Tag Archives: Small Magpie

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.

 

 

Mothy Nights

With such sunny long days it might seem a little strange to be talking about night creatures, but the long drawn out twilights of late June are the best time to see moths. There absolutely hundreds of species in Wicklow, and you don’t even need a flashlight to watch them as they appear very soon after sunset and the light is usually good enough to see in for an hour-and-a-half after sunset. A very handsome and noticeable moth which appears in the twilight is this one, the Buff Ermine (Spilosoma luteum):

A beautiful female Buff Ermine flying low above meadow grasses early on a June evening.
A beautiful Buff Ermine flying low above meadow grasses early on a June evening.

These moths often rest for days in one place and are particularly noticeable on walls near windows where they are attracted to the light. Here is another photo of the same individual, after it had come to rest on a blade of grass:

A beautiful Buff Ermine at rest - the fur coat-like hairs around their bodies give them the name 'ermine', as does the colour. Ermine is the white or pale winter coat of the stoat, which was used to make fur coats.
A beautiful Buff Ermine at rest – the fur coat-like hairs around their bodies give them the name ‘ermine’, as does the colour. Ermine is the white or pale winter coat of the stoat, which was used to make fur coats.

In this case the moth is a female, which you can tell by her straight ribbon-like antennae. Males have feather-like antennae which are used to find females in the dark by following their pheromone trails.

Some moths are not so easily photographed. An extremely common species in Wicklow is the Small Magpie moth (Eurrhypara hortulata), which can easily be disturbed in the undergrowth by day, but which flies very fast an erratically and will flee if you get too close. To make matters worse they usually perch upside down on the undersides of leaves. But here’s a decent shot I managed to get in daylight:

A lovely Small Magpie moth in bright daylight.
A lovely Small Magpie moth in bright daylight.