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.
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)
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.
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.
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.
Devon Moth Group members should have now received their copy of the 2015 Annual Report, which was published in late March.
Drawing on 42,000 moth records submitted during 2015, the Annual Report presents an overview of important sightings, analysis and a comprehensive species list.
Perhaps reflecting the lacklustre weather from late spring to early autumn, 2015 didn’t seem to be a vintage year for our resident moths. However, it was certainly an excellent year for immigration. Major early summer influxes of species such as Striped Hawk-moth, Small Mottled Willow and Bordered Straw, were accompanied by rarities such as Purple Marbled and Many-lined. The excitement continued in July and August with records of Jersey Mocha, Spurge Hawk-moth, Orache Moth, Splendid Brocade and Four-spotted. By the high standards of 2015, September was relatively quiet, but October yielded the first ever Devon record of Tunbridge Wells Gem and rarities such as Flame Brocade, Crimson Speckled and Clifden Nonpareil. And then the year ended on a high, during the unseasonally warm December (17.2°C was recorded at Teignmouth on 16th December), with the first ever county records of Syncopacma polychromella and Cornifrons ulceratalis, as well as sightings of Euchromius ocellea and Spoladea recurvalis among impressive numbers of more common immigrants.
2015 was an astonishing year for migrant moths in the county and concluded in style with the appearance of another species new to Devon. The incredibly mild, and often strong, southerly winds that dominated December’s weather continued to bring a host of migrant moths to our shores.
One very small visitor was of particular significance. Syncopacma polychromella, is a tiny but distinctive Gelechiid micro-moth with a wingspan of only 7mm or so.It occurs in southern Europe, Africa and the Middle East and has only been recorded in Great Britain on a handful of occasions prior to December, and never in Devon.
That all changed on 16 December 2015, when visiting moth recorder Dave Grundy caught a S.polychromella at Prawle Point, the first ever Devon record. Amazingly, the following night, two more examples were caught in the county: one by Mike Braid at Chittlehampton, south of Barnstaple, and thus the first ever record of this species in VC4 (North Devon) and the other by Richard Fox at Abbotskerswell near Newton Abbot. These latter two records were both from garden moth traps.
The three Devon records of S.polychromella formed part of an unprecedented influx of this species into Britain during the week before Christmas. In all, over 60 sightings have been reported so far, mainly from south-coast counties but also from inland locations such as Surrey and north Wiltshire.
Just goes to show that you should never pack your moth trap away for the winter!
Syncopacma polychromella (Abbotskerswell 17 Dec 2015) (Richard Fox)
Syncopacma polychromella (Chittlehampton, 17 Dec 2015) (Mike Braid)
Migrants have dominated the Devon moth news during 2015 and recent months have been no exception. The undoubted highlight of the autumn was Devon’s first ever Tunbridge Wells Gem (Chrysodeixis acuta), shown in the photo below. This is a rare immigrant that had been recorded on only 20 occasions ever in the whole of Britain and Ireland prior to 2015.
This exciting new addition to the Devon moth list was caught by Phil Barden on the coast near Noss Mayo on 7 October 2015.
An ultra-rare immigrant moth, the Accent Gem Ctenoplusia accentifera, has been spotted in Devon. This African species has only been recorded in Britain once before , way back in 1969 in Kent, so the discovery is very significant.
Devon Moth Group member, Dave Wall, found the moth in his garden moth trap in Exmouth on 29 October, during a major period of moth immigration to the southern coast of Britain that accompanied very mild weather and southerly winds. In fact, in the same moth trap, Dave also caught two Palpita vitrealis and three Vestal Rhodometra sacraria, quite exciting immigrant moths themselves.
This is the second extremely rare migrant moth caught in Devon in recent months. Back in July, Group members found a Ringed Border Stegania cararia, which was also a species never seen before in Devon and was only the third known British record.
An extremely rare migrant moth, the Ringed Border, was discovered by Devon Moth Group members at our field meeting at Parke near Bovey Tracey on Friday night. This is the first time the moth has ever been seen in Devon and possibly only the third ever sighting for mainland Britain.
Although there have been a number of common immigrant moths arriving into Devon during the recent spell of hot weather, the stunned moth recorders, led by former Devon County Moth Recorder Roy McCormick and National Trust ranger Fred Hutt, could hardly believe their eyes when the moth was spotted at the light traps just after midnight. The only previous British sightings were of one in Somerset in 2009 and one in Hampshire in 2010. The amazing find just proves that you never know what you’ll find in your moth trap!