Some of the group have been busy carrying out a survey into Lunar Yellow Undewing larvae in the Sandlings and this has produced some very interesting results and insights into its larval ecology. Read more about this later on in the newsletter.
Many thanks to recorders who have submitted their moth records for 2002. All records have been input into the database in a much shorter time this year and queries about any records scrutinised by the Suffolk Moth Panel should be sent out shortly. If recorders wish to submit their records through the year then please feel free to send them in whenever is convenient- I'm reasonably flexible about these things and will accept records at any time.
The indoor meeting this year rather unfortunately coincided with a moderate fall of snow that prevented some people from making it to the meeting - it was touch and go at one point whether Tony Davis, the speaker, would manage to make it to the meeting. Many thanks to Tony for driving up in the potentially hazardous conditions to make the meeting. For those who missed it I have included some information about species that I am encouraging recorders to look for in 2003. For next year I have been considering Needham Market as a venue for the indoor meeting - there would be better car parking facilities and the location is a more central to the county - but there would likely be a small charge. I'd be interested to hear any views from members about this change of location or any topics to be covered at the next indoor meeting.
There has been recent concern about public liability cover at group events, particularly where members of the public are invited. This has been exacerbated by the incident in Norfolk where a fragment from an exploding bulb cut a girl's leg. I have since found out that Butterfly Conservation insurance does not cover me to lead general moth recording events and by way of this provide cover for the moth recording carried out by the group. As a result from this year everyone within the group operating equipment will need to provide their own public liability insurance if they wish to continue to do so. The British Entomological and Natural History Society provides public liability insurance to its members covering recording activities and this would seem reasonable way of covering oneself and in addition gain the other benefits from being a member of the society.
Finally, apologies for the late delivery of the events list to some people and this newsletter. I can only say I've not been sitting on my laurels for the duration. This year sees the continued high number of events held by the group - and all credit to the group that it can run so many meetings that are reasonably well attended considering the group's size. I would certainly not organise so many meetings if numbers attending started to drop off. This healthy attendance seems to be despite a trend in other natural history societies where field meeting attendance has been an issue over recent years.
Good luck with this
Nighttime larval searches in the Sandlings started in mid-December and have continued since then with breaks when we have had cold spells at night. Neil Sherman, Graham Bull and myself managed to make 29 visits to 23 sites. In contrast to some of the previous nighttime larval searches carried out by the group these have been very successful. Of the sites visited we failed to record Lunar Yellow Underwing larvae at only two sites. Numbers of larvae found were also quite high with over 50 being recorded at one site.
It soon became apparent that we seemed to be discovering Lunar Yellow Underwing larvae in habitats that did fit the habitats where the larvae were being found in the Brecks. In the Brecks the larva seems to have a preference for living in clumps of Festuca or Deschampsia grasses and seemed to have an intolerance for habitats where the grass had been cropped short by sheep. In contrast we were also finding larvae in habitats where the grass had been short-cropped (but by rabbits) and which seemed to have predominantly Agrostis grass, although there would normally be some Festuca present. It would appear that there must be some difference in the grass cropped short by sheep and that cropped short by rabbits for there to be such differences in the abundance of Lunar Yellow Underwing larvae at these Sandlings sites.
Most of the sites surveyed lay within Rendlesham Forest and it appears that the moth is quite well established across the forest. Tunstall Forest and Common also had areas supporting the larvae. Other places visited where larvae were found included; Ipswich Golf Course, Martlesham Heath, Thorpeness Golf Course, North Warren RSPB reserve, Sutton Common and Upper Hollesley Common.
The results have raised some interesting questions that remain to be answered, unfortunately the recent spell of cold nights has meant that we have not been able to carry out further surveys to attempt to find some answers. Of particular interest is where do the larvae hide up during the day in these very short swards when they become larger. There also seems to be a possibility of some inverse relationship between numbers of Lunar Yellow Underwing larvae and Square-spot Rustic larvae found at Sandlings sites that would not appear to exist in the Brecks - I've still to tease the figures out for this from the data to come to any definite conclusion on this one way or the other.
The intention is to continue this survey next winter to cover new sites, monitor existing sites and hopefully answer some of the outstanding questions that will no doubt still be unanswered if the cold nights continue as they have been. If anyone is interested in getting involved then please let me know - it can be a bit tough on the back stooping over looking at grass for long periods but the work is interesting; discovering the behaviour of the larvae and a bit more proactive than sitting around a light waiting for moths to appear.
