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Sunday, 18 November 2018

Alder Leaf Beetle

A line of alders at Pilmoor (VC62) were noted as being totally decimated on 15 September 2018 by what appeared to be at least 100 small shiny beetles. Having seen a similar photo on the internet I was alerted to the fact that they were Alder Leaf Beetles Agelastica alni, that were considered extinct in the UK until 2004, when they suddenly reappeared in Manchester presumably as an accidental import on alders.  It has since spread to Lancashire, South and West Yorkshire and also appeared in Hampshire.  On checking my records my first photos of the culprit were taken on 20 August 2018.  The first photo below is a slightly out of focus phone photo but does indicate the scale of the damage to the alder leaves. I do recall seeing them here in at least one previous year (probably 2017) but despite looking through my photos I cannot find any evidence.

Alder Leaf Beetle on alder, Pilmoor, VC62, 15 Sep 2018

Alder Leaf Beetle on alder, Pilmoor, VC62, 20 Aug 2018
On sending the record to the YNU Coleoptera Recorder he was kind enough to advise me of the current distribution in the Yorkshire database, and so it would appear to be new to VC62.


Monday, 12 November 2018

Where one species becomes three...

Not a huge amount to report over the last month except a few more leaf mines which I will summarise at the end of the year but the opportunity to attend a days training on moth genitalia dissection proved most worthwhile.  I had taken four specimens of November Moth agg. from my last trapping attempt on the night of 20th October at Sunbeck Wood, Brafferton Spring.  I used the training opportunity not only to brush up on technique but to also dissect the four specimens I had.  The first three appeared to be males of each of the three species, so instead of November Moth aggregate x 3, I can now record singles each of November Moth, Pale November Moth and Autumnal Moth.  The fourth turned out to be a female sp. which cannot be done.  Although this proves that each of the three species do occur at this site there is no way of knowing the proportion  of each population without a much larger sample.  I am not interested in taking any more specimens at this site, just knowing and proving each occur is good enough for me.
November Moth
Both of these photos were taken by iPhone down a microscope eyepiece so despite not being of the best quality they are enough to show the salient features.  The photo above shows the complete male genitalia and the easiest feature is the two upper dark points on the anal plate that are well spread apart (not the pair of lower points on the valvae).  Compare that with two inward pointing and much closer dark points on the plate (minus the rest of the genitalia) of what is clearly a Pale November Moth.  I neglected to get a photo of the Autumnal Moth...however it is obvious in that there are no spurs at all on the valvae. 
Pale November Moth
There is often uncomfortable questions asked about the validity of taking specimens. I am very conscious of all such concerns but console myself with the fact that very selective specimen taking is essential to identify some species and that conformation of presence is valuable in conservation terms.  The very tiny number taken is probably far fewer than the numbers killed by driving a car at night.

I did attempt a couple of micros but it was soon very evident that my ability did not stretch to such small genitalia, so for any important micros I may still have to defer to the vastly superior expertise of Harry....

Wednesday, 10 October 2018

Bit of a catch up....

After the first week of August numbers of moths plummeted and very little was caught in August and September, not helped by a generator malfunction on a particularly warm early autumn night.  However, this time of the year does offer opportunity to see early stages of some moths, and I was very pleased to have had the benefit of a Leaf-mining foray in Lancashire with Ben Smart (who wrote the leaf-mining book) at the end of September.  

I atach some photos of the more interesting mines/cases with some relevent comment.  This first one is a scarce miner on Aspen, a new record for VC62.
04.040 Stigmella assimilella, mine on Aspen, Pilmoor, VC62, 02 Sep 2018

04.056 Stigmella speciosa, mine on Sycamore, Pilmoor, VC62, 16 Sep 2018
 The next few are a small selection from the leaf-mining trip to Docker Moor in Lancashire:
06.004 Heleozela resplendella on Alder, Docker Moor, VC60, 30 Sep 2018

