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saving butterflies, moths and our environment
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Moths of the month: June 2018

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.

Common Carpet (R Leverton)

Common Carpet Epirrhoe alternata

Late May to early September.

Most open habitats.

As its name suggests, Common Carpet is both ubiquitous and numerous, present virtually everywhere that its bedstraw foodplants occur. Woodland rides, marshes, moorland, herb-rich grassland whether coastal or inland all support this species. Although the adult flies mainly at dusk and after dark, it is very easily disturbed from the sward by day, usually flying a short distance before settling openly. This makes it easy to record even on a casual visit.

The very long flight period reflects the moth’s tendency to emerge later after cool springs and in poor summers. A partial second brood is probable in good years at favoured sites, but is certainly not the norm in our area.

Click on the image to enlarge it.

Marsh Pug (R Leverton)

Marsh Pug Eupithecia pygmaeata

June into August.

Meadows, road verges, marshes, coastal grassland.

Marsh Pug seems to be mainly an eastern and lowland species in Highland region, and also rather local. It is also very easily overlooked because of its small size and diurnal habits. This means it is rarely caught in light traps. Nor is it conspicuous or easily recognisable on the wing, since its flight is very similar to a micro such as a tortricid. A further difficulty is that its colours and markings soon bleach in the sun, making identification difficult. Almost certainly Marsh Pug is under-recorded even at sites where it does occur.

The flowers and seeds of mouse–ear chickweeds and probably stitchworts are the caterpillar’s foodplants, so this species can survive in permanent pasture as well as in more natural grassland. The adult does not fly far from its foodplant, and sometimes nectars on the flowers.

Click on the image to enlarge it.

Elephant Hawk-moth (R Leverton)

Elephant Hawk-moth Deilephila elpenor

June and July.

Roadsides, woodland rides, damp grassland, waste ground, brownfield sites.

In 1980 there were only three dots on the map for this species in our region, but a major range expansion was already underway in Scotland. Today, it is found as far north as Caithness and has reached the Outer Hebrides, though not yet the Northern Isles. While climate change must have been a factor, the spread of Rose-bay Willowherb, an American alien, along railways and road verges must also have helped by providing a vast new source of foodplant.

The adult can occasionally be found by day resting on low herbage, but is more easily seen while nectaring at dusk, often at garden honeysuckle or campions. The caterpillar is also conspicuous on roadside willowherb later in the year, reaching full growth as the lower leaves begin to wither and expose it to view.

Click on the image to enlarge it.

The Campion (R Leverton)

The Campion Sideridis rivularis

June into August.

Marshes, damp grassland.

The Campion, as its name suggests, is one of a group of related noctuids whose larvae feed on the unripe seeds of campions. Though able to utilise them all, each moth tends to specialise on one particular species, possibly to reduce competition. This one is associated with Ragged-Robin, hence it favours marshy habitat, often inland and slightly acid. In our area it is perhaps commoner in the west.

The adult is rarely found by day, but is strongly attracted to the nectar of its foodplant at dusk, helping to fertilise the flowers that provide the seeds for its own progeny to eat, a neat arrangement. Because the seedpods of Ragged-Robin are quite small, the caterpillar can only live inside them during its early instars, but when larger must hide at ground level by day and ascend the stalks to feed after dark.

Click on the image to enlarge it.

Bordered White (R Leverton)

Bordered White Bupalis piniaria

June and July.

Coniferous woodland and plantations.

To the forester, this moth (or at least its caterpillar) is the Pine Looper, considered a pest because of the damage it can do in the simplified habitat of single species, single-age plantations where natural controls such as wood ants and insectivorous birds are few. In the native Caledonian pine forest such dangerous increases in numbers sufficient to cause damage seem not to occur.

The male flies by day in the sunshine, trying to locate the female using its plumose antennae. The striking black and white pattern of its upperside indicates warning colouration, suggesting it is unpalatable to birds. However, the moth only exposes this upperside in flight, always resting with its wings closed over its back. By contrast, the caterpillar goes for camouflage instead, greatly resembling both in colour and shape the pine needles amongst which it rests.

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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