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saving butterflies, moths and our environment
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Moths of the month: May 2013

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.

May Highflyer (R Leverton)

May Highflyer Hydriomena impluviata

May and June.

Damp woodland and carr, riversides.

Since alder is the only larval foodplant, May Highflyer is necessarily local, but it can be found almost everywhere that tree is present. Both parts of its scientific name reflect the habitat association with water.

When freshly emerged the forewings are patterned in delicate shades of blue-green, but the colour is fugitive, bleaching within hours as in this wild example.

By day the adults rest on alder trunks. Though almost impossible to spot, they take flight readily if the trunk is tapped with a stick.

Click on the image to enlarge it.

Knot Grass (R Leverton)

Knot Grass Acronicta rumicis

May to July or later, perhaps with a partial second brood.

Open habitats, including roadsides, gardens and coast.

The English name associates this species with knotgrass Polygonum, while its scientific one specifies dock Rumex. In fact, its caterpillar feeds on almost any low-growing plant and many shrubs too, including those in gardens.

The adult rests exposed by day on walls, fences, rocks or tree trunks. This dark example from Mull appears to be of the form lugubris Schultz, described by Kettlewell as an ancient west coast non-industrial melanic. Elsewhere the moths are a lighter grey.

Click on the image to enlarge it.

Green Silver-lines (R Leverton)

Green Silver-lines Pseudoips prasinana

Mid May into early July.

Good quality woodland.

This lovely species can claim to be the most truly green of all our moths. Its scientific name and its placing in the systematic list have altered frequently over the years, but the latest molecular research suggests it is not a noctuid.

In our area this is a local species found only in high quality woodland, especially oak. Even there the moth is never numerous.

By day the adult rests openly on foliage, as its colour suggests. After dark, males are known to stridulate in flight, possibly in courtship, though very few observers have knowingly heard this.

Click on the image to enlarge it.

Brown Silver-line (R Leverton)

Brown Silver-line Petrophora chlorosata

May and June.

Almost anywhere with Bracken.

Few species feed on Bracken, which contains unpleasant toxins. Brown Silver-line, whose caterpillars will eat nothing else, is therefore very unusual. Otherwise this is one of our plainest moths, with a simple disruptive crossline that hardly merits the term silver.

Though mainly active at night, it is readily put up from the ground litter by day. Typically it flies a short distance before settlng again, a pale isosceles triangle amongst the dead fronds.

Click on the image to enlarge it.

Spectacle (R Leverton)

Spectacle Abrostola tripartita

May through to August, perhaps with partial second brood.

Woodland and field edges, hedgerows, farmland, waste ground.

Nettles are the foodplant of this ubiquitous species, so it is particularly numerous in lowland farmland with nitrogen-enriched soils.

Because it overwinters as a pupa, Spectacle is the first of our plusias to appear in spring. The adult is hardly ever found by day, perhaps because its extravagant hair tufts disguise its shape so well. At dusk it is strongly attracted to campion flowers (which often grow alongside nettles) and also comes to light traps.

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 | June | July | August | September

2017: May | June | July | August | September

2018: May | June

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