A new macro-moth species for the county is always an exciting event, especially for the lucky person who finds it. But the Maize Wainscot (Sesamia nonagrioides) found in Chris Vincent’s moth trap in Plymouth on 7th September, was particularly special as this species, resident in south-west Europe and Africa, had never been seen before on mainland Britain. Indeed, the only previous sighting of Maize Wainscot anywhere in the British Isles was on St Agnes, Scilly, in 2011.
Amazingly, a second Maize Wainscot was caught at the other end of Devon on the following night. Sarah Patton, a Sussex moth recorder on holiday in Devon, caught one in Branscombe on the night of 8th September.
Striped Hawk-moth (Hyles livornica) is an uncommon migrant moth in Devon, with 72 sightings on the Devon Moth Group database, the most recent from 2015. This visitor from warmer parts of continental Europe is usually seen here in the summer. However, the warm southerly winds that brought Saharan dust to our shores last week, also encouraged some early migrants northwards! Jayne Wraxall found and photographed this one on the side of the road at Exwick on 3 April.
Striped Hawk-moth found in Devon on 3 April 2021 (Jayne Wraxall)
The highlight of this autumn’s immigrant moths was the first Blair’s Wainscot (Sedina buettneri) ever recorded in Devon. It was caught by Richard Cottle on the night of 20th October in his garden trap at Ide, near Exeter. Richard reported that, in the morning gloom, he nearly dismissed the moth as a small individual of the widespread species Large Wainscot (Rhizedra lutosa), but thought it didn’t look right and thankfully potted it to have a proper look.
Blair’s Wainscot is a rare species in Britain, restricted to several river systems in Dorset and probably also occurs on the Isle of Wight. In addition, it has occasionally been recorded on the coast of south-east England and such moths are presumed to have been immigrants from continental Europe. There was considerable immigrant moth activity this autumn, at the time of the Devon record, so it is assumed to be a visitor. However, there is a slight but tantilizing possibility that the species might be established somewhere in the upper Exe Estuary.
Blair’s Wainscot recorded in Devon (Richard Cottle)
A stunning and rare Beautiful Marbled moth (Eublemma purpurina) was recorded this week in a garden in Exwick, Exeter by Adrian Colston. This species is a scarce immigrant from continental Europe, with only around 50 ever recorded in Britain. The Exwick sighting is only the third ever in Devon, after one near Ottery St Mary in 2006 and the other near Chittlehampton in 2012. It is also a very early sighting, as the vast majority of previous British sightings have been made between August and October. Hopefully this is a good omen for a summer of exciting and beautiful moths!
The Devon Moth Group Annual Report for 2019 has been published and distributed to Group members. It summarises 80,000 moth records (c.17,000 for micro-moths and c.63,000 for macro-moths) for the county last year from 286 recorders. The records have been compiled and verified by the County Moth Recorder, Dr Barry Henwood, and his fantastic team: Phil Barden, Darryl Rush, Phil Dean, Kim Leaver and Bob Heckford. Four new micro-moth species were recorded in Devon during 2019: Ectoedemia heringella, Parectopa ononidis, Monochroa palustrellus and Cochylidia implicitana. In addition, the first modern day record of Small Ranunculus was made when the moth was spotted in a pedestrian subway in Exeter. All the records will be shared with the Devon Biodiversity Records Centre and the National Moth Recording Scheme run by Butterfly Conservation. Many thanks to all the recorders who submitted sightings of moths in Devon during 2019.
Devon Moth Group is celebrating the collection of one million moth sightings across the county.
The Group, which collects and checks all sightings of moths and their caterpillars reported in the county, has amassed the impressive total since its formation in 1997. The records date back to the mid-19th century and provide a long-term view of the changing wildlife of Devon.
The landmark millionth record was of a V-Pug, a small green moth with a characteristic black v-shaped mark on its wings, which was spotted by Devon Moth Group member Kevin Johns in his Newton Abbot garden.
