotomis species that looked quite interesting. They wouldn’t venture far out from the bushes, hastily retreating for cover – I took a couple to look at later.
On arriving home, it didn’t take long to find the unknown species in the field guides – Apotomis sauciana! But that presented a conundrum as it had not been recorded in Ireland before. That’s the bit that always stops you in your tracks, the self-doubt, am I going mad? It looked good to me and seemed a perfect fit, but with something of that potential, it’s best to be cautious. Thanks to the help of Ken Bond this species was subsequently confirmed as A. sauciana and a first for Ireland – brilliant! It turns out that this species was recorded around the same time at other locations in Ireland, including at light. To get a second record for NI and a new species for Ireland on the same day equates to an extremely successful outing for a lazy man. All that remained was finding the courage to admit to my wife that she was right, again.
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.