Moth News: Early Spring 2013


The mild first week of March soon gave way to a chilly easterly airflow with little respite until early April — records state this was the coldest March for over 120 years. Thankfully it eventually warmed up, with temperatures even reaching the low twenties in southern England around 24th April, which also proved the warmest night of the year so far. Nevertheless, moth-ers everywhere despaired at both the poor numbers and species selection recorded compared to previous springs. The second half of April did see an improvement, but it was apparent that spring 2013 was 3–4 weeks behind the norm.

Trench Wood (Worcs) — leafless and largely insect-less in March 2013 (Photo: Steve Whitehouse).

As one would expect, migrants were very limited. The pick of these was a Pearly Underwing at Tramore (Waterford) on 6th April. A small influx of about 44 Dark Sword-grass was noted; most were in Cornwall and Dorset, but interestingly six reached Bardsey Island (Gwynedd) on 24th April, coinciding with several records of overshooting southern European birds at sites along the Irish Sea coast. There were also nine Silver Y and nine Diamond-backed Moth around this time. A Rush Veneer was at Bonchurch (IoW) on 30th April. Four early Hummingbird Hawkmoths in Sussex were presumably re-emerging hibernators, though three nationwide on 30th April may have been new migrants. Fresh migrant Painted Lady butterflies were at Seaford (E Sussex) on 20th April and at Ventnor (IoW) on 27th. One or two male Large Tortoiseshells lingered at Walters Copse (IoW) from 19th April onwards.

The late spring has also meant that species overwintering as adults have been seen well into April, and single Brindled Ochre at Freshwater (IoW) on 5th and 19th April at this known site were the first actually seen there for some years.

Brindled Ochre, Freshwater, Isle of Wight (Photo: Sue Davis).

Pale Pinion have had a good showing, with at least 33 reported, including three in one night at Orlandon (Pembrokeshire) on 12th April.

Pale Pinion, Orlandon, Pembrokeshire (Photo: Rosemary Royle).

Pale Pinion
Pale Pinion, Tuosist, Kerry (Photo: Fionn Moore)

The scarcer Tawny Pinion was only recorded at four locations, but Dotted Chestnut have survived the winter well and many of the 34+ records to light were from Bedfordshire and Warwickshire.

Dotted Chestnut, Trench Wood, Worcestershire (Photo: Steve Whitehouse).

A Buttoned Snout was found at Spixworth (Norfolk) on 19th March and a Bloxworth Snout in Cornwall was spotted resting on a Penzance shop window the following day. A Scarce Tissue at Gretton (Glos) was a nice garden surprise on 24th April.

Scarce Tissue, Gretton, Gloucestershire (Photo: Roger Wasley).

Not surprisingly a few winter macros lingered in places; most noteworthy was a Spring Usher at Cury (Cornwall) on 4th March — the first one there since 1976! A Pale Brindled Beauty was still on the wing at Upper Rochford (Worcs) on 22nd April.

Table 1: first reported dates for some moth species that do not normally overwinter as adults during spring 2013

