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Moths of the month: November and December

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.


December Moth
Poecilocampa populi

Occurs in woodland and parkland from mid October into early December.

Despite its name, the December Moth rarely lasts into that month in our area. Unusually for moths that are out in winter, both sexes fly. They often come to lighted windows.

Click on the image to enlarge it.

Winter Moth
Operophtera brumata

May be found in woodland and gardens in November and December.

Small, pale moths fluttering slowly in car headlights on a still winter's evening are probably males of this species, the female being flightless.

Click on the image to enlarge it.

Northern Winter Moth, Operophtera fagata (photo by Roy Leverton)

Northern Winter Moth
Operophtera fagata

Look for this species in birch or beech woodland, in late October and November.

This is a slightly larger, paler and greyer version of the previous species, best distinguished by its more elongated wings. Despite its English name, its distribution is not particulary northern.

Click on the image to enlarge it.

Scarce Umber
Agriopis aurantiaria

Occurs in late October through November in woodland.

Again, its English name is misleading as this is quite a common moth, especially in birchwoods. Like others in its group, the female is flightless.

Click on the image to enlarge it.

Mottled Umber
Erannis defoliaria

This moth may be found in woodland from late October (sometimes earlier) into New Year.

Males are very variable, some strikingly marked like the one illustrated, others plain and dull. The female (lower image) is virtually wingless, and rarely seen.

Click on the images to enlarge them.

Satellite, Eupsilia transversa (photo by Roy Leverton)

Eupsilia transversa

October through to April.

Woodland, scrub, rural gardens.

The Satellite probably gets its name not from the lunar crescent on its forewing but from the detached dots at either end, often of a different colour as in this case. It does not truly hibernate, but becomes active on mild nights even in the depths of winter, feeding on the juices of any fermenting berries still left on trees and bushes.

Click on the image to enlarge it

Twenty-plume Moth, Aluciita hexadactyla (photo by Roy Leverton)

Twenty-plume Moth
Alucita hexadactyla

August through to June.

Woodland and gardens with honeysuckle, its foodplant

Uniquely among British species, the wings of this moth are each made up of six 'feathers'. Despite its delicate appearance it is very long-lived, often entering conservatories or outbuildings to hibernate, though it may bcome active on mild winter days.

Click on the image to enlarge it.

Rush Veneer, Nomophila noctuella (photo by Roy Leverton)

Rush Veneer
Nomophila noctuella

Migrant, commonest in late autumn.

May turn up anywhere.

Although fewer of our resident moths are on the wing, late autumn can be surprisingly good for migrants if the winds are from the south. This distinctively long and narrow pyralid reaches northern Scotland annually and may be seen as late as November, sometimes in the daytime.

Click on the image to enlarge it.

Pink-barred Sallow, Xanthia togata (photo by Roy Leverton)

Pink-barred Sallow
Xanthia togata

Egg stage: September to April.

Woodland, scrub and carr.

When eggs must survive for seven or eight months it is worth choosing the oviposition site carefully. This neat row of tiny eggs has been laid in the crevice between the bark and a plump bud that will produce a sallow catkin - nutritious food for the caterpillars when they hatch in spring. Several other identical rows were found on the same branch.

Click on the image to enlarge it.

Brussells Lace, Cleorodes lichenaria (photo by Roy Leverton)

Brussels Lace
Cleorodes lichenaria

Caterpillar August - May.


Though associated with trees, this species feeds on the lichens growing on their trunks and branches rather than their leaves. Thus it is able to feed slowly throughout the winter, perfectly camouflaged by its shape and colour and presumably able to tolerate freezing temperatures.

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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