Tag Archives: nocturnal

Mothy Nights in July

The warm temperatures and drought (which have lasted two months in many parts of Wicklow and caused massive gorse fires) have also encouraged many species of butterflies, but even more species of moths, including some very big ones, such as the Northern Eggar (Lasiocampus quercus f. callunae ), a subspecies of the smaller Oak Eggar (L. quercus). This truly is a huge moth, and before now I last saw one all the way back in the early 1990s. This one is the female, which is the largest and more colourful of the sexes. Here is a video which shows the power and size of this moth, which is one of the largest in Europe:

Here is a still of the female, showing her details best:

The male of this species is smaller and darker than the female, but is otherwise almost identical. And here are other beautiful moths encountered in the last few days:

The Great Oak Beauty (Hypomecis robararia) is a large and somewhat variable species of moth. 

The following is the Common Emerald (Hemithea aestivaria), which is slightly smaller:

 

The Silver-Y (Auographa gamma), below, is a famous species which flies both day and night, migrating from southern Europe and even sub-Saharan Africa into Europe every year, and possibly even some individuals fly all the way back again. They come to flowers in large numbers and seem to fulfill the role of bees at night.The Mother of Pearl moth (Pleuroptera ruralis) gets its name from the nacre-like sheen on its wings. It is the size and shape of a small butterfly.The ultra-white, angel-like White-plumed Moth (Pterophorus pentadactyla) resembles a fairy when seen glowing in the darkness of a summer evening. Occasionally they come to light, but mostly fly about lawns. The Common Footman (Eilema lurideola) is a small moth, but not tiny, and it gets its name from its appearing to wear the neat liveried uniform of a coachman.The Clouded Border (Lomaspilis marginata) is a very handsome species of carpet moth, moths which have beautiful carpet-like patterns on their wings. Buff Arches (Habrosyne pyritoides) with slight damage to left wing probably caused by a predator.

This is one of the variations of the Mottled Beauty (Alcis repandata).

 

 

Hidden Biodiversity

We’ve reached the bank holiday weekend which ends Biodiversity Week, and it’s dull, much cooler than usual and due to be very wet for the next few days. However, there is a lot of biodiversity out there to be seen. A lot of it happens at night – check out this video of a hedgehog taken from a camera trap in my garden:

It was near midnight when the hedgehog scuttled across the lawn, looking for invertebrate prey, or anything larger. About twenty minutes later my dog insisted I follow her as she had picked up its scent. Of course, I didn’t know why she was so excited until I saw the video later.

At this time of year there are many nocturnal creatures about which you might not even notice pass you by in the night. And there are lots I still haven’t seen yet. I’ll have to tell you more about them later. But they are out there, awaiting discovery.

Moths, slowly but surely

We have a spectacularly sunny April this year, although the weather is soon to change. One side-effect of our clear skies has been very chilly nights, more like you would find in winter. And due to these chilly nights there have been relatively few moths about, but there are some hardy ones worth looking out for near windows at night. One of the larger spring moths, resembling a butterfly, is the Early Thorn – Selenia dentaria.

This male Early Thorn was lured to a porch light but is seeking a female. You can tell this is a male by the feather-like antenna swept over its head.
This male Early Thorn was lured to a porch light but is seeking a female. You can tell this is a male by the feather-like antenna swept over its head.

Early Thorns do show up early in the year, from about March to May, but a second generation can appear in late summer and Autumn, although I personally have never seen one at this time of year. Strangely enough the spring generation look different to the autumn generation and could be mistaken for different species. Another handsome moth to look out for is the Shoulder Stripe (Anticlea badiata) which is on the wing only for March and April and spends most of its life as a caterpillar.

This Shoulder Stripe perched on a window and its the best place to find this handsome moth.
This Shoulder Stripe perched on a window and its the best place to find this handsome moth.

One of my favourite moths is the funny-looking Common Plume (Emmelina monodactyla) which has the bizarre habit of appearing mostly in colder months, between autumn and late spring. Most people find them on walls, but they are handsome fliers, looking somewhat fairy-like, especially in flash-lit photos.

A Common Plume moth resting on a wall. They often stay in the same place for days on end.
A Common Plume moth resting on a wall. They often stay in the same place for days on end.