We had previously visited the site on the 7th March and found several larvae but no Square-spotted Clay larvae. Since this visit the conservation volunteers must have been busy as the belt of woodland next to the car park had had all the sycamore cut down and this rather altered the appearance of the site. Initial searching near to the car park turned up only common species but as we progressed further down the path we located our first Square-spotted Clay larva feeding on nettle. This was quickly followed by two further larvae and then later by a third larva underneath both a pine tree and an elm tree. Three of the four larvae were feeding on nettle but a fourth was feeding on red campion - a new foodplant for the species.
The larva looks similar
to the Double Square-spot larva but can be distinguished by the pale band
running the length of its side.
A special web site has been set up, giving information on NMN 2003 and can be found at http://www.nationalmothnight.info
As always moth recorders are encouraged to run their moth traps on this night and send their results to Dept NMN, Butterfly Conservation, Manor Yard, East Lulworth, Wareham, Dorset. BH20 5QP or via email to firstname.lastname@example.org by the 30th September 2003.
In Suffolk prior to recent work with pheromones, there have been records of Currant, Yellow-legged and Red-belted Clearwing prior to 2000. In Norfolk, the following species have been recorded post-1990, albeit in small numbers, Currant, Yellow-legged, Large Red-belted, Red-tipped and White-barred. Six-belted Clearwing may also be known, but needs confirmation.
A few recorders have now been searching with clearwing pheromone lures but due to timing the practise with good weather there have probably been more negative results than positive results.
The first clearwing to emerge is Large Red-belted Clearwing, which unfortunately does not respond well to lures. They do come in but will not stay long and with the recorder emerging from winter hibernation ready and very keen to get the season going with his or her new set of lures just purchased, frustration and comments of ‘these don’t work’ soon creep in. In fact I have known some recorders spend hours on good afternoons searching in vain for this species,…….. don’t be discouraged, two Norfolk recorders have had varied success with this species at Marsham Heath and some of the Broadland fen sites with moths coming in after only 30 seconds but only staying for less than a minute. Try around cut birch stumps for this species. I don’t know of any searches that have taken place in Suffolk yet with lures, so further work is required here.
Currant Clearwing is one of my favourites probably because it requires very little work. Just take the family strawberry picking, hang out a tip lure and wait…… for about ten seconds and they can be like flies at muck ! Even when one has placed the lure back in its pot and is walking back to the car tipuliformis will continue to follow, just beware you don’t take them home with you! It has been recorded from two sites at Great Cornard but negative results from Long Melford, both sites in the SW of the county. I have recorded them at Wiverton Fruit Farm in Norfolk and others have been recorded at Filby and Swafield. Negative results from a further two sites including one fruit farm.
Darren Underwood has recorded Red-belted Clearwing at various well-established apple orchards around Bury St. Edmunds. All pheromone checks on smaller clumps of apple trees proved negative. Checks have also took place around garden apples trees at Long Melford without success.
Adrian Parr has tried three major stands of trefoil/kidney vetch sites for Six-belted Clearwing in Suffolk without success but there are unconfirmed records of it in Norfolk and is one species that apparently responds very well to the api lure, the Hornet Moth pheromone and despite the fact that Hornet Moth doesn’t respond to api this species responds very well. Clearly, we still have a lot to learn about pheromones! This one is on the wing for much of the day, and peak activity is well spread from around 9:00am to early afternoon around bird’s foot-trefoil, giving plenty of time for recording. There are some very good sites in Suffolk and Norfolk with extensive growth of the food-plant so could be a good target species. In Norfolk it has been tried for at Holme Dunes and Cockthorpe Common both without success but weather conditions were not favorable.
Yellow-legged Clearwing. Old records exist from Thetford Forest and the Kings Lynn area in Norfolk with a more recent record from a single Broadland site. Said to breed in oak stumps of 1-2 years of age so any woodland site where regular coppicing management takes place is a good bet. With a prolonged flight time running from mid-May to mid-August there is plenty of scope. No recent searches have taken place with pheromone lures as far as I am aware in Suffolk or Norfolk.
Some other species that have been searched for in Norfolk with pheromone lures over the passed two years have been Red-tipped Clearwing at five sites without success including one site where the moth was seen in the ‘old’ conventional way, without lures!. This is usually one species that can respond extremely well to pheromone lures so more work could prove fruitful in both counties.
White-barred Clearwing. No searches for this species have been done with lures in Suffolk or Norfolk but is said not to respond too well to synthetic pheromone. Young alder and birch is favoured. Try using a ‘decoy’ clearwing to the lure for this species, it could help!
