The first two thirds of May continued as April left off, with cool, damp and rather depressing weather often accompanied by northerly winds. A slight sunny reprieve on the weekend of the 12th allowed a chance to look for day-flying moths but it was not until 20th that night-time temperatures rose high enough for serious trapping to be worthwhile. The last 11 days of the month were a complete contrast, with daytime temperatures gradually climbing to 28°C in Dorset and Highland, with some particularly warm and muggy overnight conditions felt.
Unsurprisingly, scarce migrant records proved few and far between early in the month, although two Striped Hawkmoths were trapped in Kent: one was at Orpington on 1st, with another at Lydd-on-Sea a week later.
Striped Hawkmoth, Orpington (Kent), 2nd May 2012 (Paul Sokoloff).
In between these, a Vestal was seen by day on Wickham Common (Hants) on 3rd, followed by a Dewick's Plusia in Dartford (Kent) on 10th.
Dewick's Plusia, Dartford (Kent), 11th May 2012 (James Hunter).
Single Gems were recorded in Cornwall, Dorset and Essex. The month also saw a steady trickle of Diamond-back Moths that slowly increased to a marked 'spike' of 68 in one night at Portland Bill (Dorset) on 19th. Silver Y records also gathered momentum late in the month, with a good sample count of 11 at Woodnewton (Northants) on 30th followed by 13 the next night at Norton Sub Hamdon (Somerset). These indicator species were backed up by some quality, such as a Scarce Chocolate-tip at Sandwich Bay (Kent) on 23rd and a Bordered Straw at Long Hanborough (Oxon) the following day. Perhaps the migrant of the month was Tony Morris's prize capture of the impressive Lunar Double-stripe at his constant effort site at St. Margaret's at Cliffe (Kent) on 26th.
Lunar Double-stripe, St. Margaret's at Cliffe (Kent), 27th May 2012 (Tony Morris).
There were no immigrant Rannoch Loopers this spring, but a tiny influx of Cloaked Pugs was of interest. The first — in Colin Potter's Coventry (Warks) garden on 25th — was totally unexpected, being only the tenth record for VC38. One also reached Basingstoke (Hants) the next night, while on 27th individuals were found in Southsea (Hants) and Swinton (Lancs). This is a predominately spruce-feeding species that breeds very locally in the UK, and these four — all in gardens — are typical of other vagrant records and thus probably of European origin.
Cloaked Pug, Coventry (Warks), 26th May 2012 (Colin Potter).
Blair's Mochas were recorded at Bonchurch (IoW) on 26th and at Broadwey (Dorset) on 31st.
Blair's Mocha, Broadwey (Dorset), 1st June 2012 (Paul Harris).
The scarce migrant pyralid Loxostege sticticalis (1368) was found by day at Duchal Moor (Renfrewshire) by Neil Gregory on 27th, followed by one coming to light at St. Margaret's at Cliffe (Kent) on 31st.
Loxostege sticticalis, Duchal Moor (Renfrewshire), 27th May 2012 (Neil Gregory).
Further Striped Hawkmoths late on included one photographed at a house in Waterford City on 26th and another to light in Basingstoke (Hants) on the final day of the month. Other more expected migrants were five Hummingbird Hawkmoths, 20 Dark Sword-grass, three White-speck, 27 Rusty Dot Pearl and 26 Rush Veneers. Migrant butterflies were rather scarce, with just five Clouded Yellows and 13 Painted Ladies reported. The only migrant Odonata included four Red-veined Darter dragonflies at one site on the Hampshire coast on 27th, with seven males at Belvide Reservoir (Staffs) on 28th, four at Spurn (E Yorks) on 30th, and others in Lincolnshire, Dorset, Kent and Pembrokeshire.