Engrailed1st MarchTuosistKerry
Red Chestnut3rd MarchUpper RochfordWorcestershire
Lead-coloured Drab4th MarchMilton KeynesBuckinghamshire
Shoulder-stripe5th MarchSpaxtonSomerset
Twin-spotted Quaker5th MarchAbbotskerswellDevon
V-Pug5th MarchBuryas BridgeCornwall
Water Carpet5th MarchAbbotskerswellDevon
Yellow Horned4th MarchTuosistKerry
Brindled Pug6th MarchIpswichSuffolk
Horse Chestnut6th MarchShaggs, East LulworthDorset
Semioscopis avellanella (666)8th MarchCratloeCo. Clare
Orange Underwing14th MarchRewell WoodWest Sussex
Early Tooth-striped16th MarchDornieHighland
Orange Underwing17th MarchHam Walls RSPBSomerset
Belted Beauty29th MarchBalranald, North UistOuter Hebrides
Powdered Quaker2nd AprilWinterborne SticklandDorset
Rannoch Sprawler3rd AprilAviemoreHighland
Barred Tooth-striped6th AprilMill Hill NRWest Sussex
Rannoch Brindled Beauty9th AprilRannochPerthshire
Streamer9th AprilGelli-hir-Wood LNRGlamorgan
Pine Beauty10th AprilRyton Pools NRWarwickshire
Brindled Beauty11th AprilWiveliscombeSomerset
Brimstone Moth11th AprilHennockDevon
White Marked11th AprilUpper RochfordWorcestershire
Blossom Underwing12th AprilStover CPDevon
Grey Pine Carpet12th AprilBrownsea IslandDorset
Nut-tree Tussock12th AprilLlandaff NorthGlamorgan
Common Marbled Carpet14th AprilPaigntonDevon
Frosted Green14th AprilHodders CombeSomerset
Light Orange Underwing14th AprilHorsenden HillGreater London
Northern Drab14th AprilThorney IslandWest Sussex
Semioscopis steinkellneriana (667)14th AprilFinemere WoodBuckinghamshire
Emperor Moth16th AprilDartmoor NPDevon
Small Eggar16th AprilHempnallNorfolk
Adela cuprella16th AprilFleet PondHampshire
Purple Thorn18th AprilEast LulworthDorset
Eriocrania subpurpurella (006)18th AprilLadywalk NRWarwickshire
Brown House Moth19th AprilChester-le-StreetDurham
Carpatolechia proximella (770)19th AprilYellowhamDorset
Common Heath21st AprilDenny WoodHampshire
Green Carpet22nd AprilCrows-an-WraCornwall
Eriocrania sangii (012)22nd AprilCatherton CommonShropshire
Pyrausta despicata (1365)22nd AprilHigh and OverEast Sussex
Sloe Carpet22nd AprilUndisclosed siteEssex
Bee Moth23rd AprilWolvercoteBuckinghamshire
Eriocrania semipurpurella (013)23rd AprilPilmoor WoodNorth Yorkshire
Grey Birch23rd AprilCratloeCo. Clare
Lesser Swallow Prominent23rd AprilIpswichSuffolk
Lunar Marbled Brown23rd AprilBewdleyWorcestershire
Oak-tree Pug23rd AprilCratloeCo. Clare
Scorched Carpet23rd AprilBox Hill NRSurrey
Chinese Character24th AprilIvinghoeBuckinghamshire
Mullein24th AprilSandyBedfordshire
Pammene giganteana (1227)24th AprilIpswichSuffolk
Pebble Hook-tip24th AprilSandyBedfordshire
Ruby Tiger24th AprilChippenham FenCambridgeshire
Sallow Kitten24th AprilBewdleyWorcestershire
Scalloped Hazel24th AprilCrows-an-WraCornwall
Scalloped Hook-tip24th AprilSandyBedfordshire
Schreckensteinia festaliella (485)24th AprilIpswichSuffolk
Spectacle24th AprilWarndonWorcestershire
Brown Silver Lines25th AprilHerringfleet HillsSuffolk
Incurvaria pectinea (129)25th AprilStoke CommonBuckinghamshire
Tawny-barred Angle25th AprilIpswichSuffolk
Ancylis comptana (1116)26th AprilHigh and OverEast Sussex
Lime Hawkmoth29th AprilLower SmiteWorcestershire
Puss Moth29th AprilWiveliscombeSomerset
Cameraria ohridella (366a)30th AprilBute ParkGlamorgan
Garden Carpet30th AprilHennockDevon

Looking at the above table it is clearly evident that there were three main periods of emergence: one in early March and others in the third and fourth weeks of April. Interestingly the first dates of V Pug and Grey Pine Carpet are particularly early, while those of White Marked and Small Eggar are around three and four weeks late respectively.

White Marked, Clee Hills, Shropshire (Photo: Steve Whitehouse).

Engrailed, Trench Wood, Worcestershire (Photo: Steve Whitehouse).

Brindled Beauty, Warndon, Worcestershire (Photo: Steve Whitehouse).

The Streamer was part of the substantial haul of an opportune trapping session at Gelli-hir-Wood LNR (Glamorgan) on 9th April, which also produced 25 Oak Beauty, 39 Brindled Pug, nine Early Grey, five Early Tooth-striped and two Grey Shoulder-knot.

Streamer, Glamorgan (Photo: Chris Manley).

Brindled Pug, Glamorgan (Photo: Chris Manley).

The Lime Hawkmoth in Worcestershire was found in an upstairs office at the headquarters of Worcestershire Wildlife Trust at Lower Smite Farm, after it had sneaked in through a window left open overnight. A Lime Tree stands just outside!

