July Moths

Some butterflies only fly for a number of specific weeks or months, but the same is also true for quite a number of moth species found in Wicklow. There are a few you might want to keep an eye out for, as they fly mainly only in July. Probably the most noticeable is the beautiful Swallow-tailed Moth (Ourapterix sambucaria). These moths normally take to the skies in late June and fly throughout July, but disappear by the end of the month. There is still a small chance of seeing this butterfly-like, butterfly-sized moth:

The Swallow-tailed Moth usually appears along hedgerows or in gardens about half-an-hour after sunset, and it flies swiftly at head height, rarely stopping. However, wait long enough and you might find one feeding on flowers, or, if you are very lucky, one might rest on a wall in the light of a window, as in the case of the one pictured.

Another common species, but smaller, is the Small Magpie (Anania hortulata), which is extremely common along hedgerows and ‘waste ground’ and can be seen flying soon after sunset and even occasionally in daylight when foliage is disturbed. This beautiful moth flies from June until the end of July, occasionally into  August.

However, there are moths which can be found flying throughout the summer, and some of them are very beautiful and very common. One of these is the feathery, fairy-like White-plumed Moth (Pterophorus pentadactyla) which will fly from June until the end of August, and even into September. Look for it in gardens on lawns, and along hedgerows. Like the Swallow-tailed moth it seems to glow in the dark, even though this is due to the brightness of its colouration and not actual glowing.

The White-plumed Moth pictured was attracted to light at a window. They don’t often come to light, usually preferring very dark areas of gardens.

Another moth which is extremely beautiful and found all summer, but which is less easily seen, is known only by the scientific name Carcina quercana. I usually call it the ‘Poncho Moth’ because its wings resemble a poncho. You will find this creature along hedgerows but also along river banks and sometimes meadows near the sea. It has extremely long antennae.

This Poncho Moth landed on a car parked beside a river.

 

 

Butterfly Fly-bys

Some butterflies and many moths have short flight periods. They spend most of their lives as caterpillars and only become butterflies or moths in order to find mates and lay eggs. We are coming to the end of the flight season of one of these butterflies right now, the Ringlet (Aphantopus hyperanthus). This butterfly like long grass in open areas such as fields or meadows, so it’s a little off the beaten track for most people to come across. It’s also quite dark. Here is a male, which is quite handsome and has a white edge to its wings which looks quite impressive:

The female is slightly more brownish and less bold.

Another summer butterfly which lives in a similar habitat, but which flies mostly throughout July until the end of August is the Meadow Brown (Maniola jurtina). Although not very brightly-coloured they are very handsome, but rarely sit still for too long except in the tall grasses of meadows. Here is one which, unusually, has stopped to feed on a buddleia bush:

   You have up until the end of august to see this butterfly, but if you want to see a Ringlet you have only a matter of days.

Despite my efforts to find and photograph an Elephant Hawkmoth it seems that the window of opportunity for this year has run out, or just about, and I will have to wait until next year. However, there is no shortage of food for the enormous caterpillars, which jungles of its beloved rosebay growing all around Wicklow, especially on the eastern seaboard, as you can see here:

Sometimes rosebay can grow to almost three metres tall!

Year of the Comma

In 2011 we had the so-called Summer of the Painted Lady due to a population explosion of that butterfly species which arrived in the British Isles in hundreds of thousands, if not millions of individuals. This summer in eastern Ireland we have a population explosion of another species of butterfly, the distinctive and beautiful Comma (Polygonia c-album). It is a bright rusty orange colour and flies extremely fast, and when you eventually manage to see it paused to rest and sunbathe on a leaf you will probably think somebody cut its wings into odd shapes with a scissors, because this butterfly has very odd wings:

   The undersides of the wings are very dark and drab, but look like dried leaves. However, there is one bright white mark on each lower wing in the shape of a comma punctuation mark, which is how this remarkable-looking butterfly gets its name:

So it’s a very exciting summer so far, and it’s only reaching the high point.

Finally, as a matter of house-keeping I would like to apologise to anyone attempting to contact or comment on this blog. Due to an unprecedented level of spam attacks the filter is turned to maximum and many legitimate messages have almost certainly been put into the spam folder. The spam problem will shortly be fixed, hopefully, and the legitimate messages will be read. So please don’t feel you are being ignored if you have taken the trouble to leave a comment. Many thanks for doing so!