14.002 Bucculatrix nigricomella on Oxe-eye Daisy, Plain Quarry, VC60, 30 Sep 2018

15.043 Phyllonorycter oxyacanthae on Hawthorn, Docker Moor, VC60, 30 Sep 2018

37.044 Coleophora discordella, case on Bird's Foot Trefoil, Docker Moor, VC60, 30 Sep 2018
 This next one is a scarce miner of Sycamore in Yorkshire.
04.039 Stigmella trimaculella, mine on Poplar, Brafferton, 07 Oct 2018
 Having had a couple adults of this rare moth it was satisfying to get a record of larval feeding.
08.005 Phylloporia bistrigella, mine on birch, Sessay, 06 Oct 2018
Possibly overlooked in Yorkshire this appears to be the first accepted record for VC62 of Stigmella continuella.
04.044 Stigmella continuella, mine on birch, Sessay, VC62,  06 Oct 2018
This next miner is one I targeted on the Aspen copse at Pilmoor, and once noted was remarkably easy to see.  The larvae burrow from the petiole and make small mines at the base of the leaf, which produce green 'islands' as the leaf turns yellow.  At least 50 were seen on small saplings or fallen leaves, so goodness knows how many may have been lurking higher up in the large trees.  There is an unpublished record in VC62 in 1976 but this is the first modern record for the Vice County.
04.085 Ectoedemia argyropeza, mine on aspen, Pilmoor, VC62, 10 Oct 2018

04.085 Ectoedemia argyropeza, mines on aspen, Pilmoor, VC62, 10 Oct 2018
Having got my eye in looking at Juncus seedheads on Docker Moor in Lancashire, a peruse locally of juncus at Brafferton and Pilmoor produced hundreds of larval cases.
Coleophora alticolella or glaucicolella, cases on Juncus, Pilmoor, VC62, 10 Oct 2018
2018 is looking like a record year for new species for me, especially as a result of concerted effort looking for larva.  A full year-end report to follow.

Monday, 27 August 2018

Pied Shieldbug

I saw this one at Pilmoor back on 3 June and the significance of the record was not really understood until I checked the latest version of the Shieldbug Atlas.  It is easily the northern-most record and what a cracking insect it is!
Pied Shieldbug

Provisional atlas of shieldbugs and allies - March 2018 version 1.1 
produced by Tristan Bantock for the Terrestrial Heteroptera Recording Scheme.

Thursday, 2 August 2018

Some days out and about

During July I took the opportunity to spend a bit of time out and about visiting sites I would not normally go to.  In a week off in the 2nd week of July I visited a very breezy Fen Bog on the North Yorkshire Moors to see Large Heath and Small Pearl-bordered Fritillaries, and also Keeled Skimmers.
Keeled Skimmer

Small Pearl-bordered Fritillary
The following day I headed south into Lincolnshire armed with a map and directions for a completely different site, something I didn't realise until I arrived at Chambers Farm Wood and couldn't make head nor tail of it.  With no site directions or anyone to ask I walked off into the wood and found a likely clearing and lucked in on at least two tree-top Purple Emperors, at least five White Admirals and dozens of high-flying Purple Hairstreaks.  There were probably hundreds of Ringlets along the rides, and a casual search of a Field Maple provided a mine of an Ectoedemia louisella, a new moth for me.
Ectoedemia louisella

Purple Hairstreak (with damaged wing)

White Admiral
Later that same week I attended a Field Studies Centre course at Preston Montford on Fly Family identification and managed to see a new moth, a Meal Moth!
Meal Moth
At the end of the month I had the opportunity to visit Slapton Ley in Devon through work, and spent the night trapping at the north end of the reed-beds.  Despite competition from an almost full-moon, numerous ships with lights in the bay and Start Point lighthouse, I still managed a reasonable nights catch.  What a beautiful morning, two young Hobbies flying around over the reed-bed, a singing Cirl Bunting in a distant hedgerow and a few Sedge and Reed Warblers chuntering away in the reeds.  
Slapton Ley, Devon
The moth highlights at Slapton included one new micro Homoeosoma sinuella (a poor phone photo), a Phycitodes maritima based mainly on small size, and Webb's Wainscots and Eupoecilia angustana both of which I had seen before at Gunwalloe in Cornwall in 2010. Migrant Silver Y's were in evidence and at least half of them were of the very small form dwarfed by the others. 
Homoeosoma sinuella

Phycitodes maritima

49.111 Eupoecilia angustana
The next two are the same species, Webb's Wainscot, and show the extremes in the dark markings, the lower more uniform one had a beautiful pink dusting to the wings.  A Notable B species found mainly in reed-beds especially along the coast from Yorkshire and East Anglia, Kent along to Cornwall, North Somerset and South Wales.
Webb's Wainscot

Webb's Wainscot
A successful month with a handful of new species seen.


Monday, 23 July 2018

Brafferton Spring, VC62

Brafferton Spring is a private site with lockable access and a part-owner that is keen to establish what wildlife occurs there, especially on his patch.  It is located in VC62 close to Pilmoor and Sessay, This site is an area of old woodland which is thought to have been clear-felled around the time of WW2 as many of the trees are of a similar age.  It is mixed deciduous and conifer trees, with a few small areas opened up to reveal glades and developing under-storey.  It differs from the nearby Pilmoor site in that it does not have any heath or rushy pools, but there is a brook running along the south side of the woodland and man-made pools used for fishing at an adjacent site. 

