Monday, 16 October 2017


It's childish I know - or perhaps we could settle more kindly on 'child-like', but I still get a kick out of finding unusual moths in the trap. This is a pretty infrequent experience and now that we have been here for five summers, it's a surprise to find anything which hasn't called at least once before. But that was my experience yesterday morning, after the last of National Moth Nights' three nights.

The visitor was a White-speck, an immigrant species which makes landfall in the UK every autumn but only seldom this far inland. Martin Townsend, the co-author of the Moth Bible and an unfailingly helpful mainstay of the Upper Thames Moths blog, says that there have only been a few records for Oxfordshire. Now mine joins them, huzza!

It nearly didn't, firstly because I turned the moth's eggbox over clumsily after examining the other side and nearly dislodged the un-noticed White-speck in the process. And secondly, because I initially took it to be one of the less common wainscots. Luckily, there was something about its shape and the beady, eponymous white speck, which kept me searching through the Bible.

White-speck Land
- the Isles of Scilly
It isn't a specially exciting moth to look at, as you can see, but it has a sleek, streamlined appearance which makes for a purposeful impression.  In the United States where it is common and a major agricultural pest, it is known as the Armyworm because its voracious caterpillars can assemble in large numbers and march on crops. The Americans' usage of 'worm' for caterpillar, by the by, is an example of how their version of English has kept alive old forms which we have discarded; 'worm' is one and 'gotten' another. Worth remembering, when we criticise them for their many novelties.

Why a White-speck now? It is one of an army of immigrant moths swept north from the Continent on warm winds caught up in the train of the remains of Hurricane Ophelia. White-specks usually head for Devon and Cornwall and have even established breeding colonies in the far south west, including the Isles of Scilly. On your guard, daffodil-growers!

This morning's forecast for Hurricane Ophelia from the BBC's website. You'll have to imagine the moths getting hauled north to the right of the orange track

A most excellent bug - the
trap also had a wasp, an earwig,
Several Daddy-long-legs, lace
wings and woodlice. Update: 
Alex in Comments has kindly 
been Googling and suggests
 that this is a Hawthorn 
Shieldbug and I think he
is right. Many thanks. The
darkness of its purple may
suggest that it is getting
ready to hibernate.
Back on National Moth Night, I was visited by another attractive immigrant and one which has settled here bigtime, Blair's Shoulder-knot, above, one of three UK moths which carry the name of a retired entomologist from the Natural History Museum, Dr Blair, who lived on the Isle of Wight where many species new to the UK first make landfall as the Shoulder-knot did in 1951. It shares the sleekness of the White-speck but has a rather more handsome, Tweedy appearance. It also has a look of the Pinion moths and Dr Blair modestly suggested initially that it should be given the agreeable name of Stone Pinion. But others disagreed and wanted him  honoured for his tireless discoveries and so the moth joined the much rarer Blair's Mocha and Blair's Wainscot.

Red-line Quaker

And its Yellow-line cousin. Update: Paul in Comments suggests that this is a Brick and I am sure that he is right. Many thanks again P.

Here are the other arrivals on Saturday/Sunday night:

9 Lunar Underwings
8 Beaded Chestnuts
7 Setaceous Hebrew Characters
4 Large Yellow Underwings
3 Black Rustics
2 Straw Dots
And one each of Sallow, Barred Sallow, Square-spot Rustic, Autumnal Rustic, Centre-barred Sallow, Lesser Yellow Underwing, Red-line Quaker, Yellow-line Quaker and the micro Brown Plume, Stenoptilia pterodactyla, below.


Paul Hopkins said...

Hi Martin,

I have a feeling the Yellow-line Quaker might in fact be a Brick (based on the wavy rather than straight outer cross-line).


Martin Wainwright said...

Thanks v much Paul - I am sure you are right and I will amend. I am irredeemably bad on these moths but I will keep trying. All warm wishes


AlexW said...

I have been mentally synthesizing an "ecological map" for several weeks after being inspired by your moth documentation. It includes not only insect species but also detailed remarks on habitat, behavior, personal opinions, interactions, etc. A crude version has been published on blog, but I currently don't dare to log in.

And trust me, you are not alone in your excitement. The harmless "micromoth" roach Luridiblatta trivittata has been bred and drooled at by several expert entomophiles in the US.

I've seen your green hemipteran somewhere in a photo. After googling around, I suggest you compare your pic with Acanthosoma haemorrhoidale.


Martin Wainwright said...

Thanks very much Alex - I think you're right on the bug and I will update - much obliged and all best, Martin