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Moths of the month: June 2016

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.

Thrift Clearwing (R Leverton)

Thrift Clearwing Pyropteron muscaeformis

June into July.

Coastal cliffs.

This is a local moth with a very disjunct national distribution, even though apparently suitable habitat occurs far more widely. In our area it is found on cliffs along the southern coast of the Moray Firth, yet seems absent from the north and west.

The larval foodplant is thrift, but only the stunted ‘bonsai’ plants growing on warm, south-facing cliff ledges are used. Its grub-like caterpillar bores out the stems, eventually killing whole sections of the clump. This feeding damage is very obvious by April.

Adults fly in sunshine, the hotter the better. They are very active and easily overlooked amongst the numerous small flies and other insects also present. However, they are conspicuous when nectaring on the bright yellow centres of mayweed flowers.

Click on the image to enlarge it.

Gold Swift (R Leverton)

Gold Swift Phymatopus hecta

June and July.

Woodland edge, scrub and carr.

In most moths, the female attracts a mate by releasing pheromones. Gold Swift uses a different system known as lekking. Groups of males perform communal display flights in early evening and females presumably choose the one that most appeals. Though the selection process itself is rarely witnessed, pairs remain joined for quite some time and are often found where the moth is numerous.

The caterpillar is a different matter. It is subterranean, feeding on the roots of bracken and a wide range of other plants, so is rarely seen.

Click on the image to enlarge it.

Little Emerald (R Leverton)

Little Emerald Jodis lactearia

Late May through June.

Damp deciduous woodland, often with bilberry.

This is by far the smallest and most dainty of our emerald moths. Even its colour is ephemeral, the delicate pale blue-green fading almost to white within hours of the moth’s emergence. Perhaps the pigment serves to camouflage the moth while it is expanding and drying its wings, but need last no longer.

Little Emerald is local and western in Scotland, most frequent in Argyll but reaching West Ross. Quite possibly it is under-recorded. Surely it must be present in West Inverness-shire too, still awaiting discovery in remote woodlands that have never been properly worked for moths?

Click on the image to enlarge it.

Beautiful Brocade (R Leverton)

Beautiful Brocade Lacanobia contigua

Late May to early July.

Deciduous woodland.

Though widespread, this is a local and low-density species, an indicator of particularly good habitat. It is rarely if ever seen in numbers even at mercury vapour light traps.

Though similar to several other related brocades, it can be distinguished by its greyer ground colour that is often tinged with pink, and by the pale markings that combine to form an X-shape when the forewings are closed. Nevertheless, a voucher photograph will normally be required by diligent County Moth Recorders.

Click on the image to enlarge it.

Tawny-barred Angle (R Leverton)

Tawny-barred Angle Macaria liturata

Late May into August.

Pine woodland and plantations.

Though almost certainly single-brooded in our area, Tawny-barred Angle has a very long flight period, with moths on the wing from late May through to August. Since pines are not deciduous, its caterpillar does not have to complete its growth before autumn leaf fall.

When freshly emerged this is an attractive moth, with orange bands on a lilac-grey background, but these pastel colours soon fade. In southern Scotland a melanic form is common, but this is apparently absent from the Highlands.

The adult rests on pine trunks and branches, or sometimes in the ground vegetation beneath. Although present in virtually every pine wood and plantation it is not numerous, and even Forestry Commission Scotland do not currently regard it as a threat.

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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