V-Pug (Phil Dean)
Moth recording plays an important role in conservation as the information gathered shows which species are flourishing and which are in danger. The sightings then identify parts of Devon where threatened and declining moths still remain so that conservation action can be targeted effectively. All of the records gathered are shared with the Devon Biodiversity Records Centre, Devon Wildlife Trust and the UK-wide National Moth Recording Scheme.
Around 1,700 moth species have been recorded in Devon, some two-thirds of the total for Britain. These include nationally important species such as the rare Scarce Blackneck, Beautiful Gothic and Devonshire Wainscot.
The V-Pug, which has the scientific name Chloroclystis v-ata, is a widespread species in Devon. Its unobtrusive caterpillars feed on the flowers of a wide variety of plants including Bramble, Dog-rose, Elder, Hawthorn and Hemp-agrimony. V-Pug moths are often found in gardens, where they are beautifully camouflaged resting against mottled foliage and algae-covered bark.
Gardeners can do a great deal to help moths, including planting a variety of moth-friendly flowers for nectar, especially native plants, keeping a few areas rough and untidy, and avoiding the use of insecticides wherever possible.
Kevin Johns, who has been a regular contributor to the Devon moth database, was delighted to learn that his V-Pug record turned out to be the one that passed the million mark. He said that it was “a brilliant surprise, really quite special”. Being retired, Kevin has many interests, moths being just one of them. He describes his garden as a small courtyard with a few shrubs and flower beds, but importantly says it is close to mature woodland which means that a good number of moths are attracted to his light-trap to be noted and released unharmed. “I’m really pleased with what I get”, he added.
Garden where the millionth moth record was made (Kevin Johns)
All the records submitted by volunteers in Devon are collated by the County Moth Recorder, Barry Henwood, who in turn passes them on to the Devon Biodiversity Records Centre whose manager, Ian Egerton, explains, “Devon Biodiversity Records Centre is a partnership-led organisation set up to gather information on Devon’s species and habitats. We ensure that biodiversity information feeds into decision-making locally and nationally, and over the last 25 years, our efforts have been underpinned significantly by the county’s huge network of volunteer recorders. Their passion and interest in specific species has created much of the data we now hold, and the level of knowledge and expertise within groups such as the Devon Moth Group, is key to supporting a conservation sector which could not operate without them”.
Sadly, moths, like so much of our wildlife, are in serious decline. For example, populations of the V-Moth (not to be confused with the V-Pug) have crashed by 99% in Britain since the 1960s, while the stunning Garden Tiger, once a familiar sight to naturalists, has slumped by 92%.
A rare Bedstraw Hawk-moth (Hyles gallii) caterpillar was spotted in an Exmouth garden on 1st October. This impressive caterpillar, which can grow to 8cm in length, was feeding on Fuschia leaves. Adult moths of this species are scarce immigrants to Devon from continental Europe and two had been seen in early August, one in Chudleigh and the other in Seaton. Given the timing, the Exmouth caterpillar is probably the offspring of a female Bedstraw Hawk-moth that arrived on the south coast as part of the summer influx. (Photo by Jan Gannaway)
The first examples of Box-tree Moth Cydalima perspectalis have been recorded in Devon. Former County Moth Recorder, Roy McCormicl, caught the first in his Teignmouth garden moth-trap on 3rd July 2018. Remarkably, a second one (image below) was caught only a couple of nights later (on 5th July 2018), by Graham Davey in Tavistock. The appearance of two individuals in such a short space of time but 30 miles apart, strongly suggests that these moths arrived under their own steam, either dipersing from elsewhere in southern England or immigrating from continental Europe.