One final note of possible interest was Darren Underwood’s note that while hanging a selection of lures in woodland near Long Melford he attracted an RAF helicopter which nearly landed on his head but finally swung around and landed on a track opposite to the bush to where he was standing. If Darren can remember the combination of lures used it could have possible implications for ALS trading with Middle-Eastern customers!
I have only mentioned the clearwings that respond to synthetic pheromone lures in this article and that have been recorded in Suffolk and Norfolk, the Hornet and Lunar Hornet do not respond but are both recorded in small numbers in both counties, usually by means of emergence holes around the bases of infected trees.
Any further records, positive or negative or information, would be welcomed by myself or our recorders.
For the site Cockayne Collection - Briitish & Irish Butterflies and Moths at www.nhm.ac.uk/entomology/cockayne/index.html I have lifted the following quotes.
'The Cockayne Website will eventually provide a definitive collection of high quality digital illustrations, using specimens from the National Collection of British Lepidoptera at The Natural History Museum London. This collection is largely based on the Rothschild-Cockayne-Kettlewell (RCK) Collection of British Lepidoptera, which is supported by the Cockayne Trust.'
'The first phase of this project deals with British butterflies, and provides approximately 1700 images illustrating geographic, seasonal, genetic and major individual variations. This will be followed by a similar treatment of the moths (Macrolepidoptera and Microlepidoptera) in ensuing years as funding and resources permit. As the site and its usage develops, it is also hoped to add further information on distribution, biology and critical morphology, with digital illustrations of habitats, eggs, caterpillars, pupae and critical anatomical structures (e.g. genitalia). The Hawk moths (Sphingidae) have already been imaged and will be available shortly.'
The final site in
this section for this newsletter is Pisces Conservation Ltd at www.pisces-conservation.com.
This site covers ecological software for both professionals and amateurs.
Of particular note to moth records is a piece of news posted by Andy Mabbett
to the ukmoths email discussion group. Their intention is to produce
an e-book of Buckler's Larvae of British Moths and Butterflies. The first
e-book in this series will be Volume 1, Butterflies, and we'll then move
on to Vols II & III, Hawk moths and others. The one they have already
produced for British Water Beetles is being for sale at £55.
The following list of moths are protected under The Wildlife And Countryside Act, 1981; Reddish Buff, Fiery Clearwing, Fisher's Estuarine Moth, Barberry Carpet, Black-veined, Sussex Emerald, Essex Emerald and New Forest Burnet. Of these only the Barberry Carpet is likely to be encountered within Suffolk.
These species are covered by Section 9 of the Act which, in summary, offers protection from
The number of records
in the database now stands at over 135,000 with over 35,000 records received
during the 2002 period. The graph below shows the number of records against
the year of the record since 1990. The number of records made in
2002 was just under 34,000. The rate of increase is rather steep and I
wouldn't like to predict where it is going to plateau out.
The following dot
maps show the coverage of moth records within Suffolk.
The first map would
appear to show that we have complete coverage of the county - at least
at the 10km level - well done everyone! We can now sit back and take it
easy - I wish . Even drilling down to coverage of the tetrad level would
seem to indicate reasonable coverage across the county, although signs
of the usual Suffolk natural history recording black spots are starting
The decrease in coverage as we raise the number of records per 1km square may not be a surprise to some. It does show that concentrated recording is restricted to a limited number of sites.
Moving on to some more of my favourite types of map and looking at things from a species rather than record viewpoint.....
These show the number
of species recorded in each ten km square, firstly for 2001 and then for
2002. The following lists how the squares are coloured in to indicate the
number of species recorded in the particular 10km square; orange have less
than 100 species, yellow have between 100 and 200 species and white squares
have more than 200 species.
Species per ten km square in 2001
Species count per 10km square in 2002
Some progress was
made during the year 2002 on increasing the coverage in under-recorded
areas of the county. There has been talk in the past about producing a
moths of Suffolk book but in my opinion (and I'm starting to sound like
a squeaky record about this) unless we can put in some recording in these
under-recorded squares we'll only be giving a partial picture of the county.
This would be the case even for the common species - never mind partial
coverage due to under-recording of particular groups of moths. So if anyone
would like to volunteer to carry out some recording in these under-recorded
squares or find out some sites in these areas that the group could visit
I'd be pleased to hear from you.
Maidscross Hill on May 24th (Saturday). Meeting at 9.00pm in the new reserve car park on the outskirts of Lakenheath. This is a public meeting.
Ramsey Wood on
May 31st (Saturday). Meeting at 9.30pm in small car parking area by
A1071 road between Ipswich and Hadleigh (TM063437). This wood is close
to Wolves Wood but from a moth recording viewpoint benefits from not having
been coppiced. It has turned up the odd interesting species already since
recording started by the group last year. This is a meeting of the Suffolk
Branch of Butterfly Conservation.
