3 August 2015 - Luddington-in-the-Brook



Small China-mark (Cataclysta lemnata)
No mercury vapour light was needed to lure this beautiful micro-moth as it danced a mysterious and convoluted flight just over the surface of a garden-pond.  Another joined it in flight - and then another.  I hadn't seen the moth before but guessed it might be a China-mark because of the proximity of the pond - and I was right.  The Small China-mark (Cataclysa lemnata) is the moth which emerges from the larval state after the caterpillar has spent some time underwater and has then fashioned a cocoon of duck-weed.  I will keep my eye on the pond here in Yorkshire and hope to record it as a new visitor. 

Small China-mark (illustration male and female)

The hand-coloured illustration from British Moths and their Transformations  (Westwood and Humphreys) shows the male and female Small China-mark  



Least Carpet (Idaea rusticata)

Many moths are astonishingly beautiful and the best of those, in my opinion, are Carpet moths. The Lime-speck Pug and the Foxglove Pug must be included in any list of beauty, but the Least Carpet (above) is the best I have seen for a long time. Neither of these moths are to be included in the Shandy Hall list as they were both trapped and identified in Luddington-in-the-Brook, where Carry Akroyd has her home and studio.  The Least Carpet is common in the Thames Valley but there are only 14 records of its appearance in Yorkshire.  Having seen one for the first time it should make it easier to spot if it does decide to extend its range to Coxwold.  The patterns on the wings appear to be layers of cream, silk and chocolate all piled up together.

Least Carpet Moths (male and female illustration)



Dot Moth (Melanchra persicariae)
Another moth that hasn't been recorded at Shandy Hall is the Dot Moth (Melanchra persicariae) despite the fact that it is fairly common and the numbers are stable.  This moth could well turn up in the garden at Shandy Hall or perhaps in the gardens of the Yorkshire Museum where we will be moth-trapping tomorrow night.  The 'catch' can be seen if you happen to be passing through the gardens on Wednesday between 8 and 9.30 in the morning.

Dot Moth with food plant and caterpillar (illustration)

The illustration shows the Dot Moth (Fig 11) beneath the caterpillar which is climbing up the stem of the food plant. Persicariae, part of the scientific name, refers to Polygonum persicaria.  There seems to be some confusion regarding the classification of this plant as it is also included in the Bistort family.  The vernacular names of this plant are many - Adderwort, Pink Pokers, Twice-writhen, Passion Dock, Oysterloit and Easter Ledger to name but six.  

1 August 2015 - Small Fan-footed Wave

Small Fan-footed Wave (Idaea biselata)

This moth is the Small Fan-footed Wave (Idaea biselata). It was observed in a plastic tube as that was the only way to get a good look at it.  It kept fluttering around, resistant of immobility, and then would crouch in the cap at the bottom of the tube so the picture you see is the result of both trickery and patience. It wasn't easy to identify because it's a little worn and its markings are not very distinct; we wondered if it might be the Dotted-border Wave. I've enhanced the contrast on this image so you can see its identifying marks with more clarity.

Its scientific name is Idaea biselata Idaea for the mountain from which the mythological Greek goddesses and gods watched the Trojan War; and biselata for the tufts on the back legs of the male. Funnily enough, biselata should actually be bisetata; it's a typographical error that has stuck.

The catch from yesterday had little else of note, unless you have an affinity for the Common Footman (Eilema lurideola); they were everywhere, hidden under almost every one of the egg cartons, perched along the rim of the trap, and scrambling for exodus after we removed the top. However, it did seem to be the catch of moth-friendship; two Muslin Footmen seated together, the tips of their wings overlapping.  Three Wainscots huddled in alliance, probably plotting their escape from their temporary residence.


Three Wainscots


The Small Fan-footed Wave is species number 368 for Shandy Hall gardens.

Post : Ariel A Smith (UPenn)

29 July 2015 - Poplar and Oak

Poplar Grey (Subacronicta megacephala)

We went out on a windy morning a few days ago to find the trap full of moths - but the catch yielded much repetition. There were many Clays, Large Yellow Underwings, Common Footmen, Muslin Footmen; there must have been a dozen Uncertains and Rustics to note. We combed through the cartons, looking for something worthy of a write-up; these moths were now becoming familiar and I was able to easily recognize many of the species.