The eventual arrival of this Asian species in Devon was expected, as it is spreading rapdily westwards and northwards across Britain, after the first record in Kent in 2007. The following year, it was recorded in Surrey and Sussex and by 2010, had been seen as far afield as Cambridgeshire and Gloucestershire. Since then, Box-tree Moth, caterpillars of which feed on (and can defoliate)the shrub Box, has been found in many counties, including Cornwall, Dorset and Somerset, sometimes seemingly as a result of natural spread, but often as a result of the horticultural trade. It is well established in the London area and can be very abundant; over 800 were recorded in a light-trap on one night in Putney recently.
Box-tree Moth is also present in continental Europe, where the first reports came from Germany in 2007. Since then it has been observed in Spain, France, Belgium, Netherlands, Denmark, Italy, Switzerland, Austria, Hungary, the Czech Republic, Slovakia, Slovenia, Croatia, Bulgaria, Romania and Greece. It is quite possible, therefore, that Box-tree Moth sightings, including those in Devon, may relate to immigration.
Thanks to Mark Parsons, Butterfly Conservation, for additional information about the spread of Box-tree Moth.
Moth Night, the annual celebration of moths and moth recording, has come around again and takes place on the three days and nights of 14 – 16 June 2018.
The UK-wide event, organised by Atropos, Butterfly Conservation and the Centre for Ecology & Hydrology, will focus on pyralid moths (the families Pyralidae and Crambidae), the first time that micro-moths have been the official theme of Moth Night in its 20-year existence.
Over the past 30 years, some 28 new species of pyralid have been recorded in Britain, some the result of natural migration, others accidentally imported e.g. with plants for the horticultural trade. Eight of these have already become established in Britain, including Evergestis limbata, which has colonised parts of Devon. First recorded in Britain in 1994 on the Isle of Wight, the first Devon record was in 2004 in Kingsteignton. Since then, this pretty yellow and brown moth has been found all along the Teign Estuary from Teignmouth and Shaldon to Kingsteignton, as well as at Exmouth and around Newton Abbot. How much further has it got? Keep a look out for it for Moth Night and submit any sightings at www.mothnight.info
Evergestis limbata (Les Evans-Hill)
Aside from new species, there are plenty of native pyralid moths to look out for in Devon this week. These include the Mint Moth Pyrausta aurata, a little purple and gold jewel of an insect found fluttering in the daytime in herb patches and flowerbeds, the distinctive, black and white spotted Small Magpie Anania hortulata and common immigrants such as the Rusty-dot Pearl Udea ferrugalis.
Mint Moth (Patrick Clement)
Small Magpie (Iain Leach)
Moth Night activities don’t have to focus on pyralids, of course. There are hundreds of different moth species on the wing in Devon at this time of year and records of any and all of them seen on the three days and nights of Moth Night 2018 are very welcome.
Why not take the opportunity to get out and record moths somewhere new, or introduce family or friends to the wonders of moths? On the Friday night or Saturday morning, you are very welcome to attend the Devon Moth Group field meeting at the Norman Lockyear Observatory near Sidmouth (see Events).
Please submit all your sightings via the online recording form on the Moth Night website, so that we can build up a picture of all the activity and records during the event (all records are subsequently passed on to County Moth Recorders).
The Devon Moth Group Annual Report for 2017 has now been published and distributed to members. The report summarises a record-breaking number of sightings – nearly 64,000 moth records for the year submitted by over 220 Devon naturalists and visiting moth enthusiasts.
Highlights included records of three micro-moth species never previously recorded in the county, Lyonetia prunifoliella, Tuta absoluta and Coleophora alcyonipennella, the best ever year for Clifden Nonpareil and the joint best year for Jersey Mocha, both of which may now have colonised parts of Devon. Other exciting sightings included the first Large Red-belted Clearwing record for 20 years, the second and third ever Devon records of Little Thorn, the second ever record of the immigrant Golden Twin-spot and the first North Devon record of Mere Wainscot since 1960!
Many thanks to everyone who sent in 2017 sightings and to Barry Henwood, the County Moth Recorder, and his team of helpers for collating and verifying all the data! All of the records are shared with the Devon Biodiversity Records Centre and the National Moth Recording Scheme.