Three females, one each from the Ipswich Golf Course, North Walsham and Holme-next-the-Sea did indeed seem good for expallidata after dissection, and all would have been new to their respective vice county, but to cut a long story short all three were sent to Gerry Haggett for his comments and thanks to his expertise in this field all three were re-identified as Wormwood Pug E. absinthiata on external features.
In an article regarding this in the autumn Norfolk Moth Survey newsletter Gerry comments “there may be two reasons why these reports of Bleached Pug have come about, firstly because the adult moths are unusual forms of absinthiata and secondly because the only moths examined for determination by genitalia have been female” he adds “although wings are commonly a warm, reddish-brown the forewings are subject to ground colour variations that ranges to pinky-brown. And while the forewings may be often almost unicolorous, markings can be intensified especially at the costa, the antemedian and postmedian lines, while the submarginal whitish dots become bolder and edged black towards the tornus and finally the black discoidal spot can be elongated and thickened”.
So if we have two moths that look the same would dissection of the genitalia point to the correct identification. Not the case it seems in expallidata and absinthiata as there is much confusion in the text figures used in the BENHS publication compared to diagrams in Pierce & Metcalfe “The Genitalia of the Geometridae” especially with the shape of the sternum and of the cornuti. This also seems to be the case with the females too and Gerry comments “the bursa of absinthiata and expallidata show such similar ornamentation that when I attempt to relate each to wing colour and markings I find contradiction” and “using this medium the insects taken at North Walsham in 2002 and at Holme in 2000 could be determined as expallidata for both”
In an e-mail to Colin Plant from Axel Hausmann (editor of Geometrid Moths of Europe Volume 4) he states that there are many problems around this species complex and that it is difficult to distinguish both taxa even on the base of their genitalia, he concludes that in the male the shape of the sternum and in the female the smaller corpus bursae of expallidata with smaller spines is the most reliable character.
Gerry warns though that expallidata are exclusively Solidago feeders and in Suffolk Wild Golden-rod Solidago vigaureata is known from 25 10km squares and in Norfolk 27 locations are scattered over the county but beware if you are looking for the larvae because in the south and west absinthiata larvae can all occur together on the same site at the same time of year!
With this in mind,
anyone who thinks they have a specimen of expallidata adult or larvae
(including anyone out of the county reading this) could they please forward
them on to either myself or Brian Goodey for further examination and to
see if these features hold true.
298 Ipswich Road
As mentioned above, the night of the 31st was warm, with some interesting moths appearing. There were the latest site records of Large Yellow Underwing (probably a migrant), Ypsolopha alpella, Argyresthia goedartella and Nomophila noctuella (another probable migrant). All were fresh suggesting recent emergence.
An interesting looking November Moth species was also taken on that night, and was confirmed as an Autumnal Moth (thanks to Jon Clifton for the identification). On the 16th, a single specimen of Blair’s Shoulder-knot was found on the clubhouse wall under the security lights, this being the first site record since 1998 (the position of the trap was moved from the edge of the course to the centre in 1999, away from gardens with their Leylandii trees). Also seen was a Herald on the 10th, flushed while moving logs. November was very mild for the time of year, but also was very wet, with over 5 inches of rain recorded at the golf club. A trap was put out on 4 nights – compare this with last year when the trap was put out once and caught just 2 moths! Best nights were the 5th and the 14th, both having 10 species trapped. The Streak was last seen on the 5th, when 9 were trapped. Also present then were 21 Feathered Thorns, a high total, beating the 17 recorded one night last month. Barred Sallow and Turnip made their latest ever appearances at the site, being trapped on the same night. The Scarce Umber first appeared on the 14th, and was the present in the trap each time it was put out for the rest of the month, along with the numerous December Moths (maximum 23 on the 28th) and Winter Moths. A single Northern Winter Moth appeared on the 28th, allowing close comparison with the commoner species. 3 more Autumnal Moths were picked out from the November Moths on the 14th and there were 2 records of the Dark Chestnut on the 14th and 28th. Micros were few and far between with possibly the most interesting appearing on the same night: Duirnea lipsiella (phryganella) and Eudonia angustea (this was the latest record for the site, to go with the other late records already mentioned).
Very little was seen in December – of possible note was a Pale Brindled Beauty on the clubhouse wall, under the security lights on the 27th. This is only the second time it has been recorded at the back end of the year at this site.