Luckily, we identified a Poplar Grey (Subacronicta megacephala), which is worthy of note because, according to our records,  we've only seen it once before at Shandy Hall. I say lucky because it was both lucky that we caught it in the first place and lucky that it didn't blow away while we were noting the catch - a number of the moths tumbled out of the trap and eagerly flew off with the wind as we opened the top.

The Poplar Grey's scientific name first means 'nightfall', and secondly 'large-head', which references the form of the larva. At first, the adult appears quite difficult to identify because it resembles many other grey, black, and white densely-patterned moths. Upon closer inspection, I was able to define its identifying characteristic: two small white dots on the far edges of each of its wings. It has striped legs, and its antennae lay flat along the sides of its back.

As it turns out, this isn't a species new to Shandy Hall; it was recorded a few years ago, but hasn't been photographed or written about before. It is a decent-sized dusky moth, not particularly memorable, but one of the few standouts in a trapping that was otherwise rather recognizable and repetitive.

Oak Eggar (Lasiocampa quercus)

A photograph of the Oak Eggar (Lasiocampa quercus) has been included, a moth we caught on 22 July. When I saw it, I immediately thought of the Drinker moth which is of a similar shape and colour with a similar marking on the wings - except the resting position is different. The Oak Eggar rests with its wings spread out in a neat little equilateral triangle, whereas the Drinker rests with them folded up, and is best viewed from the side. The Eggar we caught is a female, because it is a very light brown; its antennae are undecorated and without feathers.

We were fortunate enough to get a good photograph of this one; you can see the distinctive fluffy top of its head that tends down on its back like a little cloak. This is one of the few moths that actually looks sturdy. Most of the ones we find are delicate and their tiny legs flimsy as spiderwebs. This one, however, looks relatively new; it's well colored; and it's of a size to seemingly hold its own against the elements.


Post : Ariel A Smith (UPenn)

22 July 2015 - Unwelcome at the Bake Off

Meal Moth (Pyralis farinalis)

In today's catch, we discovered another species new to Shandy Hall. This one is called the Meal Moth (Pyralis farinalis). The genus references an unknown species of bird or winged insect which is supposed to live in fire; we cannot take this literally, and it must simply allude to its attraction to light. Additionally, Linnaeus divided any moth other than a hawk-moth into seven families; Pyralis was a name for one such family. Farinalis means that the moth lives on flour. 

The Meal Moth is common and widespread - but is usually found inside stables, grain stores, et cetera; places with easy access to grain and flour. Although it has very specific markings, it was difficult to identify because none of us had ever seen it before and because of those characteristic feeding grounds - the components of which are nowhere to be found at Shandy Hall. At first, Patrick thought it looked similar to a Phoenix - the abdomen is curled up when the moth is at rest - but the markings are completely different.  I discovered it by accident - looking through pictures, searching for the identifying characteristics of various other moths, and there it was, resting with its abdomen turned up. The shape of its wings and abdomen distinctly remind me of the very common Barred Straw. It has distinctive, clearly delineated bars of color on its wings; these are purplish and brown, separated by white lines.  And it is a Micro-moth so we were all looking in the wrong Field Guide...
Welcome species 367.

Post : Ariel A Smith (UPenn)
Meal Moth (illustration)


21 July 2015 - Elegant in Repose

Pimpinel Pug (Eupithecia pimpinellata)
The Field Guide says to be careful not to confuse this moth with the Wormwood Pug; and take care not to mistake it for a Yarrow Pug; it could also be a Campanula Pug.  Fortunately the photograph (above) was taken at high resolution and the moth's identity has been confirmed by Charlie Fletcher as a Pimpinel Pug (Eupithecia pimpinellata).  The adult moth is rarely seen, coming to light only occasionally, and although there are scattered records throughout the country, nowhere is it common.

Greater Burnet-saxifrage (Pimpinella major) 
The Burnet Saxifrage (Pimpinella saxifraga) is the food-plant of the larva - more particularly it is the ripening seed capsules that the caterpillar feeds on before pupating underground over the winter.  The plant pictured above is the Greater Burnet-saxifrage which is also recognised as a food-plant.  This one is just outside the kitchen at Shandy Hall and Chris has spread seeds from this specimen into the quarry over the last couple of years to encourage its growth. It is an attractive and delicate plant which will be looked at more carefully as the summer ends to see if any caterpillars can be seen.