Lime Hawkmoth, Lower Smite (Worcs), 30th April 2013 (Photo: Wendy Carter).

Not included in the first dates table were two interesting records still worthy of mention. Amazingly a live adult Red-tipped Clearwing was found inside a house in Lincolnshire around 5th March. Some sallow logs had been stored next to an open fireplace in the lounge and the emerging fresh insect was identified via a request and photoshare on Twitter! This species should not really be seen in the wild until at least early June. A Lesser Yellow Underwing found indoors in Sussex on 24th had also presumably had its emergence accelerated by central heating.

A count of 12 Barred Tooth-striped was made in East Sussex on 14th April and at least three were seen in the Silverdale area of Lancashire in the last two weeks. Worries for Belted Beauty at its Morecambe Bay site have grown further as only seven adults had been counted by late in the month.

Bill Last headed up to Scotland in April to join David Brown in the hope of finding some of the Highlands' most special spring moths. David Brown conducts up to a dozen residential Lepidoptera courses based at study centres throughout England, Wales and Scotland, annually from April to October. All are suitable for both beginners and more experienced participants alike and include illustrated talks and help on identification and information on key target species. Using a galaxy of moth traps together with daytime field visits to special locations, these often produce a diverse range of Nationally Scarce and interesting moths. Further information is available via emailing David. The snow had only just melted at lower levels as the group explored roadside habitat in Perthshire!

Bog Myrtle patch, Perthshire (Photo: Bill Last).

The weather was kind that day as six Rannoch Brindled Beauty were found resting on fence posts.

Male Rannoch Brindled Beauty, Perthshire, 13th April 2013 (Photo: Bill Last).

In the evenings, traps were sited in birch woodland at Kincraig (Highland) and overnight were successful in catching several Rannoch Sprawlers, the Scottish forms of Yellow Horned, Brindled Beauty and Hebrew Character as well as the moorland tortrix Acleris hyemana (1055).

Moth trapping at Kincraig, April 2013 (Photo: Bill Last).

Rannoch Sprawler, Kincraig (Highland), April 2013 (Photo: Bill Last).

Yellow Horned, Kincraig (Highland), April 2013 (Photo: Bill Last).

Acleris hyemana, Kincraig (Highland), April 2013 (Photo: Bill Last).

Dave Grundy also did well in Perthshire and the Spey Valley at this time, recording the micros Acleris logiana (1051), Acleris maccana (1060), Acleris rufana (1057) and a presumed Acleris lipsiana (1056).

Acleris maccana, Great Glen (Highland), 10th March 2013 (Photo: Ewan Munro).

Other notable micros nationwide have included a Carpatolechia decorella (767) at Tilberthwaite (Cumbria) on 28th February followed in the same county by a Mompha langiella (880) at Kendal on 11th March. A single Mompha divisella (889) was at Llandaff North (Glamorgan) on 13th April and two were in Gloucester city on 24th. A presumed Mompha bradleyi (889a) escaped from a front porch at Hartshill (Warks) on 23rd April before allowing a confirming photograph to be taken. However the observer, who found the county's second record in February last year, was happy with his views.

John Murray from Marshalls Heath (Herts) gathered a basketful of Norway Spruce cones from his garden to use as firelighters during the cold spell in March. He subsequently found an adult Cydia strobilella (1254) on his house landing in mid-April and this turned out to be the first county record since 1899!

Finally, Alan Fairclough and Tom Tams have been busy over the winter babysitting Northumberland-found leaf mines of micro moths. They have recently been rewarded with pristine emerging adults of Phyllonorycter platanoidella (363) off Norway Maple and Eriocrania cicatricella (011) off Birch.

Phyllonorycter platanoidella, Northumberland, April 2013 (Photo: Tom Tams).

Eriocrania cicatricella, Northumberland, April 2013 (Photo: Tom Tams).


Clancy, Top-Jensen and Fiibiger. Moths of Great Britain and Ireland. A field guide to all the macromoths. BugBook Publishing, 2012.
Townsend and Lewington. Field Guide to the Moths of Great Britain and Ireland. Revised edition, British Wildlife Publishing, 2009.
UK Moths online photographic guide

*The numbers stated after a number of micro moth species in the text are the British Checklist Species numbers as assigned by J. D. Bradley in the Log Book of British Lepidoptera (2000).

Written by: Steve Whitehouse