Posts Tagged ‘Moths’

A Long Time Coming

August 15, 2022

I am conscious that my posts are getting less frequent – the result of holidays, Covid and visitors – but also perhaps, a general loss of enthusiasm on my part. Maybe this blog is heading towards a natural ending. We shall see.

In the meantime, Steve has spotted a Birch in Broadford that he thought was Betula utilis var. jacquemontii (Jacquemont’s Birch). I had a look and agreed, but something made me send images to the BSBI Betula referee who says “From the relatively short leaves and few pairs of veins I suspect it is B. ‘Doorenbos’, which I think is possibly a hybrid between B. utilis jacquemontii and B. ermanii. It is apparently so commonly grown because it is easy to root from cuttings – unlike most white-barked birches. If I’m right, the male catkins will not be knobbly (character of all B. utilis and B. albosinensis) and the fruiting catkins often not drooping and more or less in the plane of the shoot – the fruiting catkins of B. ermanii are more or less erect”. Steve is now on a mission to inspect catkins……

Very pleasingly, Joanna has found Manton’s Polypody – Polypodium x mantoniae (P. interjectum x vulgare) – a major target of our project with the Darwin Tree of Life folks. Hers are near the Coral Beach north of Dunvegan, but a sample taken at Ardnish may also be that. I have returned to Ardnish for a further sample, hoping for more mature spores and we await the verdict of the BSBI Polyodium referee.

Dolerite Dyke at Ardnish, site of possible Polypodium x mantoniae

I think a mature Eucalyptus at Broadford is E. gunnii (Cider Gum), but in the apparent absence of flowers or fruit it is hard to be certain. In any event, some of the leaves have an unusual appearance that I thought might be a gall. However, I can find no larvae and Robert Maidstone suggests it may be oedema, a disorder caused by the roots taking up more water than the leaves can transpire so that the excess water ruptures the cells,

Disfigured Eucalyptus leaves

Also in Broadford, the Sorbaria is confirmed as S. kirilowii (Chinese Sorbaria) rather than S. tomentosa (Himalayan Sorbaria) as the longest anthers are considerably longer than the petals.

I have not found much time for moths but my last moth trap had, unusually, lots of different micro-moths including:

The micro-ermine cannot be reliably determined to species as an adult. Yponomeuta cagnagella is very unlikely as the larvae feed on Spindle, the nearest known plant of which is on Rum two stretches of sea and about 40 km away. However, that still leaves two possibilities. All these micros except the really easy ones were determined or confirmed from images by Nigel Richards.

Also, in the garden, there was a Beautiful Plume (Amblyptilia acanthadactyla) determined from images by Colin Hart, the man who wrote the book about these moths.

Beautiful Plume (Amblyptilia acanthadactyla)

The larvae feed on Lamium spp. and this adult was close to some Lamium maculatum (Spotted Dead-nettle).

A New Sedge and Other Matters

June 18, 2022

Joanna has found Carex riparia (Greater Pond-sedge) at Broadford during a survey for the Urban Flora of Scotland. This is a first for VC 104 and there is a good patch of it near the shore.

Carex riparia (Greater Pond-sedge)

A few days ago I visited Armadale Castle to survey orchids. We counted 367 Dactylorhiza fuchsii (Common Spotted-orchid) and 229 Neottia ovata (Common Twayblade) in a relatively small area. There were also two Dactylorhiza maculata (Heath Spotted-orchid), though one of these had the conical inflorescence more typical of D. fuchsii. However, the individual flower shape was entirely typical for D. maculata so short of molecular work to demonstrate a bit of hybridity, it has gone down as that.

Whilst there we saw a Red-necked Footman, a moth with few Skye records, and my hosts said they had seen a few recently.

I have started to look at Platanthera (Butterfly-orchids) in readiness for the next Skye Botany Group outing when we have a probably vain hope of finding the hybrid between Greater and Lesser Butterfly-orchids. This involves measurement of the angle subtended by the pollinia:

Platanthera chlorantha

Neil and I had a good day in Sleat, failing to re-find Hippuris vulgaris (Mare’s-tail) at an old site but finding a silk web of the micro-moth, Yponomeuta evonymella (Bird-cherry Ermine), something I have looked for before in Sleat where there is plenty of the host plant.

Yponomeuta evonymella web on Bird Cherry

A Day in Sleat

May 26, 2022

Tuesday was primarily Bird Cherry day for me. I was hoping to find caterpillars of the bird-cherry ermine moth (Yponomeuta evonymella) and failed, but I did find various things on the Bird Cherry:

When I stopped to inspect my first Bird Cherry of the day, I was delighted to find four fine specimens of Neottia nidus-avis (Bird’s-nest Orchid) – a long way from any previously known site for this locally rare plant.

Neottia nidus-avis (Bird’s-nest Orchid)

I caught three micro-moths, one of which (the smallest and least distinctive) turns out to be new to the vice-county.

Not Plants

May 22, 2022

I have been away for three periods of several nights in May and most of the nights I have been here were not suitable for moth trapping. I did manage to put out the trap on one night and added two to my May list, The Engrailed and Brindled Pug, but I have had both of these in the month of April, so no great surprise. Just before the end of April, I had a Puss Moth in the trap for the first time.

Out on the moor I have seen my first Silver Y moth of the year, a migratory species that usually arrives in May, and during the Skye Botany Group outing Neil spotted Clepsis senecionana (Obscure Twist). We also saw a Four-spotted Chaser (Libellula quadrimaculata), the first dragonfly of the year for many of us.

This Mayfly was by a burn on Raasay and is Ecdyonurus torrentis, a useful record for northwest Scotland.

