A diary of my mothing activity covering highlights and photos from my moth trapping activities. Mainly Norfolk (UK), occasionally beyond. I may mention other wildlife sightings here, especially insects, but for birds see my birding diary.

Friday, 27 December 2019

Hornet Rove Beetle and other beetles from last year

As I begin to embark on a series of posts covering a summary of 2019's observations (having completed zero blog posts about them during the course of the year), I discovered that I still have an unpublished post relating to 2018's records.  It concerned a number of beetles that I had set aside having found them too difficult to identify at the time.  Coming back to them in 2019 I managed to make a bit more progress.

They include what now becomes my first Curtonus aulicus on 12th April, and remains my only record for the garden.

Curtonus aulicus, North Elmham, 12th April 2018

Two tiny Meligethes pollen beetles beaten from some blosson at Bittering on 13th April proved to be different species.  One was what I understand is by far the commonest Meligethes aeneus but the other was more interesting: Meligethes brunnicornis.

Meligethes aeneus, Bittering, 13th April 2018

Meligethes brunnicornis, Bittering, 13th April 2018

Another new beetle was Harpalus latus, from the track by the dunes at Horsey.

Harpalus latus, Horsey, 18th April 2018

I really struggled with the keying of two similar (though not identical) beetles, one from Horsey on 18th April and the other from St Faith's Common later the same day.  In the end I'm pretty happy they were both Amara familiaris.  Another new species for me, albeit apparently very common.

Amara familiaris, Horsey, 18th April 2018

Amara familiaris, St Faith's Common, 18th April 2018

Several more pollen beetles proved to be Meligethes aeneus but one that was attracted to a Red-belted Clearwing pheremone lure at home on 22nd April turned out to be the much scarcer Meligethes pedicularius.  Shame I only got this rubbish photo!

Meligethes pedicularius, North Elmham, 22nd April 2018

I'd managed to identifiy one of these from the Cathedral Meadows so not sure why I struggled so much with this one, but anyway, this was my first Enochrus melanocephalus for the garden.

Enochrus melanocephalus, North Elmham, 19th June 2018

I initially had some difficulty keying this large rove beetle.  Superficially a little bit like Devil's Coach Horse Beetle but some pretty obvious differences from that and its congeners, not least the hairless and more-or-less shiny head and pronotum.  Eventually I figured out what it was.  Actually it should have been pretty obvious from the start - it's a Hornet Rove Beetle Velleius dilatatus.  That's actually a pretty decent record - undoubtedly my best beetle to date.  I have checked it with Martin Collier the county recorder for beetles and not only does he agree with my ID but he also confirmed that it's only the fourth record for Norfolk!  I imagine that the fact that it was an excellent year for Hornets may have benefited the Hornet Rove Beetle as well?

Hornet Rove Beetle Velleius dilatatus, North Elmham, 26th July 2018

Monday, 6 May 2019

The end of 2018 - finishing with 614 moth species in the garden

By late November it's no surprise that mothing was slow, the garden trap producing the Winter Moth, 2 Chestnuts, Yellow-line Quaker and the caddisfly Limnephilus lunatus on 25th. Just 2 Winter Moths on 26th and Winter Moth, Scarce Umber and Limnephilus lunatus on 27th.

It was a bit better on 28th with Diamond-back Plutella xylostella, Light Brown Apple-moth Epiphyas postvittana, Rusty Oak Button Acleris ferrugana, 2 December Moths, Winter Moth, Mottled Umber, White-point, Chestnut, the caddisflies 3 Limnephilus lunatus and Limnephilus vittatus and the mirid bug Pinalitus cervinus.

Another Dark Sword-grass was the highlight on 29th November, my second in a few days but only my third here since moving in in 2014.  The only other moths that night were Winter Moth and White-point.  There was also the springtail 'Entomobrya intermedia' (in inverted commas because the Hopkin key seems to think this is just a form of Entomobrya nivalis rather than a distinct species).

Dark Sword-grass, North Elmham, 29th November

'Entomobrya intermedia', North Elmham, 29th November

Only one moth the following night, but a Scarce Umber is always nice.

There was a selection of bits and pieces in the trap to kick off December: Garden Midget Phyllonorycter messaniella, Light Brown Apple-moth Epiphyas postvittana, 2 December Moths, Winter Moth, 2 Mottled Umbers, 2 Chestnuts, the caddisfly Limnephilus lunatus, 8 of the mirid bugs Pinalitus cervinus and the barkfly Ectopsocus petersi. Potentially better than any of those was a psyllid that got away before I could examine it.

