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Moths of the month: August 2012

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.

   
Catoptria permutatella (R Leverton)

Catoptria permutatella

Late July to early September.

Perhaps the largest and most striking of all our crambid 'grass moths', Catoptria permutatella is largely confined to north-eastern Scotland in Britain, from Perthshire into Moray.

It seems to be a low-density species, usually found as occasional singles in light traps, though it has been disturbed by day from isolated moorland trees and bushes.

The life history is hardly known, though its caterpillar is thought to feed on mosses like others in this genus.

Click on the image to enlarge it.


V-Moth (R Leverton)

V-Moth Macaria wauaria

Mid July and August.

Gardens, allotments, urban areas.

Once a minor garden pest of gooseberries and currants, V-Moth has declined alarmingly throughout Britain in recent years. It is now vanished from many areas and where still found it is scarce or sporadic.

Various unconvincing explanations have been put forward to explain this decline, such as increased use of pesticides in gardens and less interest in growing soft fruit. Or perhaps modern cultivars are less palatable?

V-Moth is still found at Kingussie, where it is associated with long-established gooseberry bushes growing in a churchyard.

The adult hides away by day, protected by its shape-disrupting markings, and is rarely seen except at light.

Click on the image to enlarge it.


Plain Clay (R Leverton)

Plain Clay Eugnorisma depuncta

Late July to early September.

Woodland, especially with bilberry.

Although it is found very locally in England and Wales, the central and eastern Scottish Highlands are the British stronghold of this species. The moth favours high quality woodland habitats, where its caterpillar feeds on numerous low plants.

Unusually, it hibernates without feeding as soon as it hatches from the egg in autumn, making it tricky to rear in captivity.

The English name is particularly misleading, given the adult's striking and distinctive markings. Perhaps it arose from a mistranslation of its specific name depuncta, but here the de is not deprivative but for emphasis, meaning that the moth is strongly marked.

Click on the image to enlarge it.


Northern Spinach (R Leverton)

Northern Spinach Eulithis populata

Late June into September, peaking in August.

Heather moorland, woodland with bilberry ground layer.

This is another inappropriately named moth, having no connection either with spinach or with poplar, nor is its distribution particularly northern.

Its long thin caterpillar feeds mainly on bilberry, having green and brown forms to match the young and old stems.

The adult can be abundant on moorland at the height of its long flight period. It rests openly on low vegetation by day, usually head-downwards, but is very readily disturbed into flight. Thereupon it is generally swept away from danger by the constant breeze in its exposed habitat.

Click on the image to enlarge it.


Anomalous (R Leverton)

Anomalous Stilbia anomala

August into September.

Moorland, dry grassland, coasts.

Though locally common over much of northern and western Britain, in European terms this is a scarce moth with a surprisingly restricted distribution. We should appreciate it more!

The caterpillar feeds at night on short wiry grasses growing in well-drained and often stony habitats, including coastal cliffs. It is full-grown in early spring, but then spends several months inside its cocoon before pupating.

The adult sits with its wings tightly furled, more in the manner of a pyralid or a footman moth than a noctuid, hence both its scientific and English name.

Click on the image to enlarge it.


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