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Moths of the month: May 2017

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.

Seraphim (R Leverton)

Seraphim Lobophora halterata

May into June.

Aspen woodland.

Since aspen is the only larval foodplant, this moth is inevitably a rather local if widespread species. The adult rarely strays far from its favourite tree. At known sites it can often be found resting on the trunks. On warm days it readily takes flight if disturbed, but then is often difficult to catch, quickly rising out of reach.

Being so closely connected with one particular tree, Seraphim has adapted its camouflage to match. Though a variable species, many of its forms have a light yellow central band that ties in well with aspen bark, with a broad dark band towards the base of the forewing to disrupt the overall shape.

As in several related species, the hindwings of Seraphim are disproportionately small compared with the forewings. This is a great help to identification when a captured moth is viewed from beneath in a clear container.

Click on the image to enlarge it.

Broad-bordered White Underwing (R Leverton)

Broad-bordered White Underwing Anarta melanopa

May and June.

Hills over 800m.

This Scottish speciality is a high-altitude species, absent from lower ground even though its foodplant, Crowberry, occurs down to sea level. In our region it is mainly western, and should be sought wherever suitable habitat occurs.

The adult is a stocky little moth. On sunny days it flies low and fast above the stunted montane vegetation, the flash colouration of its hindwings making it difficult for the eye to follow. Occasionally it pauses to feed at Trailing Azalea, one of the few nectar sources at such altitude in spring. However, when the weather is cloudy the chances of finding it are minimal even at well-known sites; at least, I have never yet succeeded. Its cryptic forewings would be effective camouflage either in low vegetation or on rocks.

Click on the image to enlarge it.

Garden Tiger larva (R Leverton)

Garden Tiger Arctia caja

Larva fully grown May-June.

Most lowland habitats including gardens.

Many caterpillars overwinter when small, then grow quickly on the lush spring foliage. Garden Tiger is one that sometimes takes advantage of the tender leaves of low sallow bushes, feeding openly by day. Its copious hairs protect it from most birds other than Cuckoo, but offer little protection against tachinid flies and other parasitoids. In parts of southern England this species has declined almost to rarity status, but still appears to be doing well in our area.

Click on the image to enlarge it.

Edinburgh Pug (R Leverton)

Edinburgh Pug Eupithecia intricata

May and June.

Pinewood with a juniper understorey.

Technically, Edinburgh Pug is the smaller and darker Scottish counterpart of Freyer’s Pug, a moth associated with garden cypresses in southern England. Formerly the two were separated by a gap in northern England, but recently Freyer’s Pug has advanced its range into Scotland. The races have now merged to create a hybrid population, intermediate in appearance, as far north as the Lothians.

Pure populations of Edinburgh Pug still survive in our area, where the moth is often very numerous amongst native juniper. The distribution map picks out Deeside, Speyside and the inner Moray Firth as particularly favoured areas, but with surprisingly few records further west.

Edinburgh Pug shares its foodplant with Juniper Pug, which is equally abundant. Competition is perhaps reduced by different life cycles and emergence periods: Edinburgh Pug overwinters as a pupa and emerges in spring, whereas Juniper Pug overwinters as an egg and flies much latter in the summer.

Click on the image to enlarge it.

Shears (R Leverton)

Shears Hada plebeja

May into July.

Various open habitats.

This compact little noctuid is almost ubiquitous, but perhaps most numerous on grassy moorland. Its caterpillar is presumed to feed nocturnally on a wide selection of low plants and weeds. At least it does so in captivity, but it is hardly ever found in the wild. The overwintering pupa has unusual lateral spine-like projections on four abdominal segments, perhaps enabling it to move around and escape unfavourable conditions such as waterlogging.

The adult is sometimes discovered resting on rocks or fenceposts. Occasionally it flies in the sunshine, nectaring at flowers, but night is its usual time of activity.

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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