Sunday, 20 June 2021

Scarlet woman

A tremendous and reliable pleasure at this time of the year is the Scarlet Tiger, a day-flying moth whose colours match the most dazzling of butterflies. The red underwings are terrific, of course, but the forewing has a greeny-blue, slightly oily-looking sheen which makes for a memorable combination.

I found the one above in our local churchyard when I saw something brighter than a leaf float erratically down from a big tree. Having landed, it showed no inclination to love, even when I came so close that my iPhone touched it. I think it either got damp or just been discombobulated by our current lingering rain. Here it is again below, in the context of the wider world.

A neighbour found a very interesting one last week, a female whose wings had only partially unfurled so that she was unable to fly but crept up to a perch first on a chair and later on the spout of a watering can. He showed me a couple of pictures and I was startled to see that in the second, below, a male Tiger had come a-courting. That urge is absolutely overwhelming among moths as we've seen in previous posts, notably about my Emperor-hatching spree some years ago when instantly males locked on to the pheromones broadcast by even very newly-hatched females.  

Monday, 14 June 2021

Lobster potted


I am afraid that the star of today's show came to a sad end due to his over-hasty departure from the trap. Like a supercharged version of Gerard de Nerval's lobster, which the writer used to take for walks on the Champs Elysée, explaining to passers-by that he liked it 'because it doesn't bark and it knows the secrets of the sea', this Lobster moth shot off before I could stop him. I said him, because in moths, fancy antennae almost always denote a male.

He spiralled up into the sunlight and had almost reached the cover of our large oak when, zooooom! one of our robins whizzed down and that, alas, was that. I take what precautions I can over this sort of thing happening, but the Lobster moth is a common species and I am sure that a great many keep the bird and bat population up to the mark in the same way.

The moth's name comes from its remarkably crustacean-looking caterpillar - pic, left, from the Moth Bible. But the adult also has the grey of a lobster uncooked, albeit rather a hairy one.  Altogether, an excellent moth.

From the Large to the Little: here is a pristine Lime-speck Pug, one of the most attractive of that rather grey family of very small macro moths. And then here is a smart micro-moth, below, Crambus lathoniellus, I am pretty sure.

Still on the delicate side, we are back to the macros with the Treble Brown-spot above and the Shoulder-striped Wainscot below, both lovely exercises in white, cream, grey and black.

So to the Middle-barred Minor, below, and a Poplar Hawk which I've included because it posed so obligingly on Penny's kneeler with its toning colouration parches showing, rather than hidden which they usually are.

The next picture perhaps gives an idea of the busy-ness of the light trap at the moment. The quartet shown are not new but the later pictures show all sorts of first arrivals for the year.

An Elephant Hawk, a battered Common Swift, a Cinnabar and a Heart and Club

A couple of Burnished Brasses, form tutti with the metallic areas joined by that slender link

Orange Footman, one-eyed Bright-eye, Brown-line, Willow Beauty and Silver-ground Carpet 

Another Silver-ground Carpet, a Light Brown Apple Moth micro (Epiphyas postvittana), one of the many varieties of Common Marbled Carpet and the pretty micro Parapoynx stratiotata, aka the Ringed China-mark.

I can never resist photographing the Brimstone Moth

And finally, for the moths, here are another Common Marbled Carpet, a Heart and Dart and two  Dark Marbled Carpets, I think. Please correct me if I'm adrift.

In conclusion, two butterflies enjoying this matchless weather: a Small White - look out, my Purple-sprouting broccoli! - and a Red Admiral.

Saturday, 12 June 2021

Hop Dog

The Hop Dog, as the Pale Tussock used to be known in the great days of hopping, when most of East London decamped to Kent to help with the harvest and ensure the nation's beer supplies, is always welcome here. We don't have hops, which it especially favours, but its caterpillars are commendably catholic in their tastes (like our two grandsons but definitely not our granddaughter).