The scientific name for this species is straightforward - Eupithecia means 'the goodly dwarf', the little moths have always seen as elegant in repose; pimpinellata - the larval foodplant.

This new and uncommon moth brings the total to 366 species.

18 July 2015 - Bend Sinister

Dark Fruit-tree Tortrix (Pandemis heparana)

On the 15th of July we came across a new species - the Dark Fruit-tree Tortrix. It was one of a large number of moths including Garden Tiger, Burnished Brass, and another Single-dotted Wave (readily recognizable because of the time spent identifying it the other day). This Tortrix was fairly easy to identify - I was already familiar with the Tortricidae family, because those moths come in such distinctive half-oval shapes, and it was clearly a shade too gloomy to be a Barred Fruit-tree. Its scientific name is Pandemis heparana. It is classified as "common" and flies from late May until September. What I found the most interesting about the one we caught is how the stripe in the middle of its wings comes together in the middle in a latch formation, as opposed to the neatly delineated stripes that are often drawn in the guidebooks. Natural variation made it as a result not completely obvious at first glance - but its distinctive shape gave it away, and even though the lighter-colored ones might be considered more pleasing to the eye, this was still an interesting find.

Dark Fruit-tree Tortrix (illustration)

The scientific name is rather convoluted.  Pandemis is from the Greek pandemos belonging to the people, common; also an epithet of Aphrodite, the goddess of love. Plato postulated that there were two manifestations of Aphrodite, Aphrodite Urania, the goddess of heavenly love, the pure love between souls whence came our phrase Platonic love; and Aphrodite Pandemos, the goddess of the baser carnal love practised by the common people. The diagonal fascia across the wings of the moth may have suggested the bend sinister or ‘fesse’ on an heraldic shield, this being a mark of illegitimacy. The namer was J. Hübner the distinguished German entomologist, author and illustrator (1761 – 1826).

Heparana refers to the liver (hepara) coloured forewing.


Post : Ariel A Smith UPenn

16 July 2015 - Bordered White

Bordered White (Bupalus piniaria)
On Wednesday 15 July, we came across the Bordered White, which is a species new to Shandy Hall. It appears in an extraordinary variation of colors, even for just the northern specimens; the ones at Shandy Hall were a tawny color. We happened upon three at once, and all of them were males - distinguishable by their feathery antennae. The Bordered White's scientific name is Bupalus piniaria, which references Bupalus, a 6th century Greek sculptor, and pinus, the pine-tree genus (a foodplant), respectively. 

The Bordered White's flight season is generally May-June, but it can be found as late as July and early August in northern Britain, fitting with our discovery. It is interesting that it is listed as a resident and common species in our Field Guide, yet in the multiple years Shandy Hall has been moth-trapping, one hasn't shown up - which makes it even more intriguing this late in the season! 



Bordered White (♀7  ♂6) Plate 57



Footnote to Plate 57

My favorite moth from today's trapping is the Shoulder-striped Wainscot.  What I like the most about its appearance is how the two dark lines (the shoulder-stripes) make the light-colored wings look like skeletal hands, or at first glance, almost translucent.


Shoulder-striped Wainscot (Leucania comma)

15 July 2015 - The Waves


Single-dotted Wave (Ideae dimidiata)

Yesterday morning, while looking at the photographs from Thursday night's trap, we came to the conclusion that a new species had arrived at Shandy Hall - the Single-dotted Wave (Idaea dimidiata). We had difficulty locating it in Humphreys & Westwood (their illustrated picture is included beneath) because its taxonomy has changed with the years - it is recorded as Ptychopoda lividata in their 1845 edition. The moth was not easy to identify; that can in part be attributed to its proclivity to show up in varying colors - from bleached cream to tawny brown; ours was of the former. At first we suspected it might be a pug (satyr or ochreous, even though the colorings did not match up), because of the precise resting position and shape of its wings - in our photograph it appears narrower than in the Field Guide. However, the discrepancies in colors and lack of exact pattern matchings made identification inconclusive; only after consulting with Dave Chesmore from the University of York were we able to label it a new species. The Single-spotted Wave is common throughout Britain, found mainly in damp locations. I have concluded that the easiest way to recognize it is through the matching large dark dots on the edges of its wings; and how its "lines" appear to be comprised of small, speckled dots, as opposed to clearly delineated colorings

Post by Ariel Smith

Single-dotted Wave (illustration)

Having completed our investigations it was then noticed that there was an image of the Single-dotted Wave as a miscellaneous moth on the sidebar of the blog - dated 2011.  It wasn't a new species after all but had been captured and identified before the blog records were kept.