The stop-start nature of spring 2012 continued into early May, and an adult Small Eggar still on the wing near Lyng (Norfolk) on 9th was rather late — no doubt it had been held up by April's awful weather. Despite March's series of early emergence dates, the picture was again looking grave by mid-May with many late-spring species either present in very low numbers or simply failing to show at all. Some pessimistic moth-ers were talking about a possible 'moth armageddon', with garden catches more like those expected in February than mid-May! Things had to change and, by around 22nd, they did. A combination of much warmer weather and an increase in trapping effort led to scores of first emergence dates right across the country. As a continuation from the earlier spring articles, a table containing a wide selection of emergence dates for macro moths over the period can be found below. Note that this this not intended to be a definitive list for the whole of the British Isles; it is merely a collation by the author from personal communication and online newsgroups and websites.
Table 1: First emergence dates for British Macros, May 2012
|Small Purple-barred||10th April||High and Over||East Sussex|
|Iron Prominent||27th April||Tincleton||Dorset|
|White Ermine||27th April||Puddletown||Dorset|
|Fox Moth||29th April||South Uist||Outer Hebrides|
|Grey Scalloped Bar||29th April||South Uist||Outer Hebrides|
|Satyr Pug||29th April||South Uist||Outer Hebrides|
|Pebble Hook-tip||30th April||Wimbledon||Surrey|
|Mottled Pug||30th April||Buckingham Woods||Buckinghamshire|
|Scalloped Hazel||30th April||Buckingham Woods||Buckinghamshire|
|Clouded Border||1st May||Sandwich Bay||Kent|
|Clouded-bordered Brindle||1st May||Tynemouth||Northumberland|
|Clouded Silver||1st May||Warton Crag||Lancashire|
|Dark-barred Twin-spot Carpet||1st May||Rhoose Point||Glamorgan|
|Glaucous Shears||1st May||South Glendale, S Uist||Outer Hebrides|
|Grey Pine Carpet||1st May||Seer Green||Buckinghamshire|
|Mother Shipton||1st May||Meon Valley||Hampshire|
|Poplar Kitten||1st May||Bampton||Oxfordshire|
|Rustic Shoulder-knot||1st May||Tolpuddle Manor||Dorset|
|Seraphim||1st May||Marston Thrift||Bedfordshire|
|Yellow Belle||1st May||Sandwich Bay||Kent|
|Dog's Tooth||2nd May||Norton Sub Hamdon||Somerset|
|Narrow-winged Pug||2nd May||East Lulworth||Dorset|
|Peppered Moth||2nd May||Wiveliscombe||Somerset|
|Poplar Hawkmoth||2nd May||Langport||Somerset|
|Sallow Kitten||2nd May||Shaggs||Dorset|
|Sweet Gale Moth||2nd May||Askernish, South Uist||Outer Hebrides|
|Tawny-barred Angle||2nd May||Tincleton||Dorset|
|Coxcomb Prominent||3rd May||Silverdale Moss||Lancashire|
|Dwarf Pug||3rd May||Shilbottle||Northumberland|
|Large Yellow Underwing||3rd May||Rodwell||Dorset|
|May Highflyer||3rd May||Preston||Lancashire|
|Purple Bar||3rd May||Rhoose Point||Glamorgan|
|Scorched Wing||3rd May||Silverdale Moss||Lancashire|
|Tawny Shears||3rd May||St. Osyth||Essex|
|Treble-bar||3rd May||Rhoose Point||Glamorgan|
|White-spotted Pug||3rd May||Sandwich Bay||Kent|
|Ruddy Highflyer||4th May||Little Treleaver||Cornwall|
|Buff Ermine||7th May||St. Margaret's at Cliffe||Kent|
|Cypress Carpet||7th May||Broadwey||Dorset|
|Heart and Dart||7th May||Chickerell||Dorset|
|Latticed Heath||7th May||Braughing||Hertfordshire|
|Mottle Rustic||7th May||Dumpton||Kent|
