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Moths of the month: August 2015

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.

   
Shaded Broad-bar (R Leverton)

Shaded Broad-bar Scotopteryx chenopodiata

Mid July to early September.

Herb-rich grassland, hay meadows, road verges, coasts.

Shaded Broad-bar is yet another moth with an east/west split in the northern half of Scotland. It is abundant and ubiquitous in the east, but much scarcer in the west. The machair of the Outer Hebrides would seem ideal habitat for a species of flowery grassland, yet it is apparently absent there.

The caterpillar feeds in spring on various vetches and other legumes, but being nocturnal it is not often found. However, the adult is easily recorded on hot summer days. It rests amongst the sward but flies up at the slightest disturbance, then settles again within a few yards. Though variable in tone, the banded pattern of many shades of warm brown allows easy identification.

Click on the image to enlarge it.


Gold Spangle (R Leverton)

Gold Spangle Autographa bractea

July and August.

Moorland, marshes, open woodland.

This is marginally the latest of our resident plusias to emerge, often not until the end of July in cooler years, when it may linger on into September. In Britain it is northern, absent from southern England but common everywhere in the Highlands.

In Gold Spangle the central y marking of related species is expanded into a sinuous blotch, so bright and metallic that it appears to be made of gold leaf. Perhaps this distracts predators from the overall shape of the moth itself, for it rests openly amongst low vegetation and is not infrequently found by day in areas where it is numerous.

As with all the species in its subfamily, nectar is a great attraction for the adult. It may often be seen at dusk hovering at flowers, when its golden bract is enough to identify it even in the fading light.

Click on the image to enlarge it.


Manchester Treble-bar (R Leverton)

Manchester Treble-bar Carsia sororiata

Late July to early September.

Damp moorland and mosses.

Hubner named this species as the 'little sister' of the much larger Treble-bar (see August 2013). Again, this is a northern species in Britain, extending to the Shetlands but absent from the southern half of England. The old collectors knew it from the south Lancashire mosses (long since drained), hence its now-inappropriate vernacular name.

Even in the Highlands this is a quite a local species. It is fairly choosy about its habitat, preferring cowberry and cranberry to the much commoner bilberry. Colonies are often widely scattered.

The adult seems to be partially diurnal. At least, it is readily disturbed on warm days, if less easily pursued over its treacherously boggy habitat.

Click on the image to enlarge it.


Large Ear (R Leverton)

Large Ear Amphipoea lucens

Late July to September.

Damp moor, marshes, wet grassland.

Large Ear is one of a group of four confusingly similar species that have long caused identification problems. Typical individuals can be recognised by their slightly larger size, noticeably longer forewings, rich deep colouring and the narrower 'ear' marking, reduced by invasion of the ground colour on the basal side. Overall it is the most numerous and widespread of the ear species in Scotland, though others may predominate at particular sites.

From the evidence of captive rearing, its caterpillar feeds internally in the stems of grasses, reeds and yellow flag, but wild finds are inevitably few and far between. The adult may sometimes be seen feeding by day at scabious or ragwort flowers but it is mainly active after dark.

Click on the image to enlarge it.


Tawny Speckled Pug (R Leverton)

Tawny Speckled Pug Eupithecia icterata

Mid July until early September.

Dry grassland, coasts, road verges, waste places.

With over 40 small and often similar species, the pugs are sure to cause identification difficulties. Tawny Speckled Pug is a colourful exception, at least in the form illustrated here. Unfortunately, many Scottish specimens belong to form cognata, which has very little tawny red.

The flight period is surprisingly late for a species that overwinters as a pupa, but fits in with the caterpillar's need for the seeds of yarrow, which are not available until well into summer. There must be some mechanism to prevent the pupa developing during the first warm days of spring as with other pugs.

Because of its dependence on yarrow, Tawny Speckled Pug is a species of well-drained grassland. It is particularly numerous on eastern sandy coasts, where adults can be found nectaring on ragwort flowerheads at dusk. However, like Shaded Broad-bar it is surprisingly scarce on the west coast of Scotland and curiously absent from the isles, even though the machair would seem to offer ideal habitat.

Click on the image to enlarge it.


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2011: May | June | July | August | September

2012: May | June | July | August | September

2013: May | June | July | August | September

2014: May | June | July | August | September

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2017: May | June | July | August

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