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Moths of the month: September 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.

The VestaL (R Leverton)

The Vestal Rhodometra sacraria

Migrant, most numerous in September and October.

Might turn up anywhere!

This delicate little moth is a regular migrant to southern Britain, sometimes breeding in stubble fields during hot summers. It is scarcer northwards and not annual in our area, but a few even reach Shetland on southerly winds.

After their long flight, the moths urgently replenish their resources on nectar flowers at dusk, garden buddleia being a particular favourite.

Click on the image to enlarge it.

Flounced Chestnut (R Leverton)

Flounced Chestnut Agrochola helvola

Late August to early October.

Deciduous woodland, especially oak; sometimes moorland.

With its russet colours, Flounced Chestnut is a classic autumn moth, well camouflaged amongst the changing leaves.

It is the most local of the five Scottish Agrochola species, requiring higher-quality habitat and seemingly avoiding coastal areas. Yet where found it can be numerous.

As for most autumn moths, ripe blackberries are a strong attraction at a season when nectar sources are few. Otherwise it is rarely seen except at light.

Click on the image to enlarge it.

Broom Moth larva (R Leverton)

Broom Moth Melanchra pisi

Larval stage July-September.

Heathland and moorland, other open country, sometimes gardens.

The striking colours and pattern of the Broom Moth caterpillar probably combine elements of disruptive and warning camouflage, as sometimes feeds quite openly by day. Whether it is indeed unpalatable is unclear.

A wide variety of plants and shrubs (including its namesake) are eaten by this species, but there is no particular dependence on broom. However, the moth is most numerous in moorland habitats where broom is often common too.

Click on the image to enlarge it.

The Chevron (R Leverton)

The Chevron Eulithis testata

August and September.

Heathland, moorland, other open country.

This species occupies similar habitats to its close relative Northern Spinach (see August 2012), but its flight time peaks about a month later. Life cycle and behaviour are also similar, except that low sallows such as Salix aurita are used more often as a foodplant.

The adult rests on low vegetation in a characteristic triangular pose, with antennae laid along its back rather than tucked beneath the wings - a feature of this genus. It is always alert and easily disturbed, often flying up in numbers as we walk through the heather on warm days.

Click on the image to enlarge it.

Small Wainscot (R Leverton)

Small Wainscot Photodes pygmina

Late August into October, earlier in the west.

Wet moorland, rough grazing, marshes and bogs.

This is indeed the smallest of our many similar-looking wainscot moths, though it has quite a stocky build. It varies more than most in colour, from pale whitish drab to rufous, often dusted with black along the veins.

Its caterpillar feeds internally within grass and rush stems and is rarely found despite the moth's abundance.

Besides being active at night, males have a strong afternoon and early evening flight, buzzing low over the vegetation presumably in their search for females.

Note the larval feeding cases of a Coleophora species on the seedheads of the Juncus - also a familiar September sight.

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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