Wednesday, 4 May 2011

Prominent personalities

Two 'prominent' moths have arrived, one of them new to my trap and unexpected (above). When I first picked out its eggbox and saw something unfamiliar, I thought that it was a worn example of a Swallow or Lesser Swallow Prominent, both common visitors. But no; this is a Pebble Prominent, and according to my moth Bible, it shouldn't really be appearing in northern England until June. Traditionally it has only had one generation in the north whereas the south gets an earlier brood which starts hatching in May.

So here is another scrap of the increasingly widespread evidence that southern UK moths are moving north, for reasons which are the subject of much scientific discussion. I wonder what the miniature damselfly-like insect is? I didn't notice it when I took the photograph. Advice most welcome.

Just adding to this on 5 May (election and referendum day): I consulted Charlie Fletcher the Yorkshire county moth recorder about the above and he emails in his usual and prompt way to say that my bible, horrors, got quite a lot wrong about flight times in the first edition which has been amended in the second, current one. The errors or out-of-datednesses include limiting the double-brooded Prominents too tightly to the 'south', so this northwards process has been going on for quite a long time. Charlie likes my brown Lime Hawk, I'm flattered to say, and says it's quite rare round here. Yay!

The other visitor is an Iron Prominent, a moth which has the same generational difference between south and north, but in its case the two-brood variety has been familiar for quite a long time in the Midlands. Friends of mine in Newcastle-upon-Tyne never cease to tell me that Leeds is in the Midlands, so maybe that accounts for the fact that Irons have been here regularly in the past. But not, I think (and will check) as early as this.

The 'prominent' name comes from tufts on the adult moth and humps on the caterpillars of the species, which are also renowned for their fierce ways. All poisonous, their defences include rearing up at both ends and 'spitting' a stream of liquid several centimetres. Just like various children I have known. The glory of the group is the White Prominent, which may alas be extinct in the UK although there are scattered, unconfirmed records over the years.

Finally, sorry to plug, but the Guardian has kindly run a piece about moths linked to the BBC Radio 4 programme on Friday which I keep mentioning. Now I'll go away.


Stewart said...

Hi Martin, Leeds IS in the Midlands. The insect is a type of mozzie. Regards, Stewart, 40 miles north of Newcastle upon Tyne :)

Anonymous said...

Yes, I think you are right Stewart, at least from your point of view...

It always seems just a tad colder where you are

Thanks re the strange beast; I'm hoping to get an exact pinning down but that's a helpful start

all v best from the sunshine


Banished To A Pompous Land said...


Thou knowest nothing of mozzies until you try to sit out on my back deck right now.

And by the time you have learned, your drained husk will be blowing gently away on the breeze

Anonymous said...

Mmmm thanks Banished

There are things to be said for living in the UK...

God I hate that whine mozzies make

all v best


Banished To A Pompous Land said...

That whine drives me and everyone else in the house crazy. When I opened the door Friday night to nip out and snap the Luna Moth on the door screen I let one in and we were all twitchy the rest of the evening. And I got the 'look of death' until I finally tracked it down before bedtime.

Mind you I still bear the scars, literally, of the scots midge so brits don't escape entirely unscathed.