Riband Wave (Idaea aversata)

Trying to identify the pretty moth above, the colouring seemed to indicate that it must be a Smoky Wave - but it turns out to be a Riband Wave though greyer than usual.  Checking through old photographs of the Riband Wave posted on our blog, we found a second error in our archive - the moth beneath...


Small Blood-vein (Scopula imitaria)

...had been mistakenly identified as a Riband but should have qualified as a new species - the Small Blood-vein.  So the new total of 364 moth species is correct, but not as we thought.

The Small Blood-vein (Scopula imitaria) is not a common moth in North Yorkshire so we should have paid greater attention to its arrival in Coxwold.  The scientific name refers to a scopula (a small broom) and imitaria (to imitate or counterfeit). Your guess is as good as mine.

Small Blood-vein (illustration)



9 July 2015 - New Moth, New Intern

Elephant Hawk-moth (Deilephila elpenor)
Not new in the sense of a new species but freshly hatched - at long last.  The Elephant Hawk-moth caterpillar that went underground in August 2014 has emerged and can be seen resting on the leaf of a sweet rocket plant (Hesperis matronalis). The remains of some essential, biological liquid was still inside the pupa-case but the moth's wings have dried overnight and it is ready to fly this evening.

Yesterday morning's trap gave the first positive sign that the moth population is continuing to survive in the Shandy Hall gardens and it coincided with the arrival of Ariel from the University of Pennsylvania, who will be taking over the recording of the moth species and writing the blog posts. Barred Straw, Burnished Brass, Poplar Hawk-moth, Marbled Minor, Barred Yellow, Agapeta hamana, Small Fan-foot, Flame, Flame Shoulder, Green Arches, Dark Arches, Green Pug, Uncertain, Light Emerald and a great number more were identified - with a couple of puzzles yet to be resolved.

Small Fan-foot (Herminia grisialis)

As always, time indubitably marches on, and Shandy Hall has acquired its newest intern. My name is Ariel Smith - I am a rising junior at the University of Pennsylvania studying Diplomatic History. Yesterday, on 8 July, we examined the first proper moth-trap since I arrived. In the spirit of candor, before I began working here, I had never really taken any time to examine moths on my own. I was aware of them, aware that they fly around, towards light - which I suppose is poetic if you want to distill that to its Romantic notions, but really, I had no sentiment other than apathy or faint annoyance as they crowded an outdoor flame. I've begun to appreciate, however, the subtleties in their separate evolutions; their colors (or colours) and individual variations in pattern; and how they are some of the quietest creatures I've encountered. My favorites from yesterday's catch are the Barred Yellow and the Fan-Foot; the former because it is such a bright color that seems impractical for surviving the process of natural selection, yet the species persists; and the latter because of its design, which reminds me of a hasty signature, or an ink trail.

Barred Yellow (Cidana fulvata)


Post by Ariel A Smith UPenn

20 June 2015 - Kudos to the Moth

Codling Moth (Cydia pomonella)

Last night's moth evening turned out better than expected.  Only two species were visible in the trap but beneath the egg-boxes there were more and particularly bright examples.  The Garden Carpet and Green Carpet looked as fresh and bright as they could be.  But nothing new for the list.  This morning I was watching a spotted flycatcher investigate a gap above the old dairy building when I brought my focus back into the kitchen to see a moth I hadn't seen before.  It was resting on one of the panes and I couldn't recall seeing a moth with broken orange markings on its wings. I  consulted the Field Guide to the Micro-moths of Great Britain and Ireland and couldn't spot it.  It was definitely a member of the Tortricidiae and I went backwards and forwards eliminating them one by one.  I can see it now, now that I know what it is, but I hadn't interpreted the (excellent) illustration.  The coppery, golden-orange coloured section at the base of the wing when at rest is the diagnostic mark.  I understand this section of a micro-moth's wing is called the ocellus - 'an oval, metallic, shining mark.' 