With a relatively mild night on 2nd December I had another torch-lit wander round the meadows and found a nice variety of things.  I found at least 40 Winter Moths (including 3 mating pairs) but no other adult moths. A cluster of eggs was eventually identified (thanks to some help from people on Twitter) as belonging to Vapourer moth.

pair of Winter Moths, North Elmham Cathedral Meadows, 2nd December

Vapourer eggs, North Elmham Cathedral Meadows, 2nd December

Most of the above were on Oak tree trunks and this was also where I found a couple of bugs: Deraeocoris lutescens and my first Cardiastethus fasciiventris.  There were also 3 Great Four-spot Treerunners (beetles) Dromius quadrimaculatus and 20 Oak Apple Gall Wasps Biorhiza pallida.

Cardiastethus fasciiventris, North Elmham Cathedral Meadows, 2nd December

I found 3 rove beetles including a mating pair.  I left the latter to their business but examined the lone individual to identify it - it proved to be Tasgius ater, the first time I've identified this species.

Tasgius ater, North Elmham Cathedral Meadows, 2nd December

Other things I found included 2 Broom Psyllids Arytaina genistae, 7-spot Ladybird Coccinella septempunctata, 4 Lace-weave Spiders Amaurobius similis*, Irish Yellow Slug Limacus maculatus and at least 2 Common Rough Woodlice Porcellio scaber.   *Theoretically these could have been Amaurobius fenestralis, but if I understand correctly the habitat was better for similis.

Broom Psyllid Arytaina genistae, North Elmham Cathedral Meadows, 2nd December

presumed Lace-weave Spider Amaurobius similis, North Elmham Cathedral Meadows, 2nd December

Irish Yellow Slug Limacus maculatus, North Elmham Cathedral Meadows, 2nd December

The moths at home that night were Narrow-winged Grey Eudonia angustea, 2 December Moths, Winter Moth, Scarce Umber, and Chestnut.  There was also the caddisfly Limnephilus lunatus, Tarnished Plant Bug Lygus rugulipennis, the barkflies Ectopsocus briggsi and Valenzuela flavidus, an Edwardsiana leafhopper and a new leafhopper for the garden, Aphrodes makarovi.

Aphrodes makarovi, North Elmham, 2nd December

The following night there was just a Narrow-winged Grey Eudonia angustea and then on 4th just a Common Earwig Forficula auricularia. On 5th there were 2 Diamond-backs Plutella xylostella, 3 Mottled Umbers and 5 of the mirid bug Pinalitus cervinus.

Next day there was -winged Grey Eudonia angustea, Winter Moth, the caddisfly Limnephilus auricula, 2 mirid bugs Pinalitus cervinus and 2 Common Heart-shields (beetles) Nebria brevicollis. There was also a female Acericerus leafhopper but I don't know of a reliable way of distinguishing females of this genus. Whichever it was, it would be new for the garden.

Acericerus sp., North Elmham, 6th December

Just 1 Winter Moth the following night and then things got really slow with nothing at all on many nights.  There was a Dark Chestnut on 9th, another springtail Entomobrya intermedia-type on 12th, Mottled Umber on 13th and 4 Winter Moths on 14th.

On 15th I joined the Norfolk Fungus Study Group at Bawdeswell Heath for a very interesting fungus foray.  54 species of fungi were recorded, though I didn't attempt to see all of them, preferring to take notes on the ones I did see and photograph as I figured I would learn more that way.  I still managed around 33 species.  Here are a few of them:

fungus on fungus: Ochre Cushion (the dark bits) growing on Birch Polypore (the bracket fungus), Bawdeswell Heath, 15th December

Candlesnuff Fungus, Bawdeswell Heath, 15th December

Conifercone Cap - growing on a conifer cone, Bawdeswell Heath, 15th December

Olive Oysterling, Bawdeswell Heath, 15th December

Phacidium multivalve (the bigger spots on the LH leaf) and Holly Speckle (the finer spots on the RH leaf), Bawdeswell Heath, 15th December

Signs of moths included a Mottled Umber, the mine of Bordered Carl Coptotriche marginea and feeding signs of Shaded Case-bearers Coleophora potentillae (a species I have never seen).

There were 3 Winter Moths in the trap on 16th along with this springtail, a new species for me, Vertagopus arboreus.

