Monday 19 February 2024

New Year, New Moth

I've just had the trap out for only the second time this year - the first back in late January yielding a visitor total of exactly nil.  This time, the unusually mild night of Valentine's, saw more than 40 moths snugly asleep in the eggboxes.  Among them, most unusually after all my years of shining the light, was a new species for the garden.

Behold the Oak Nycteolene, in its full glory in the first picture above and as I found it in the second, below. I say that it is new to me but as you can see, it is very self-effacing and therefore easy to miss. Its colour also makes for good camouflage in the creamy and grey boxes, so I may have overlooked it on previous visits.

The moth is a macro but very similar in both size and appearance to some of the micro Agnonopteryx family in whose ranks it has occasionally been mistakenly numbered in the past (see pic of the worst offenders below from the Micro-moth Bible). To double-check, I posted my top picture on the invaluable Upper Thames Moths blog with its many expert contributors, asking while about it if any of them knew what its curious second name might mean.

My Googling got me as far as linking the Nyc part to the Greek word for night but otherwise I was left with my fantasy that Nycteolene might be some sort of oil or paraffin which could power a portable moth trap out in the wilds. So many thanks to Tim Arnold, one of the experts mentioned above, who kindly commented thus:

A very big thank you for this solution to my puzzle.

The Oak Nycteoline is classed as only locally common but is well-distributed and tends to emerge from winter hibernation at this time of the year. It varies a lot, as you can see from its entry below in the Moth Bible. I was lucky to get one of the more obviously ID-able forms, lychenoides.

As for my other visitors, here's a selection, all familiar arrivals from late Winters and early Springs in years gone by: Dotted Border, slightly different Dotted Border, Pale Brindled Beauty,  Dark Chestnut (I think), Common Quaker, Hebrew Character, Spring Usher (great name!), March Moth and a second, rather different Common Quaker. 

Altogether, a very rewarding night.

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