The scientific name poses more questions.  Cydia is taken from 'kudos' - a tribute to the beauty of the moth; pomonella refers to Pomona, the goddess of fruit-trees, and in this instance the pear.  The larva lives in the fruit of pears.  We have apple trees at Shandy Hall but no pear.  We have pears in the fruit bowl in the kitchen which were being munched yesterday when friends called for lunch.  Is the moth from the garden (via the window) or from the market (via the fruit)?

It's species number 363 so it's all fine by me.


Mottled Pug (Eupethicea exiguata)

This was the only moth that remained unidentified last night.  The Shoulder-striped Wainscot was remembered after a little while but pugs are pugs...  However, the markings were clearer than usual on this one and the Mottled Pug was confirmed by Dave Chesmore this afternoon.
Our next moth evening is on Friday 3 July - for the National Gardens Scheme.

15 June 2015 - Scissored Wings

Figure of Eighty (Tethea ocularis octogesimia)


This post gate-crashed into the internet before I had time to realize I had pressed the wrong button but I hope all is now under control.  Although neither species is new to the gardens both of these moths are worthy of comment.  The Figure of Eighty (Tethea ocularis octogesimia) is new to me.  Jane identified this moth a couple of years ago and that is the only one that has been recorded.  A strikingly attractive moth with the number 80 on its wings and the furriest, most elegant legs.  When at rest it adopts a tube-like appearance - a bit like the Buff-tip.  In the larval state it seems the caterpillar rests by day between two leaves that are spun together flat.

Figure of Eighty (illustration)


The Garden Pebble has been recorded before but the photograph was rather poor and the story behind its scientific name was not mentioned.  Evergestis means 'a well wrought garment'; forficalis means a pair of scissors or shears : a name that refers to the way the wings are folded in repose.  Linnaeus described the Pyralidae family as 'having wings winking into the shape of scissored deltoid'.  Butterflies close their wings as a door closes on its hinges but a pyralid moth brings them together like the sashes of a window (how appropriate for Shandy Hall) or the closing of the eyelid.  This Garden Pebble is then the quintessential member of the pyralid family as its wings do not overlap but meet over the abdomen and conceal it.

Garden Pebble (Evergestis forficalis)

Here (below) is the wee thing in imagined flight.

Garden Pebble (illustration)

There were Sandy Carpets, Silver-ground Carpets, Buff Ermine, White Ermine, a rather handsome Notocelia cynosobatella, Poplar Hawk-moths, a dozen Common Swifts, a couple of Scorched Wings, two Brimstone Moths, Silver Y and Beautiful Golden Y and three Peppered Moths.  Not bad for yet another chilly, rainy night. 

13 June 2015 - Unrecorded Firethorn

Firethorn Leaf Miner (Phyllonorycter leucographella)

The Firethorn Leaf Miner (Pyllonorycter leucographella) was the first moth that Dave Chesmore spotted when he visited Shandy Hall for the first time approximately six years ago.  A number of these moths were living in the Pyracantha growing against a wall and although I had noticed there were insects in the foliage, I hadn't realised they were moths. I was impressed when I discovered (with a magnifying glass) how beautifully marked they were.  Today, while I was tidying the same bush with secateurs (we have Coxwold Open Gardens tomorrow and are open for visitors and attendant scrutiny) I noticed a couple of Firethorn Leaf Miners fly out.  Then it struck me that the Shandy Hall mothblog might be incomplete - the blog didn't exist until 2011 and I couldn't remember if it was included. Looking back over the records the Firethorn was not mentioned, so the photograph above was taken and a proper record has been made.  

This micro-moth was first recorded in Britain in 1989 which means that Westwood and Humphreys does not include a drawing.  Where the meaning of the scientific name is concerned the description is straightforward - 'leaf digger with white writing'.  The white marks on the orange ground of the moth's wings are spectacular but need magnification to see properly. Click on the photograph and it will bring it a little closer.

That's another species recorded for Shandy Hall but not one trapped in the dark night.  3pm on an afternoon in early Summer brought this moth to light.