Vertagopus arboreus, North Elmham, 16th December

I found the leafmine of Golden Pigmy Stigmella aurella, and a 7-spot Ladybird Coccinella septempunctata, at the meadows on 17th.

leafmine of Golden Pigmy Stigmella aurella, North Elmham Cathedral Meadows, 17th December

I was a little bit surprised to find what I believe is Sweet Violet flowering, quite unseasonal I think.

Sweet Violet, North Elmham Cathedral Meadows, 17th December

There were a few more moths at home that night, with Viburnum Button Acleris schalleriana, 7 Winter Moths and 3 Mottled Umbers.

Viburnum Button Acleris schalleriana (male, gen det), North Elmham, 17th December

Mottled Umber, North Elmham, 17th December

The following night saw a return to normal for this time of year, one moth, a Mottled Umber.  There were 2 Winter Moths and a 7-spot Ladybird on 19th, 3 Winter Moths and 4 Mottled Umbers on 20th, single Winter Moth and Mottled Umber on 21st and 2 Winter Moths on 22nd.

Fungi at the meadows on 22nd included Yellow Brain and both the species that produce speckling on Holly leaves, Phacidium multivalve and Holly Speckle Trochila ilicina.

Yellow Brain, North Elmham, 22nd December

I was away for a few days over Christmas and the days I was here there wasn't much happening.  But there was something in the moth trap on 28th December - an aphid.  I tentatively identified it as Hellebore Aphid Macrosiphum hellebori, an ID that seemed fairly likely in view of the proximity of my moth-trap to some Hellebores.  This was confirmed later on 29th when I found a colony of them on the underside of the Hellebore leaves.

Hellebore Aphid Macrosiphum hellebori, North Elmham, 28th December

Hellebore Aphid Macrosiphum hellebori, North Elmham, 29th December

There was a Mottled Umber in the trap on 29th and then on 30th there were 2 Viburnum Buttons Acleris schalleriana, Winter Moth, Mottled Umber and Dark Chestnut. The Acleris were the finale of a fantastic year for this species - I ended up with 11 individuals which isn't bad considering there haven't been that many seen in the entire county in any previous year.

A 7-spot Ladybird was the only insect noted at the meadows on New Year's Eve but there was a nice bit of Dog's Sick Slime Mould...

Dog's Sick Slime Mould, North Elmham Cathedral Meadows, 31st December

Also some Mint Mildew Neoerysiphe galeopsidis.  As usual, thanks to James Emerson for assistance with these.

Mint Mildew Neoerysiphe galeopsidis, North Elmham Cathedral Meadows, 31st December

Finally, for 2018 at least, that night the garden moth trap delivered Ashy Button Acleris sparsana and 3 Winter Moths.

I finished the year with 614 moth species trapped in the garden, higher than 2017 (598 in the end, a bit more than I reported at the time as I had missed some off) but not as high as in 2016 (627).   They consisted of 310 micros and 304 macros.

Thursday, 2 May 2019

Dark Sword-grass, Smut and new aphids for Norfolk that shouldn't be outside

A Dark Sword-grass was the unexpected highlight on 16th November, a migrant and only my second record from the garden trap.

Dark Sword-grass, North Elmham, 16th November

It was obviously a good night for migrants as there were also 4 Diamond-backs Plutella xylostella in there.   Other things were Garden Midget Phyllonorycter messaniella, Narrow-winged Grey Eudonia angustea, Pale November Moth, female Epirrita sp., Scarce Umber, Dark Chestnut, the caddisflies Limnephilus lunatus and Halesus radiatus, the mirid bug Pinalitus cervinus and the leafhoppper Fagocyba cruenta.

Next day while birding at Burnham Overy I found this Natterjack.  It's remarkably well camouflaged on the sand, but it's shadow was easy enough to see!

Natterjack, Burnham Overy, 17th November

The only other non-avian thing noted there was a Narrow-winged Grey Eudonia angustea flying through the dunes (hand caught by Paul).

There were only 2 moths in the trap at home, but they were nice ones: December Moth and Scarce Umber.

The following night there was Diamond-back Plutella xylostella, December Moth, 2 Winter Moths (the first of the winter in my garden) and the mirid bug Pinalitus cervinus.

A nil return on 19th and Brick and Yellow-line Quaker on 20th.

This hoverfly Common Dronefly Eristalis tenax was flying at the meadows on 21st.

Common Dronefly Eristalis tenax, North Elmham Cathedral Meadows, 21st November

There were some nice fungi too, with thanks again to James Emerson for help with the IDs.  I particularly liked these Lilac Bonnets and Wood Blewits.

