Shining Marbled – new for Devon

An incredibly rare immigrant moth, the Shining Marbled Pseudeustrotia candidula, only once seen in Britain before 2012 was caught by Allan Jenkins at Chardstock, north of Axminster on 18th August 2012. The specimen is shown below.

This is the first time that the Shining Marbled has ever been recorded in Devon.

The moth, which is native to central and eastern Europe, was first seen in Britain in 2006 in Herefordshire. There have been no other records until this year, when a handful of Shining Marbleds have been sighted across southern England (including the Devon example). Although the moth was caught in August, this highly significant record has only recently been reported to Devon Moth Group.

Shining Marbled

Little and Large – moths to look out for this week

Two moths currently around in Devon demonstrate the amazing size range of these fascinating insects.

Horse Chestnut Leaf-miner Cameraria ohridella (Brian Bewsher)

Cameraria ohridella, Horse Chestnut Leaf-miner, caught at light (Brian Bewsher)

One, Cameraria ohridella the Horse-chestnut Leaf Miner, is tiny, measuring only about 4mm from head to tip of its wings. Although sometimes caught in moth traps (including at this time of year), it is the blotchy leaf mines created by the moth’s larvae in the leaves of Horse Chestnut trees that are the most obvious sign of this species recent arrival in Devon.

The Horse-chestnut Leaf Miner was first recorded in Britain in London in 2002, but has spread extremely rapidly both west and northwards. The first Devon sighting was in 2007.

Convolvulus Hawk-moth (Brian Bewsher)

Convolvulus Hawk-moth rescued from a garden pond near Bovey Tracey (Brian Bewsher)

At the other end of the spectrum is the Convolvulus Hawk-moth. This giant has wings over 10 times the length of those of the Horse-chestnut Leaf Miner. Not only does the Convolvulus Hawk-moth have an impressive wingspan of around 11cm, it is also capable of long-distance migration. From its permanent range in Africa, some Convolvulus Hawk-moths fly northwards each year to breed in Europe. The best chance of seeing this moth in Devon is in the autumn and several have been sighted in the past week.

Tiverton rare moth find

An extremely rare immigrant moth, Diplopseustis perieresalis, was found by Andrew Cunningham in his garden at Tiverton on Sunday night (2 Sept 2012). It is thought to be only the 17th ever record for Britain, the second ever for Devon and is a new species for North Devon (Vice-county 4).

Diplopseustis periersalis (Andrew Cunningham)

Diplopseustis perieresalis (Andrew Cunningham)

This pyralid moth is found widely across eastern asia, Australia and New Zealand, where it is thought that the larvae feed on rushes. In western Europe, the first sighting was in the year 2000 in Portugal, and the species has first occured in the UK (on the Isles of Scilly) in 2001. Further British sightings followed. The first mainland record was from Exeter, when Graham and Jean Jarvis found one in their garden trap in November 2007.

It is not clear how this moth managed to spread from the far east to western Europe, but it seems that it is established somewhere in the region and further immigration into Britain is likely in the future.

Migrants around!

Despite, or perhaps because of, the poor summer and succession of weather fronts sweeping in from the south-west, there are quite a lot of immigrant moths around at the moment. Many people have been catching good numbers of common migrants such as Silver Y, Udea ferrugalis and Nomophila noctuella, but there are more exciting immigrants around too.

Mike Braid recently caught a Beautiful Marbled near Chittlehampton in North Devon (VC4) (see image below), Richard Billington had a Striped Hawk-moth at Wembury, near Plymouth and Oliver Woodland recorded a Delicate and a Cosmopolitan at Membury, near Axminster. There have also been a number of Cydia amplana caught in the County.

Beautiful Marbled (Mike Braid)2

Beautiful Marbled (Mike Braid) caught in North Devon on night of 23 Aug 2012

Micro-moth new to Devon

Ethmia quadrillella, a smart-looking black and white micro-moth in the family Elachistidae (formerly in family Ethmiidae), was recorded by Peter Vernon at Colyford on 17th August 2012. This is a new county record for Devon – the species never having been recorded here before.

This moth is a scarce species (specifically listed as Nationally Scarce B) found as a resident mainly in eastern England from Kent up to Yorkshire, where it is typically found in wetland habitats. However, it is also known to occur as an occasional migrant or wanderer, so it is highly likely that this Devon individual had travelled either from eastern England or from Continental Europe. The sighting came during a period of considerable moth immigration.

Ethmia quadrillella (Peter Vernon)

Rare Small Eggars spotted

The Small Eggar is a moth that appears to have declined greatly in Devon, and nationally, over recent decades. In the past three years, only four records of the species have been submitted to Devon Moth Group.

It was good news therefore, last week, when Mike Finn reported finding and photographing a larval nest of Small Eggar caterpillars near Sidmouth. (click on photos below for larger images)

Small Eggar moths fly very early in the year, typically between January and March, and are rarely seen or recorded. The distinctive caterpillars and their communal nest are much more easily spotted, usually in hedgerows or scrub, during spring and summer.

We’d be very grateful for any further sightings.

Small Eggar larvae and larval nest

Small Eggar larvae & larval nest

Small Eggar larvae

Small Eggar larvae

More Narrow-bordered Five-spot Burnets discovered

A second colony of Zygaena lonicerae, Narrow-bordered Five-spot Burnet, has been found in Devon at Mincinglake Valley Park, Exeter by Sam Stripp and her son Tim.

Mincinglake Valley Park

Mincinglake Valley Park, Exeter in Devon

After reading about the first discovery of this beautiful day-flying moth in Devon in 2011 (near Sampford Peverell), they decided to pay closer attention to Burnet moths. Shortly afterwards, whilst dog-walking in Mincinglake Valley Park, Exeter, they were surprised to find a host of adult burnets on thistle flowers. A few individuals were potted up to try to confirm their identity, before being released unharmed the following day.

Distinguishing adults of the Five-spot Burnet, which is the usual one in Devon, from the Narrow-bordered Five-spot, which is widespread over much of the rest of Britain, is very difficult and the Mincinglake moths remained unidentified.

Narrow-bordered Five-spot Burnet larva

Narrow-bordered Five-spot Burnet larva

However, when released, it was discovered that one of the moths had laid eggs in the pot. These were cared for by the Stripps and, in due course, larvae emerged which could be positively identified as being Narrow-bordered Five-spot Burnets (larvae of which have much longer hairs than the other species).

Devon now has two known locations for Narrow-bordered Five-spot Burnet, but surely more must remain as yet undiscovered.

Rare migrants in early spring

A warm spell of weather at the end of February and beginning of March following a mild winter has resulted in some very interesting records.

Red-headed Chestnut moth (Conistra erythrocephala)

Red-headed Chestnut

On 24 February, Barry Henwood was amazed to catch a Conistra erythrocephala Red-headed Chestnut in his garden trap in Abbotskerswell. This is a rare immigrant to Britain and represents only the third ever Devon record, previous ones being in 2004 and 1856! Although it is impossible to know for sure, it is likely that this moth arrived from continental Europe during the major moth immigration last autumn and managed to survive the mild winter.

This amazing sighting was followed, just a few days later, by another extraordinary record: Xylena exsoleta Sword-grass at Membury on 28 February by Oliver Woodland. Again, this is a rare immigrant in Devon (although it does live in northern Britain), with the last sighting in 1994, and also probably arrived last autumn.