11 June 2015 - Rejectamenta and other Excrementitious Matter

December Moth (caterpillar)

Swirling mists and heavy dew this morning, following what is supposed to be the warmest night of the week.  Very little moth activity - Poplar Hawk-moth, Clouded-bordered Brindle, Silver-ground Carpet, Pale Tussock, White Ermine and a cockchafer.  

In the absence of mature creatures, step forward the December Moth caterpillar for a closer look.


Caterpillar and hawthorn

The eggs were laid on 3 November 2014 and the first caterpillar emerged on 23 April 2015. Not all the larvae emerged at the same time and there are different stages of development in the breeding container.  When first hatched the larvae produced lots of silken threads and could be seen dangling rather pointlessly. Perhaps they disperse in this way.  After the first instar the larvae remain stock-still all the day having chosen a leaf stem upon which to stretch out their full length.  They vary slightly in colour but merge well with the hawthorn - the food plant - and tend towards lethargy.  They are quite slow and ponderous in their movement.


Rejectamenta 
Frass.  From the German fressen - to devour.  H F Stainton first used the word in 1854 : the half-eaten leaves attest but too surely that some devourer is near.  These indications of the presence of a larva are expressed in the German language by the single word 'frass', and we may, without impropriety, use the same word for the immediate effect of the larva's jaws, and the more indirect effect of the excrementitious matter ejected by the larva.

E A Adams (1860) refers to frass as 'the rejectamenta found at the entrance of the burrows of wood-boring insects'.
The photograph above records one night's mass of frass as produced by the 20 or so caterpillars.



Silver-ground Carpet (Xanthoroe montanata)
A pleasingly beautiful image to refresh our sensibilities...



May Highflyer (Hydriomena pluviata)


The two moths depicted above are not new.  The Silver-ground Carpet is there purely because it is a particularly handsome specimen with exquisite patterns and colours.  The second moth photograph is by courtesy of Alison Turnbull who trapped this May Highflyer in Norfolk and it will serve very well as a replacement for the one I missed photographing on National Gardens Scheme night.  
We have another identification evening coming soon (19 June) so do come along if the weather is good.  The gardens look splendid at the moment.
Total species count now stands at 362.

6 June 2015 - Highflying in June

Moth identification evening
Last night was a National Garden Scheme open evening at Shandy Hall, when viewing the gardens and identifying moths combined.  The full moon and cloudless sky of the previous night conspired to keep moth numbers down but a good variety of species made it more than worthwhile.  Poplar Hawk-moth, Buff Ermine, Pale Prominent, Honeysuckle Moth, Pale-shouldered Brocade, Ingrailed Clay, Rustic Shoulder-knot, Clouded-bordered Brindle, Barred Umber and May Highflyer were identified and released.

The last two species on that list are new to Shandy Hall but no there are no photographs on the blog to confirm. If any of the photographers who were there last night have an image of either of these species, please email them to me and I'll include them.  Why didn't I manage to record them with my own camera?  I'll draw a veil over my incompetence... 


May Highflyer (Hydriomena impluviata)
The May Highflyer (Hydriomena impluviata) is not an uncommon moth but this is the first time it has been recorded in Coxwold.  The scientific name has watery connections - hudria meaning a water-pot; meno : to remain.  An impluvium is the name given to the square basin in the central court of a Roman villa into which rainwater was directed.  The individual we identified settled on a leaf of Phlomis russeliana and a good image of it might should have been obtained.  Oh me miserum. 

Barred Umber (Plagodis pulveraria) Fig.11 
The Barred Umber had been visible to me all day.  When the trap is set in the quarry I normally leave a muslin-sided collecting box close to the light so that those moths that don't make it into the trap might conveniently rest, already partly captured.  The strikingly marked Umber moth was on the floor of the 'cage' when I went down at dawn and for some reason I thought it had already been recorded - so I didn't photograph it. When Dave Chesmore remarked that it was a particularly nice specimen it still didn't click that it was a new one for the gardens.  So if any of our visitors have an image, do sent it along. Plagodis means 'slanting shape' from the markings on the forewing; pulveraria means 'dust' from the reddish powdered scales on the wings.  In the illustration above the Barred Umber has been placed next to a V Moth [Fig. 9]

26 May 2015 - Pale Shoulders, Brocade and Slippers

Pale-shouldered Brocade (Lacanobia thalassina)
The Pale-shouldered Brocade (Lacanobia thalassina) has been seen once before at Shandy Hall when Jane Wu recorded it on the blog dated 14 June 2013.  I don't remember seeing it at the time so this beautifully marked moth came as a surprize to me this morning.  I couldn't work out its identity and had to seek advice from Dave Chesmore.  Now the pale shoulders are clearly apparent and I hope I won't get confused again.