Lilac Bonnet, North Elmham Cathedral Meadows, 21st November

Wood Blewit, North Elmham Cathedral Meadows, 21st November

Also that day, the distinctive little beetle Ptinus sexpunctatus appeared in my study - the third one I've seen this year and the second that's turned up in my study.  No moths that night though, nor the following night.

A warmer night on 23rd so I had a wander round the meadows with the headtorch.  I found a few moths: Rusty Oak Button Acleris ferrugana and 6 Winter Moths.

Rusty Oak Button Acleris ferrugana (male, gen det), North Elmham Cathedral Meadows, 23rd November

Winter Moth, North Elmham Cathedral Meadows, 23rd November

I had recently seen tweets about the larvae of the two Psychoides species that breed on ferns and so decided to have a quick look for these.  With beginner's luck the first Hartstongue I checked had one on it!  I was satisfied that it was Fern Smut Psychoides filicivora.

larval covering and larva of Fern Smut Psychoides filicivora, North Elmham Cathedral Meadows, 23rd November

I retained the leaflet that this was on and took it home with me in the hope that the adult moth would emerge.  And on 18th February this appeared in the pot!

Fern Smut Psychoides filicivora, 18th February, emerged from larvae collected from North Elmham Cathedral Meadows on 23rd November

I did notice a second clump of spores that I had wondered about as it seemed slightly out of place compared to the rest, but I decided it was nothing.  But in fact it must have held another larva because on 26th February another moth emerged!

Fern Smut Psychoides filicivora, 26th February, emerged from larvae collected from North Elmham Cathedral Meadows on 23rd November

They really are quite lovely little critters when they're fresh, and the first live ones I've ever seen (having found a dead one in the bottom of my garden moth trap in 2017).

As I was looking at the larva I noticed some aphids on the same bit of Hartstongue.  A little bit of online searching came up with an apparently good match, Black Fern Aphids Idiopterus nephrelepidis.  But I couldn't find out much information about the species, there weren't any records in the UK on the NBN Atlas and something I found suggested they only occurred indoors.  So I fired off an email to Jit Thacker, the county recorder for aphids.

For reasons unknown, Jit never received my email and so that was how I left it until I was catching up with records in the last few days.  In the meantime I have acquired a new book on aphids, so maybe I could progress this a bit more.  The book lists all the aphids known to occur on various plants, and for Hartstongue it only listed two species.  One looked nothing like these and the other was Idiopterus nephrelepidis.  Without the specimens adequately preserved I couldn't check the detail but they looked good - however the book reiterated what I had read, which is that in Britain and indeed the whole of northern Europe this species is only known from glasshouses and other indoor situations.

This seemed to warrant another attempt at contacting Jit, who this time received the email and responded promptly.  Off the back of this correspondence it sounded like I would need an adult specimen, preferably a winged individual (alate), to confirm the record - but that this was not to be expected as any colony was unlikely to have survived a British winter.

Well I had a careful look this morning and the colony HAD survived the winter (and I found another colony there too).  Still no winged alate, but the bigger unwinged individuals ticked all the boxes for Idiopterus nephrelepidis.  To confirm I took them through the full key, and sure enough I ended up at Idiopterus nephrelepidis.

Another email to Jit and this evening he has confirmed that they appear to be the first Norfolk record (albeit some old aphd records are missing), and perhaps also the first record of them overwintering outside!

Black Fern Aphids Idioterus nephrelepidis, North Elmham Cathedral Meadows, 23rd November

Black Fern Aphids Idioterus nephrelepidis, North Elmham Cathedral Meadows, 2nd May

Other things found that evening included Common Earwig Forficula auricularia, the green lacewing Chrysoperla carnea, the caddisfly Limnephilus lunatus, the mirid bug Pinalitus cervinus, the leafhopper Idiocerus herrichi, about 20 Oak Apple Gall Wasps Biorhiza pallida, Common Rough Woodlouse Porcellio scaber and the centipede Common Lithobius Lithobius forficatus.

Idiocerus herrichi, North Elmham Cathedral Meadows, 23rd November

Oak Apple Gall Wasp Biorhiza pallida, North Elmham Cathedral Meadows, 23rd November

Common Lithobius Lithobius forficatus, North Elmham Cathedral Meadows, 23rd November

Thanks again to James for confirming the ID of some Clustered Bonnets.

Very little in the garden trap that night: Light Brown Apple-moth Epiphyas postvittana, December Moth and 2 Winter Moths.  No moths at all the following night though - just a green lacewing Chrysoperla carnea agg.