|Beautiful Yellow Underwing||8th May||Black Park||Buckinghamshire|
|Birch Mocha||8th May||Black Park||Buckinghamshire|
|Common Swift||8th May||Lower Stondon||Bedfordshire|
|Current Pug||8th May||Bewdley||Worcestershire|
|Light Brocade||8th May||Norton Sub Hamdon||Somerset|
|Lunar Thorn||8th May||Great Fen||Cambridgeshire|
|Mottled Beauty||8th May||Winterbourne Houghton||Dorset|
|Orange Footman||8th May||Fritton||Suffolk|
|Pinion-spotted Pug||8th May||Biggleswade||Bedfordshire|
|Poplar Grey||8th May||Southport||Lancashire|
|Common Wave||9th May||Sandwich Bay||Kent|
|Broad-barred White||10th May||Dumpton||Kent|
|Marbled Minor||10th May||Norton Sub Hamdon||Somerset|
|Silver Cloud||10th May||Bransford||Worcestershire|
|The Flame||10th May||Stockton-on-Tees||Cleveland|
|Treble Lines||10th May||Warndon||Worcestershire|
|Argent and Sable||12th May||Bentley Woods||Wiltshire|
|Burnet Companion||12th May||Kithurst Hill||West Sussex|
|Devon Carpet||12th May||Lords Lot||Lancashire|
|Eyed Hawkmoth||12th May||Alderholt||Dorset|
|Rivulet||12th May||Denge Wood||Kent|
|Setaceous Hebrew Character||12th May||Rhoose Point||Glamorgan|
|Small Yellow Underwing||12th May||Penny Hill Bank NR||Worcestershire|
|Speckled Yellow||12th May||Bentley Woods||Wiltshire|
|Toadflax Brocade||12th May||Potton||Bedfordshire|
|Broken-barred Carpet||16th May||Bowness-on-Solway||Cumbria|
|Cream-spot Tiger||16th May||Rhoose Point||Glamorgan|
|Large Red-belted Clearwing||16th May||Blean Woods||Kent|
|Sand Dart||16th May||Titchwell||Norfolk|
|Small Square-spot||16th May||Howick||Northumberland|
|White Colon||16th May||Titchwell||Norfolk|
|Alder Kitten||17th May||Bewdley||Worcestershire|
|Grass Rivulet||17th May||Owston Meadow||Yorkshire|
|Grey Pug||17th May||Burscough||Lancashire|
|Ochreous Pug||17th May||Bewdley||Worcestershire|
|Silver-ground Carpet||17th May||Wiveliscombe||Somerset|
|Common White Wave||18th May||Chippenham Fen||Cambridgeshire|
|Dark Brocade||18th May||Corfe Mullen||Dorset|
|Flame Wainscot||18th May||Chippenham Fen||Cambridgeshire|
|Pale-shouldered Brocade||18th May||Chippenham Fen||Cambridgeshire|
|Sandy Carpet||18th May||Chippenham Fen||Cambridgeshire|
|Silver Hook||18th May||Chippenham Fen||Cambridgeshire|
|Small Elephant Hawkmoth||18th May||Portland||Dorset|
|Treble Brown Spot||18th May||Earith||Cambridgeshire|
|Willow Beauty||18th May||Chickerell||Dorset|
|Balsam Carpet||19th May||Test Valley||Hampshire|
|Cream Wave||19th May||Bradfield||Buckinghamshire|
|Drab Looper||19th May||Bradfield||Buckinghamshire|
|Edinburgh Pug||19th May||Aviemore||Highland|
|Galium Carpet||19th May||St. Margaret's at Cliffe||Kent|
|Sharp-angled Peacock||19th May||Cadnam||Hampshire|
|Six-spot Burnet||19th May||Shapwick Heath||Somerset|
|Marbled Brown||20th May||Seer Green||Buckinghamshire|
|Striped Twin-spot Carpet||20th May||Baines Crag||Lancashire|
|Foxglove Pug||21st May||Bowness-on-Solway||Cumbria|
|Freyer's Pug||21st May||Funtley||Hampshire|
|Green Silver-lines||21st May||Finemere Wood||Buckinghamshire|
|Little Thorn||21st May||East Lulworth||Dorset|
|Small White Wave||21st May||Polden Way||Somerset|
The Pinion-spotted Pug at Biggleswade (Bedfordshire) on 8th was the first in the county since 2006. Such sporadic occurrences are typical of a species that has such a low population density across the country. Another Pinion-spotted Pug was at Sandwich Bay (Kent) on 23rd.
