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saving butterflies, moths and our environment
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Moths of the month: July 2014

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.

Smoky Wave (R Leverton)

Smoky Wave Scopula ternata

Mid June through July.

Open woodland, sheltered moorland.

The waves Sterrhinae are a mainly southern subfamily. Smoky Wave is an exception, being widespread in the Highlands, particularly in the west. It can be abundant on sheltered moorland and in open woodland with a bilberry ground layer, a main foodplant of its caterpillar.

The adults are partly diurnal and easily disturbed from the heather, particularly in warm dry weather. The female (illustrated) tends to be smaller than the male, with more pointed forewings and stronger crosslines. She has less of the grey freckling that gives the species its vernacular name.

Click on the image to enlarge it.

Common Lutestring (R Leverton)

Common Lutestring Ochropacha duplaris

June into August, peaking in July.

Birch woodland.

This dull and obscurely marked moth causes problems for beginners, who frequently mistake it for one of the carpet subfamily. The twin discal spots are the best distinguishing feature.

The moth can found almost everywhere there is birch, perhaps most easily in the larval stage. The caterpillar spot-welds two leaves together with blobs of silk, forming a retreat for concealment and feeding only at night.

The adult can either rest flat on trunks as illustrated, or furl its wings around a slender twig. At night it comes to light and also to sugar.

Click on the image to enlarge it.

Ingrailed Clay

Ingrailed Clay Diarsia mendica

Late June into September.

Woodland, scrub, moorland - almost everywhere.

This ubiquitous species is one of our most variable moths, particularly in the Highlands. The forewings may be light or dark, plain or variegated - yellowish, ochreous, orange brown, lilac or grey, reddish brown or maroon. Some moths have a strong blueish suffusion, a particularly attractive combination. The markings also vary both in colour and intensity. The distinctive square black patch between the stigmata, shown here, is often absent. Even size and shape are variable, moths from upland heather populations being noticeably smaller than those from lower woodland.

Despite its abundance, Ingrailed Clay can easily be overlooked. By day, the adults conceal themselves in low herbage and are hardly ever found. The caterpillar feeds nocturnally on a wide variety of low plants and shrubs and also hides away by day. Only light trapping or sugaring reveals the true numbers present.

Click on the image to enlarge it.

Barred Straw (R Leverton)

Barred Straw Gandaritis pyraliata

Late June to September, peaking in July.

Hedgerows, marshes, road verges, farmland.

Bedstraws are a frequent foodplant of the carpet subfamily. Barred Straw prefers the taller species such as cleavers, so it is mainly found in richer, lowland areas including arable farmland. Thus in the Highlands it is common in the east but increasingly scarcer and more local towards the north-west.

The adult's unique resting posture is its most distinctive feature. The forewings are held raised, which would normally expose the hindwings. Instead, these too are raised, so neatly tucked away behind the forewings that they appear to be missing completely. Such an unusual shape perhaps misleads predators, resembling a yellowing leaf when the moth rests amongst tangled low vegetation.

Click on the image to enlarge it.

Light Arches (R Leverton)

Light Arches Apamea lithoxylaea

Late June into August.

Open grassland.

Light Arches is a close relative of Dark Arches (see August 2013) but much less abundant. It prefers drier grassland on lower ground, where its caterpillar feeds on the roots and lower stems of grasses. In our area it is mainly an eastern or coastal moth.

The adult is the palest of the Apamea species, with the usual noctuid markings only faintly defined. The specific name likens it to bleached wood, and indeed the moth occasionally rests on fence posts. Its camouflage does not always work. I found one in my boyhood collecting days, but had no suitable container with me. When I returned a few minutes later with a jam jar, four detached wings lay on the ground below. A flock of Rooks was feeding nearby

Click on the image to enlarge it.

View other months

January - February




November - December

2008: May | June | July | August | September

2009: May | June | July | August | September

2010: May | June | July | August | September

2011: May | June | July | August | September

2012: May | June | July | August | September

2013: May | June | July | August | September

2014: May | June | July | August | September

2015: May | June | July | August | September

2016: May

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