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Moths of the month: July 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.

Straw Dot (R Leverton)

Straw Dot Rivula sericealis

Mid June through August.

Woodland rides, marshes, ungrazed grassy places.

Once considered a noctuid, this distinctive little moth has now been placed in its own subfamily within the Erebidae, a highly diverse assemblage based on DNA relationships that is unlikely to pass the test of time.

In our area, Straw Dot is most numerous in the west. It is a common sight where there are tall, rank grasses, the larval foodplants. The adult is active at night but also easily disturbed by day, when it flies a short distance before landing again, usually resting head-down on a grass stem. The buff or ochreous colour of freshly emerged examples soon bleaches to a whitish straw, giving the moth its vernacular name.

In recent years Straw Dot has been extending its range eastwards, perhaps in response to milder winters, with the first Banffshire records coming in 2014.

Click on the image to enlarge it.

Narrow-bordered Bee Hawk-moth (R Leverton)

Narrow-bordered Bee Hawk-moth Hemaris tityus

Caterpillar full-grown late July – early August.

Damp hillsides, marshes, woodland rides.

The caterpillar of Narrow-bordered Bee Hawk-moth is traditionally considered very hard to find, but sharp eyes and patience are all that’s needed at a known site. Although the caterpillar itself is very well-camouflaged, its distinctive six-lobed frass can give away its presence nearby.

It is said that scabious with purple blotches on the leaves somehow triggers similar markings on the larva, which can otherwise be plain green.

During its final instar the caterpillar grows very quickly, eating almost continuously by night and day. Presumably it is involved in a race against time, trying to reach a suitable size for pupation before it is found by one of its many predators and parasitoids.

Click on the image to enlarge it.

Common White Wave (R Leverton)

Common White Wave Cabera pusaria

Late May through August.

Woodland, scrub, carr.

Few moths are quite so pure a silky white as Common White Wave. This can make it quite difficult to photograph accurately without a colour cast and with the correct exposure.

Despite the long flight period there seems to be only one protracted brood, with emergence peaking in July. Its favourite trees are birch and alder, though it can use other broad-leaved species too. It rests by day amongst foliage, usually on the underside of a leaf, but is readily disturbed into conspicuous flight. This makes it an easy moth to record even on a daytime visit. As its name suggests, it is common wherever suitable habitat exists.

Click on the image to enlarge it.

Scarce Silver Y (R Leverton)

Scarce Silver Y Syngrapha interrogationis

July – August.

Heather moorland.

Most of our moths were given their English names by the old southern collectors, and to them Scarce Silver Y would indeed be a difficult species to obtain. Not so in the Scottish Highlands, where it may be found on almost any upland and inland heather moor, particularly where there is ample bilberry as foodplant. Even so, it is an attractive moth to discover, sometimes resting head downwards on a fence post or rock.

Unlike related species there is little if any brown tint in its colouration, even when the moth is worn. Instead it is various shades of grey, from almost black to silvery, usually with a violet or bluish tinge when fresh. The metallic y mark (actually golden) is variable in shape and often becomes a squiggle, or even the question-mark to which the scientific name refers.

Click on the image to enlarge it.

Dusky Brocade (R Leverton)

Dusky Brocade Apamea remissa

Mid June to mid August, peaking in July.

Almost anywhere, including gardens.

Dusky Brocade is the ultimate dull brown noctuid, frequently mistaken by beginners for at least half a dozen much scarcer species. It does not help that there are three different forms - plain, patterned and intermediate – which themselves vary to some extent. In our area, the plain form (illustrated) is the most numerous.

Almost any sort of grassland, dry or damp, rural or urban, will support this species. Its caterpillar overwinters while small, then feeds up on the fresh shoots in the spring, when it is a frequent find by torchlight after dark.

The adult is hardly ever seen by day, probably resting low down in the turf. It is active after dark, when it can be very numerous at sugar and in 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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