In the garden, something very small is mining a rose leaf and in leaf litter in nearby woodland I came across the object shown below. I do not know what this is. It is soft and I have put it in a pot in case anything emerges.

Insect News

April 23, 2022

Last night I had 76 moths in and around my moth trap. There were two Brindled Ochres, which I have not had before and an Angle Shades, which I have had as an imago in May, September, October and November, but not previously in April.

Brindled Ochre

A week previously the moth trap had attracted a Twin-spotted Quaker, another first for me.

Twin-spotted Quaker

In the garden I have had the large hoverfly Eristalis pertinax, sometimes called Tapered Drone Fly and not far away Bombylius major, the Dark-edged Bee-fly, has made an early appearance nectaring on primroses and occasionally, Lesser Celandine.

Dark-edged Bee-fly

In the Garden in Early March

March 6, 2022

In the polytunnel where the weeds are still rife, there is a rust on some young willowherb plants. The plants are almost certainly Epilobium obscurum (Short-fruited Willowherb), though I cannot rule out hybrids at this stage, and the rust is Pucciniastrum epilobii. The presence of uredina on both sides of the leaf and the fact that they are small (c. 0.25 mm) distinguishes it from the other candidate, Puccinia pulverulenta.

Rust on Willowherb

Meanwhile, the insects are stirring. I had a male Pale Brindled Beauty a couple of days ago (the females are wingless) and this attractive chironomid (non-biting) midge was on the house. It is probably a Metriocnemus sp. but that is as far as it goes.

Moths 2021

December 29, 2021

I added 31 moth species to the list for my home location in 2021, taking the total to 232. Most years I have been away for much of September, but this year it was October. I had thought that this might mitigate the quite large drop in species numbers from August to September, but in fact, the drop is even greater after this year’s records are added in.

It was a good year for me for micromoths, with much help from Nigel Richards, Mark Young and others. I am also grateful to Keith Sadler, the County Moth Recorder, and many others who have helped with identifications.

Update: Keith confirms that these micromoths I recorded in 2021 were all new to the vice-county: Bucculatrix nigricomella (Daisy Bent-wing), Nematopogon schwarziellus (Sandy Long-horn), Glyphipterix forsterella (Sedge Fanner) and Bryotropha boreella (Mountain Groundling).

More Records

October 29, 2021

Neil on Eigg has sent me images of Ambrosia artemisiifolia (Ragweed) that has appeared in his garden, perhaps from birdseed. New to VC104.

Ambrosia artemisiifolia (Ragweed) Image: N Robertson

Dave Gibbs’ 2021 Skye hawkweed determinations have been confirmed by David McCosh. Of greatest interest was Hieracium subrude (Tain Hawkweed) for which there were just two old sites, one at Uig where Dave re-found it, last recorded in 1969, and one near Knock in Sleat where it was last recorded in 1970. His find of Hieracium praesigne (Distinguished Hawkweed) in NG62 is the fifth VC record during 2016-2021 and the fifth 10 km square for it!  There is only one earlier record. There are now a total of twelve new hectad records for Hieracium species in 2021.

Meanwhile at home, my first moth trap of this October, and quite possibly the last, produced 10 moths including two December Moths and two Feathered Thorns, which was nice.

Skye Botany Group at Brothers’ Point

September 23, 2021

A couple of days ago, we went to Brother’s Point on Skye to try and find Gentianella campestris (Field Gentian), last seen there in 1964 and last seen in the 10 km square NG56 in 1985. In this we succeeded though only one plant was found and that, unsurprisingly by late September, was somewhat past its prime.

We took a break from botany to check out the dinosaur footprints and the putative quernstone quarry, finding large numbers of Blue-rayed Limpets on the kelp, in passing.

We added four taxa to the NG56 list: Atriplex glabriuscula (Babington’s Orache), Atriplex prostrata (Spear-leaved Orache), Polygonum aviculare s.s. (Knotgrass), though there were records for P. aviculare agg. (1997) and P. depressum (previously P. arenastrum) (2019) and Spergularia marina (Lesser Sea-spurrey).

Polygonum aviculare on a promontory at Brothers’ Point

As well as the gentian, the following had not been recorded in NG56 since before 2000: Carex lepidocarpa (Long-stalked Yellow-sedge) (1997), Hydrocotyle vulgaris (Marsh Pennywort) (1997), Isolepis setacea (Bristle Club-rush) (1999) and Neottia ovata (Common Twayblade) (1958).

We also added Ervilia (Vicia) sylvatica (Wood Vetch) to one of the two tetrads we looked at, which is not common on Skye.

Both here and at Borve (see previous post) and also in the garden at home there were lots of Nettle-taps about.

Nettle-tap

Aquatics & Caterpillars

September 10, 2021

A sub-group of Skye Botany Group went to Loch Connan and Loch Niarsco, principally to look for Potamogeton berchtoldii (Small Pondweed), which had been recorded in the NCC Loch Survey in 1989 but not since in the 10 km square NG34. We succeeded in Loch Connan, but not in Loch Niarsco:

Potamogeton berchtoldii (Small Pondweed)

We found Potamogeton alpinus (Red Pondweed) at an old site in Loch Niarsco and also this unusual looking Sparganium that is probably the S. emersum x S. angustifolium hybrid, Sparganium x diversifolium, though a specimen has been sent for expert determination. This would be new to VC104. Later: Determined as most likely diminutive S. emersum – though there was a big patch like this. Disappointing.

On the shore I spotted some leaf mines on Caltha palustris (Marsh-marigold) which Seth determined as being caused by Phytomyza calthophila. This was confirmed by the national scheme recorder as a first for the Inner Hebrides.

And, for something different, recent moth larvae from the garden:

From the top: Angle Shades, Bright-line Brown-eye, Brimstone Moth and Knot Grass