The excuse for a second entry of this very pretty moth can be seen below.  When illustrated in British Moths and their Transformations the Pale-shouldered Brocade has a different scientific name : Hadena thalassina with the first part of the binomial referring to the Underworld - as in the Lychnis (Hadena bicruris), a moth that was seen earlier in the week. The illustration shows the moth and a beautiful Lady's Slipper orchid as its botanical companion.  This orchid is now one of the rarest plants in the UK - if it hasn't disappeared completely.  The hand-coloured moth book was published in 1843 when the plant was not uncommon.


Pale-shouldered Brocade and Lady's Slipper Orchid
In total there were only six moths in the trap : Herald, White Ermine, Brimstone and two Pugs.  What sort of Pug?  Common, I think but Pugs are notoriously difficult. 

25 May 2015 - Longhorns and other Horns

Parornix sp. 

Another chilly night means very little is happening in the Shandy Hall garden.  A couple of Sandy Carpets, a Pseudoswammerdamia combinella, and this little micro which looks as if it belongs to the Parornix family.  There has only been one record of a Parornix (June 2013) and that one could only be identified by dissection, so it remains recorded as Parornix sp. - which is what I suspect this one's fate will be.  It can't count as a new species as it looks too much like the other one.  The scientific name means 'alongside the bird' (para ornis) - 'feathery winged'.

Elephant Hawk-moth - pupa

Last year Bowen Chang, our UPenn intern, was very pleased to see an enormous caterpillar marching across the gravel.  It was the caterpillar of the Elephant Hawk-moth  It seemed determined to find somewhere to pupate and promptly disappeared beneath the leaves and soil we provided.  This was in August.  Today I noticed one end of the chrysalis was above the ground, just by a quarter of an inch.  I'll have to keep an eye on it and hope to photograph the adult when it emerges.  The little spur or 'horn' can be seen on the right end - the sign of a hawk-moth.  The daisy is for scale.  




In 2012 a Longhorn moth was seen on the cuckoo flower and again the following Spring. This year's visitor has lost half an antenna and has settled on the flower of a forget-me-not and was quite easy to photograph.  I am still not entirely convinced that it is Cauchas rumifitrella but the other longhhorn species seem to be more clearly marked.

The mercury vapour light has been switched on again as the temperature is forecast to be around 10 degrees.  Hopefully there will be more to report tomorrow.

10 May 2015 - Moon Hedge

Moon Hedge 

Moth-trapping is about to start in earnest at Shandy Hall.  The delay has been partly to do with the exhibition which opens today in the gallery.  The title of the show is Happy Spirits and the paintings, serigraphs and lino-prints are by Carry Akroyd.  Carry has shown a number of times in the gallery, usually works relating to John Clare and the countryside, and this year's title refers to a new collection of work selected by RKR Thornton and Carry herself.  This Happy Spirit is 'a collection which celebrates the joyfulness of Clare's writing'. Her mothy image, based on observations at Shandy Hall, fits perfectly.
The exhibition opens at noon today and continues until 14 June, open every day (except Saturday) 11am - 4pm.

23 April 2015 - Biorythms

Larva and eggs of December Moth (Poecilocampa populi)

My biorhythms must be attuned to those of the December Moth or I wouldn't have searched out the egg-box (hen) with the eggs (moth) on its side this morning and wouldn't have seen that one had hatched.  That was at 7am this morning.  By the time I had had the opportunity to take a second look another six had nibbled their way out of their egg-cases and were wandering around in an adventurous manner.  Hawthorn and lime leaves have been placed close to the hatching caterpillars in the hope that they will begin to feed.  The books and UK Moths say 'variety of deciduous leaves' and 'especially lime, birch, oak and hawthorn' so these scraps of foliage should be ideal.  The hatched caterpillar is just to the left of centre in the image. 

These particular eggs were laid on 3 November 2014 (see the blogpost for that date) so they have been lying dormant for over five months.