Moth News: Late spring Review


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).

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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-barred10th AprilHigh and OverEast Sussex
Iron Prominent 27th AprilTincletonDorset
White Ermine27th AprilPuddletownDorset
Fox Moth29th AprilSouth UistOuter Hebrides
Grey Scalloped Bar29th April South UistOuter Hebrides
Satyr Pug29th AprilSouth UistOuter Hebrides
Pebble Hook-tip30th AprilWimbledonSurrey
Mottled Pug 30th AprilBuckingham WoodsBuckinghamshire
Scalloped Hazel30th April Buckingham WoodsBuckinghamshire
Clouded Border1st MaySandwich BayKent
Clouded-bordered Brindle1st MayTynemouthNorthumberland
Clouded Silver1st MayWarton CragLancashire
Dark-barred Twin-spot Carpet1st May Rhoose PointGlamorgan
Glaucous Shears1st MaySouth Glendale, S UistOuter Hebrides
Grey Pine Carpet1st MaySeer GreenBuckinghamshire
Mother Shipton1st MayMeon ValleyHampshire
Poplar Kitten1st MayBamptonOxfordshire
Rustic Shoulder-knot1st MayTolpuddle ManorDorset
Seraphim1st MayMarston ThriftBedfordshire
Spectacle1st MayBamptonOxfordshire
Yellow Belle1st May Sandwich BayKent
Dog's Tooth2nd MayNorton Sub HamdonSomerset
Narrow-winged Pug2nd MayEast LulworthDorset
Peppered Moth2nd MayWiveliscombeSomerset
Poplar Hawkmoth2nd MayLangportSomerset
Sallow Kitten2nd MayShaggsDorset
Sweet Gale Moth2nd MayAskernish, South UistOuter Hebrides
Tawny-barred Angle2nd MayTincletonDorset
Coxcomb Prominent3rd MaySilverdale MossLancashire
Dwarf Pug3rd MayShilbottleNorthumberland
Large Yellow Underwing3rd MayRodwellDorset
May Highflyer3rd MayPrestonLancashire
Purple Bar3rd MayRhoose PointGlamorgan
Scorched Wing3rd MaySilverdale MossLancashire
Tawny Shears3rd MaySt. OsythEssex
Treble-bar3rd MayRhoose PointGlamorgan
White-spotted Pug3rd MaySandwich BayKent
Ruddy Highflyer4th MayLittle TreleaverCornwall
Buff Ermine7th MaySt. Margaret's at CliffeKent
Buff-tip7th MayBroadweyDorset
Cypress Carpet7th MayBroadweyDorset
Heart and Dart7th MayChickerellDorset
Latticed Heath7th MayBraughing Hertfordshire
Mottle Rustic7th MayDumptonKent
Shears7th MayIpswichSuffolk
Beautiful Yellow Underwing8th MayBlack ParkBuckinghamshire
Birch Mocha8th MayBlack ParkBuckinghamshire
Cinnabar8th MayMargamGlamorgan
Common Swift8th MayLower StondonBedfordshire
Current Pug8th MayBewdleyWorcestershire
Light Brocade8th MayNorton Sub HamdonSomerset
Lunar Thorn8th MayGreat FenCambridgeshire
Mottled Beauty8th MayWinterbourne HoughtonDorset
Orange Footman8th MayFrittonSuffolk
Pinion-spotted Pug 8th MayBiggleswadeBedfordshire
Poplar Grey8th MaySouthportLancashire
Common Wave9th MaySandwich BayKent
Broad-barred White10th MayDumptonKent
Marbled Minor10th MayNorton Sub HamdonSomerset
Silver Cloud10th MayBransfordWorcestershire
The Flame10th MayStockton-on-TeesCleveland
Treble Lines 10th MayWarndonWorcestershire
Argent and Sable12th MayBentley WoodsWiltshire
Burnet Companion12th MayKithurst HillWest Sussex
Devon Carpet12th MayLords LotLancashire
Eyed Hawkmoth12th MayAlderholtDorset
Nutmeg12th MayRodwellDorset
Rivulet12th MayDenge WoodKent
Setaceous Hebrew Character12th MayRhoose PointGlamorgan
Small Yellow Underwing12th MayPenny Hill Bank NRWorcestershire
Speckled Yellow12th MayBentley WoodsWiltshire
Toadflax Brocade12th MayPottonBedfordshire
Lychnis15th MayMertonOxfordshire
Broken-barred Carpet16th MayBowness-on-SolwayCumbria
Cream-spot Tiger16th MayRhoose PointGlamorgan
Large Red-belted Clearwing16th MayBlean WoodsKent
Sand Dart16th MayTitchwellNorfolk
Small Square-spot16th MayHowickNorthumberland
White Colon16th MayTitchwellNorfolk
Alder Kitten17th MayBewdleyWorcestershire
Grass Rivulet17th May Owston MeadowYorkshire
Grey Pug17th MayBurscoughLancashire
Ochreous Pug17th MayBewdleyWorcestershire
Silver-ground Carpet17th MayWiveliscombeSomerset
Common White Wave18th MayChippenham FenCambridgeshire
Dark Brocade18th May Corfe MullenDorset
Flame Wainscot18th MayChippenham FenCambridgeshire
Pale-shouldered Brocade18th MayChippenham FenCambridgeshire
Sandy Carpet18th MayChippenham FenCambridgeshire
Silver Hook18th MayChippenham FenCambridgeshire
Small Elephant Hawkmoth18th MayPortland Dorset
Treble Brown Spot18th May EarithCambridgeshire
Willow Beauty18th MayChickerellDorset
Balsam Carpet19th MayTest ValleyHampshire
Coronet19th MayBroadweyDorset
Cream Wave19th MayBradfieldBuckinghamshire
Drab Looper19th MayBradfieldBuckinghamshire
Edinburgh Pug19th MayAviemoreHighland
Galium Carpet19th MaySt. Margaret's at CliffeKent
Sharp-angled Peacock19th MayCadnamHampshire
Six-spot Burnet19th MayShapwick HeathSomerset
Marbled Brown20th MaySeer GreenBuckinghamshire
Striped Twin-spot Carpet20th MayBaines CragLancashire
Foxglove Pug21st MayBowness-on-SolwayCumbria
Freyer's Pug21st MayFuntleyHampshire
Green Silver-lines21st MayFinemere WoodBuckinghamshire
Little Thorn21st MayEast LulworthDorset
Small White Wave21st MayPolden 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).

Written by: Steve Whitehouse