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Moths of the month: June 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.

   
Clouded-bordered Brindle (R Leverton)

Clouded-bordered Brindle Apamea crenata

Late May into August.

Found almost everywhere.

This ubiquitous and very common species is dimorphic, with the dark form combusta almost as frequent as the pale typical form.

The caterpillar feeds nocturnally on various grasses, enabling it to remain active during mild spells throughout the winter. In spring it feeds up quickly on the fresh new growth.

Despite its numbers, the adult is rarely found by day because it rests concealed. After dark it is particularly fond of sugar, as well as floral attractions.

Click on the image to enlarge it.


Clouded Border (R Leverton)

Clouded Border Lomaspilis marginata

June and July.

Damp woodland, sallow carr.

This distinctive little moth rests openly on the upper surface of leaves, suggesting it is relatively unpalatable. Its simple two-tone pattern lacks the subtleties seen in moths that accurately mimic bird-droppings, so perhaps this has a shape-disrupting function.

Sallow and aspen are the main larval foodplants. Adults can often be seen sitting on their leaves or on surrounding vegetation, though they take wing readily if disturbed.

Click on the image to enlarge it.


Common Marbled Carpet (R Leverton)

Common Marbled Carpet Dysstroma truncata

Mid June to early August.

Woods, scrub, moorland, hedgerows, gardens.

This moth is so variable that early lepidopterists thought several of its forms were separate species. The one shown here was known as Yellow Marbled Carpet.

Other forms lack the orange-yellow and can be hard to distinguish from the related Dark Marbled Carpet. Date can be a useful clue. Because the present species overwinters as a caterpillar it is on the wing earlier in the summer than the latter, which overwinters as an egg - though there is some overlap.

As its name suggests, Common Marbled Carpet is found almost everywhere, having a wide range of shrubs and herbs as foodplants. Adults usually rest on tree trunks but can be very difficult to spot.

Click on the image to enlarge it.


The Miller (R Leverton)

The Miller Acronicta leporina

June and July.

Woodland, especially birch.

In the Scottish Highlands this species is often pure white, explaining why Linnaeus named it after the Mountain Hare in its winter coat. In southern Britain the moths are much greyer.

Though widely distributed, Miller is normally seen only as occasional singles even in the most favoured areas. Why some widespread species are abundant and others exist at low density is a mystery not easily explained in terms of resources or habitat quality.

Very occasionally the adults can be found at rest on tree trunks, but sightings are notable even at moth traps.

Click on the image to enlarge it.


Cinnabar (R Leverton)

Cinnabar Tyria jacobaeae

Late May into July.

Coastal (in Scotland).

In our area, Cinnabar is resident only in southern parts of the west coast, though it seems to be extending its range northwards following climate change. Its larval foodplant, Common Ragwort, is certainly available. The adult is is a partial migrant, with several records in Orkney.

Both the caterpillar and the adult are among the most unpalatable of all our moths and their warning colouration strongly reflects this. Moths fly slowly and are active (or at least easily disturbed) by day, though night is their main time of activity. Where present, the caterpillars are often so numerous as to demolish their foodplant. Adults too can be numerous, though numbers may vary greatly from year to year.

Curiously, the adult's aposematic crimson, so dramatic when fresh, fades to pink within a few days. Perhaps by then it has served its purpose.

Click on the image to enlarge it.


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