It is still early days in the moth recording effort and well over 260 species have been identified so far; this should rise significantly when a full year of recording has been achieved.  There have already been a number of good records reflecting the mix of vegetation on site.

The first photo is of Lathronympha strigana, not especially rare and its patchy distribution may simply reflect recording effort; a subtly beautiful micro-moth with its silver markings on the orange base colour.  
Lathronympha strigana
Tawny-barred Angle moths caught in good numbers here but this is an example of the much scarcer dark form nigrofulvata.
Tawny-barred Angle
This micro-moth was a new one for me and described as rare in the county.  It is only 6mm long and the only representative of its family.
Schreckensteinia festaliella
Since this species returned to the county in 2009 I have had it fairly regularly on the slopes of the North York Moors; this is the first I have had at a lowland site.
Red-necked Footman
The next is very rarely recorded in Yorkshire and this may well be new to VC62.
Epinotia signatana
 This pine-loving and strikingly colourful micro is described as a rare resident in Yorkshire.
Rhyacionia pinicolana
Mere Wainscots are a scarce southern species, but there is a small population in our area being the most northerly in the country;  I have had eight now at three local sites.
Mere Wainscot
This very striking little micro feeds on fungus on hazel and is very rare in Yorkshire.  It may be just the 2nd VC62 record since the first in 1868.
Nemapogon clematella
 The next is a scarce resident in Yorkshire.
Acrobasis consociella
Only first identified in the UK in 2001, and Yorkshire 5 years later, it is still a rarity up here and is likely to be recorded with more regularity.
Dioryctria sylvestrella
A Wax Moth, quite large for a micro, but with this and Lesser Wax Moth recorded here it would indicate the presence of bee hives or wild nests in the area.
Wax Moth
Not my finest selection of photos as some done in poor light on site using my iphone, but needs must...  Looking forward to adding even more exciting moths to the site list.

Saturday, 2 June 2018

Not a bad week....

I normally take this week off each year to accommodate a couple of family birthdays, the weather is usually good, and has also proved excellent for moths. This week has been no exception.  The only downside is that after 13 years of heavy use my generator failed last night, so no records from what would have been the fifth night in a row out trapping.

The trapping events for the week all in VC62 were as follows, including the results and highlights:

26 May - Brafferton Spring, 142 moths of 46 species

28.019 Esperia sulphurella

49.307  Spotted Shoot Moth Rhyacionia pinivorana

71.005  Sallow Kitten Furcula furcula

70.224  Scorched Wing Plagodis dolabraria


28 May - Hood Hill, Kilburn. 566 moths of 81 species

70.151  Foxglove Pug Eupithecia pulchellata

74.009  Oak Nycteoline Nycteola revayana

73.046  Poplar Grey Subacronicta megacephala

73.001  Spectacle Abrostola tripartita


29 May - Brafferton Spring, 228 moths of 58 species

One of the highlights was a Pine Hawk-moth, my first in Yorkshire following a handful seen in Dorset.  Photo taken by phone.
69.007  Pine Hawk-moth Sphinx pinastri

This fantastic micro is only 6mm in length and is one of two very closely related species.  The extent of the yellow almost reaching the cillia at the tip is in favour of C. alchimiella, however, gen.det. would be required to be 100%. 
Caloptilia alchimiella/robustella



30 May - Hood Hill, Kilburn, 454 moths of 66 species


73.016  Beautiful Golden Y Autographa pulchrina
Blomer's Rivulets are pretty scarce nationally and in Yorkshire, but have been regular at the Kilburn sites, and there were ten caught on this occasion.
70.116  Blomer's Rivulet Venusia blomeri



31 May - Pilmoor, 185 moths of 50 species

Rather than the usual trapping on the old railway line I decided to try out on the open heath area, one trap under an oak on the edge of the wood and the Robinson sited in the open next to the rushy pool.  The numbers and variety were initially disappointing but it was soon evident that the quality was exceptional.

One of the few coleophora that can be identified from its markings, and is found in heathery areas.
37.055  Coleophora pyrrhulipennella
The next four are rarities in VC62, and being micros are small in size, the first is only 5-6mm in length and the last is a mere 3mm long.

49.184 Lobesia reliquana

49.298  Notocelia trimaculana

49.240 Epinotia immundana

08.005  Phylloporia bistrigella
A fantastic few days trapping culminating in my trusty generator conking out last night and also knocking over the tripod while setting up and breaking one of my bulbs...