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Moths of the month: March

This is a monthly series illustrating several characteristic moths to look out for in our area. Text and photos by Roy Leverton.

You can also view the other months by selecting the links at the bottom of this page.

March Moth, Alsophila aescularia (photo by Roy Leverton)

March Moth
Alsophila aescularia

Found in deciduous woodland and parkland.

Unlike most geometrids, the male March Moth overlaps its wings at rest. It is yet another of the early spring moths with a flightless female, though it is not closely related to the other species.

Click on the image to enlarge it.

The Chestnut, Conistra vaccinii (photo by Roy Leverton)

The Chestnut
Conistra vaccinii

Woodland, scrub and moorland; October through to April.

This long-lived moth emerges in late autumn and is active throughout the winter on mild nights. Often it is the only moth at sugar in March. Colour and markings are variable, but the dumpy, rather flattened shape is distinctive.

Click on the image to enlarge it.

Yellow Horned, Achyla flavicornis (photo by Roy Leverton)

Yellow Horned
Achlya flavicornis scotica

Birch woodland, especially young trees in open moorland; March and April.

Named for the colour of its antennae, Yellow Horned is a characteristic early spring moth of the Scottish Highlands, sometimes found on fence posts and birch trunks. Our race is larger and more strongly marked than the English form.

Click on the image to enlarge it.

Fox Moth caterpillar, Macrothylacia rubi (photo by Roy Leverton)

Fox Moth
Macrothylacia rubi

Moorland and other open habitats, especially on the coast.

These large, hairy caterpillars emerge from hibernation in early spring. Having reached full growth the previous autumn, they do not feed, but sunbathe at every opportunity. This basking may be necessary for their successful development, making them notoriously difficult to rear in captivity.

Click on the image to enlarge it.

Clouded Drab, Orthosia incerta (photo by Roy Leverton)

Clouded Drab
Orthosia incerta

Deciduous woodland, scrub, parks and gardens; March and April.

This very common member of the quaker moth group is also extremely variable in colour and markings. Luckily the size and shape remain constant, helping identification. It is easily found by checking sallow catkins by torchlight after dark.

Click on the image to enlarge it.

Hebrew Character, Orthosia gothica (photo by Roy Leverton)

Hebrew Character
Orthosia gothica

Named for the black letter-like marking on the forewing, this noctuid moth is common almost everywhere.

Readily found with a torch on sallow catkins after dark in March and April.

Click on the image to enlarge it.

Common Quaker (phot by Roy Leverton)

Common Quaker
Orthosia cerastri

Feeding on nearly all deciduous trees, this moth is also numerous at sallow catkins in March and April.

Colour varies, but the plain and simple wing markings are characteristic.

Click on the image to enlarge it.

Rannoch Sprawler (phot by Roy Leverton)

Rannoch Sprawler
Brachyonicha nubeculosa

A Highland speciality of ancient birch woodland, where it rests by day on the gnarled trunks in early spring.

Click on the image to enlarge it.

Red Sword-grass and Sword-grass (photo by Roy Leverton)

Red Sword-grass
Xylena vetusta


Xylena exsoleta

Both resemble slivers of old dead wood, but the much scarcer Sword-grass can be distinguished by its pale legs. The adults emerge in autumn, then hibernate until early spring. They are most often found at sugar.

Click on the image to enlarge it.

Ornage Underwing (phot by Roy Leverton)

Orange Underwing
Archiearis parthenias

The adult flies high around birches on sunny days in March and April. It is easily seen but not so easily netted.

Click on the image to enlarge it.

View other months

January - February     March     April      May     June     July     August     September     October     November - December

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