Pinion-spotted Pug, Biggleswade (Beds), 9th May 2012 (Melissa Banthorpe).
Two Dotted Rustics recorded on a small nature reserve near Bourton-on-the-Water (Glos) on 17th again gives renewed hope that the species still clings on as a scarce resident in the Cotswolds, once a former stronghold for the species. Light Feathered Rustics at three sites on the Ashridge Estate (Bucks) around 23rd were welcome records of what is still a scarce species in the south Midlands. More than a handful of White Points in the Home Counties in the fourth week may have included some migrants, particularly those at Ewelme cress-beds (Oxon) on 24th and at Little Billing (Northants) on 26th, both of which were at or beyond the species' normal range. A Jersey Mocha at Falmouth (Cornwall) on 25th and a Portland Ribbon Wave at the same location on 27th were probably warm-weather wanderers from Cornish breeding stock. A Netted Pug at Grange-over-Sands (Cumbria) on 24th was only the second area record in 30 years, while one in Oundle (Northants) on 28th was new for the relevant 10km square. A second colony of Pauper Pug has been discovered on a nature reserve near Alcester (Warks): this species was only added to the VC38 list last year! The annual survey of the red data species Marsh Moth was again carried out on the Lincolnshire coast on 31st. With Paul Waring at the helm, a team of volunteers recorded a total of 58 males from two sites — an excellent count that proves the species is still doing well in its core location. One was also seen at nearby Gibraltar Point NNR the following night, showing that this satellite colony is still present, albeit at a low density. Other species recorded on the survey included Brown Rustic, Valerian Pug, Small Clouded Brindle and White Colon.
Male Marsh Moth, Lincolnshire, 1st June 2012 (Roger Wasley).
Brown Rustic, Lincolnshire, 1st June 2012 (Roger Wasley).
Small Clouded Brindle, Lincolnshire, 1st June 2012 (Steve Whitehouse).
White Colon, Lincolnshire, 1st June 2012 (Roger Wasley).
Following communications with moth-ers in neighbouring Gloucestershire, Oliver Wadsworth and Tony Simpson learned that the colourful micro-moth Digitivalva perlepidella (471) had recently extended its range north within that county. With that in mind, they managed to locate the food plant — Ploughman's Spikenard — complete with feeding signs in southeast Worcestershire during early May. Not only was it a county first, but they also managed to see a pristine adult from a retained pupa in early June — just reward for pioneering work!
Digitivalva perlepidella (Oliver Wadsworth).
Needless to say, most of the major micro-moth news occurred in the last third of the month. Two county firsts in Bedfordshire in a few days involved a Pseudococcyx posticana (1208) at Kempston on 21st followed by a Cydia servillana (1256) at nearby Eaton Ford on 26th. A healthy population of the local Micropterix mansuetella (2) was discovered in Wolves Wood RSPB (Suffolk) by Paul Bryant on 23rd. A Lampronia fuscatella (138) at Borrowdale (Cumbria) on 24th appears to be the first modern-day record for the county, while one in Ipswich (Suffolk) the next day was possibly the first county record for 20 years. A Paratalanta pandalis (1373) at Gait Barrows (Lancs) on 24th was the first at this exclusive county site since 1999. A productive nocturnal survey at Ribbesford Woods (Worcs) on 25th recorded six of the delightful Schiffermuellerina grandis (634) as well as the first county Cydia coniferana (1268) for 100 years! A Pammene obscurana (1225) at Alderholt (Dorset) on 27th was also a county first.
Schiffermuellerina grandis, Ribbesford Woods (Worcs), (Oliver Wadsworth).
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).