First moths of the New Year were seen on the 3rd, on the clubhouse wall – 4 Mottled Umber and the earliest site record for Spring Usher. The mild conditions on the night of the 26th tempted me to try the trap. 6 species were caught, including the earliest records for the site for both Double-striped Pug and Tortricodes alternella. Also trapped were 2 March Moths, the second earliest ever date here (earliest was the 15/1/95).
As part of the ongoing Lunar Yellow Underwing survey in the sandlings, I searched several sites around the golf course on the night of the 24th. This was successful, with 29 larvae recorded, most found sitting on sparse clumps of Sheep’s Fescue grass, with one seen feeding on it.
What a cold month
February was – the snow, cold winds and sharp frosts were far from ideal
conditions for seeing moths let alone catching them! It wasn’t until the
last week of the month when the weather improved that trapping was undertaken,
the first since the end of January, producing the first of the springtime
moths. Hebrew Character, Oak Beauty and one of my favourite spring moths
the Yellow Horned all appeared (as singles apart from 2 Hebrew Characters).
Also seen were a total of 20 Small Brindled Beauties, a regular total after
probable colonisation a few years ago. March Moths were abundant with 27
the highest single count on the 27th. Also seen on the clubhouse wall under
the security lights but not seen trapping were singles of Dotted Border
and Early Moth (24th).
A single Nomophila noctuella was recorded on the 3rd. November Moth, December Moth and Feathered Thorn were regularly recorded. Single Mottled Umber, Red-line Quaker and Chestnut were also noted. More migrants included a particularly late Dark Sword-grass on the 27th and another Gem on the 24th. Single late Large Yellow Underwing on the 4th and Angle Shades on the 12th may also have been migrants.
Two Scarce Umbers were recorded (on 2nd and 3rd) and were the highlight of the month. There were three Mottled Umber and 69 Winter Moths were counted during the month peaking at 25 on the 29th December.
An impressive eight Mottled Umber appeared on the 2nd. The first Pale Brindled Beauty (14th) and Early Moth (27th) were also noted this month. The month's tally of Winter Moths was 53.
Nine Early Moths were recorded during the month, a Chestnut and another Pale Brindled Beauty. The most interesting record was a Satellite found on 11th February. The first March Moth appeared on 27th.
Three of the rather exquisite Dotted Border were noted this month, two Chestnut and two March Moths. After just over five months of recording, I have managed to notch up 19 species for the site without the use of any traps!
The night of the 11th produced the highest count this month with 22 species. I was out in the greenhouse at dawn to sort the soaked trap, which contained a Deep-brown Dart – new for the garden. The Vapourer, four Green-brindled Crescents and four Merveille du Jour were also recorded.
The second half of the month saw the first November Moths and Feathered Thorns. A couple of Dark Chestnut were recorded and a single Sprawler and an early December Moth on 28th.
Micros were well down as expected with the most interesting being Acleris sparsana and Acleris rhombana.
It was a poor month for migrants with just three White-points and a Silver Y recorded.
In complete contrast to October, the trap was only run the once, on November 26th mainly due to work commitments. Two December Moths appeared in the trap and single Scarce Umber (new for garden) and Mottled Umber were located nearby. The first Winter Moth appeared at the kitchen windows on the evening of 20th.
The MV trap was operated once on the 4th resulting in four December Moths. The only other moths recorded this month were Winter Moths and a single Mottled Umber at illuminated windows or security lights.
January to March
The year’s moth recording started on New Year’s Day when a single Winter Moth appeared on the kitchen window! The MV trap was run on the 26th with Spring Usher and Chestnut recorded.
Pale Brindled Beauty and March Moth recorded in the trap on 25th were the only records for February.
March Moth and Dotted
Border were trapped on the March 4th. Pale Brindled Beauty was noted
at a security light on the 5th. The year’s first Hebrew Character
was attracted to the kitchen window on the 14th.
Please send any Suffolk moth records, moth articles or other queries to myself (preferably via email) at :
3 Powling Road, Ipswich,
Suffolk IP3 9JR
Email : email@example.com
Suffolk Moths web site (home of the SMG): http://www.btinternet.com/~tony.prichard
SMG Email Discussion Group: http://groups.yahoo.com/group/suffolkmothgroup
Essex County Moth
Recorder : Brian Goodey, 298 Ipswich Road, Colchester, Essex. CO4 0ET.
Specialising in various moth trap designs and related equipment.
ALS, Station Road, Hindolveston, Norfolk, NR20 5DE.
For friendly advise phone us on 01263 862068/01606 783371 or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org
Proprietors: J Clifton & A Wander