I was interested this year to get two males on the same night with contrasting shades of grey. Here they are closer-up:

I think that the first one is the less frequently seen melanistic form, an interesting example of the contrast which is much more famous in the Peppered Moth.  My pleasure was complete when the female, below, visited the trap two nights later. Larger and paler, they are less attracted than the males to light.

The delicious weather is bringing all sorts of good things to the trap at the moment.  Here's this morning's quartet of delicate examples, all of which were roosting on the outside of the transparent cowl, fortunately undetected by birds.

Clockwise from top left: Sandy Carpet, Clouded Silver, Dot Moth Update: sorry, sloppy me.  It's a Straw Dot.  Many thanks to Edward in Comments) and Small Magpie

Thursday, 10 June 2021

Big brothers

Hello there! Greetings from the two biggest hawk moths in my newly-expanded total of nine: the rakishly angled Pine Hawk, above and below, and the Privet Hawk, the UK's third biggest moth after the Convolvulus and Death's Head Hawks. Both were in the trap this morning when I went out rather than later than usual. 

The birds were about by then, notably a robin and a blackbird which were well aware of what was going on. Only yesterday, I found a blackbird in the shed where I put the trap during the day. It was looking for a meal but luckily hadn't got very far.

I didn't want to leave anything to chance, so I tickled both insects into life which had the double benefit of allowing me to photograph them with their wings outstretched, in the Privet's case showing that tasteful pink on the body and underwings; and of seeing them fly safely into the shelter of a tall oak tree before the birds could get their act together.

Here's the Privet in the final stages of warming up to fly. When they took off, they were almost as big as the robin in flight. Meanwhile, the number and variety of arrivals has been growing. Here are some of them:

Orange Footman

Silver-ground Carpet

Sandy Carpet

Flame Shoulder

Yellow-barred Brindle

Pseudagyrotoza conwagana micro

Heart and Dart with attendant Maybugs and Common Wainscot

And on its own

Poplar Grey - Update: sorry, it's a Knot Grass.  Many thanks to hawk-eyed Conehead in Comments

Angle Shades

Iron Prominent

Middle-barred Minor with fly

Shuttle-shape Dart


Common Wainscot No 2

Common Carpet

Busy times!

Tuesday, 8 June 2021


The Longhorn family of micro-moths are blessed, or cursed, with unfeasibly long antennae which always make me smile when I see them waving around in the trap. They are tiny creatures which makes the size of the antennae even more striking. Apparently some species especially enjoying dancing in the air in sunlight, a hobby where their antennae may come in useful to avoid collisions. One of the 20-odd species found in the UK, Nemophora degeerelia, has the longest antennae of any British moth including giants such as the Privet Hawk.

I think that this one is Adela reaumurella, perhaps named after a 19th century heroine with the same name as Miss Cuthbert, the adoptive mother of Anne of Green Gables, but I will check with Upper Thames Moths. Meanwhile my next picture shows the idiosyncrasies of digital cameras as they helpfully hunt around for maximum light.  This is the same moth photographed from two different angles, a Willow Beauty if I am correct and in very good condition.

Here is another one, below, followed by a couple of composites because so many moths are winging in at the moment.

A pair of pairs: two Silver Ys at the top, the second one considerably smaller than the first, and two Buff Ermines, a moth with immensely variable combinations of creamy background and black spots.

A Poplar Grey with its distinctive 'eyes', a Something I Don't Recognise (Update - with many thanks to Stewart in Comments, it's a Rustic Shoulder-knot which I should know by now but probably never will), a Small Square-spot and a Light Brocade

My first Peppered Moth of the year meanwhile arrived, the salt-and-pepper version which has largely replaced the darker, melanic form which was dominant in the days of industrial pollution - the famous instance of camouflage aiding the survival of the fittest.

And here, to conclude for now, is a nice fat beetle with - I think - baby beetles clinging to its head (please correct me if I am wrong; it has made its getaway) and a cosy pairing of another Buff Ermine and a Poplar Hawk, the latter one of six in this morning's trap.