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.

Saturday, 20 February 2016

Snow moths, a spider and a new moth for the house

A cold windy spell with no moths ended in a colder snowy night after which I fully expected another empty moth trap.  But last Sunday night wasn't so windy and it was cloudy, so despite the cold and the snow the conditions were evidently more suitable... there were 2 moths in the trap (or on the trap, more accurately).  Early Moth and Dotted Border.

Also in the trap was this tiny spider, about 2mm long (head and body, not the legs).  Anyone know what it is?

unidentified spider, North Elmham, 14th February

The next night with moths was Wednesday night, when the trap contained Dotted Border, Common Quaker and 2 Chestnuts

Dotted Border, North Elmham, 17th February

Common Quaker (left) and 2 Chestnuts, North Elmham, 17th February

A single Chestnut on Thursday night then last night just a single moth in the trap despite slightly milder conditions.  That one was new for the house though, so not complaining: Winter Shades Tortricodes alternella.  It's a common species at this time of year but one that I've only encountered a few times myself.  Nearly all of them have been well worn, and this one was no exception.

Winter Shades Tortricodes alternella, North Elmham, 19th February

Thursday, 11 February 2016

Toilet moth!

Not had many moths since my last post - another Dark Chestnut on Friday night, normal Chestnut and a Common Quaker on Saturday night and then either the same or another Common Quaker on Sunday and Monday nights.

Once the strong winds died down the temperatures droppped, so it was no surprise to find nothing in the trap last night or the night before.  I was surprised yesterday evening when I got home from work and sat down to do my business in the downstairs toilet.  I was disturbed mid-business by a small moth flying around the room.  Always prepared I had a pot in my pocket and, with some difficulty as it was extremely active (and as I was, um, compromised) I managed to get it in the pot for checking once I was finished.

It remained extremely lively, but seemed fairly fresh and looked dark and very interesting.  My first thought was Nemapogon wolffiella, rather than the commoner paler Cork Moth Nemapogon cloacella, but I wasn't convinced.  It wouldn't settle and I just couldn't get a decent look at it.  Eventually it settled for just long enough for me to snap a single shot, and in this it was clear that it certainly wasn't wolffiella.  Maybe cloacella but it is the wrong time of year for either and I was intrigued by the possibility that it might be Corn Moth Nemapogon granella, a species I have no previous experience of.  It looked good...

Corn Moth Nemapogon granella, North Elmham, 10th February

Next day it had calmed down a little allowing more photos.  It still looked good - no clear white spot in the discal area and the main dark mark in the costa wasn't anvil shaped at all.  There isn't meant to be any difference in head colour but most Cork Moths I've seen have had more colour on the head whereas most photos of Corn Moth show a whiter head, more like this one.  Time of year and circumstances probably favoured Corn Moth too - Cork Moth isn't supposed to fly until May while Corn Moth starts in March - ok it's not March yet but in a madly mild winter a little early isn't surprising.  But Cork Moth is variable, and there are records in February and March (and lots in April) so it needed care.  I've been caught out by odd ones before so this needed its genitalia examining to be 100% certain.

The gen det wsn't as straightforward as I'd expected.  Actually the most obvious feature was pretty obvious right away, but then I looked at it a bit more closely and started reading conflicting information that suggested it ought to look rather different.  Eventually I figured out that the information was misleading, and after referring to several sources of information I concluded that it was indeed a Corn Moth Nemapogon granella.

Corn Moth Nemapogon granella (male, gen det), North Elmham, 10th February

Interesting to speculate how it got here.  Corn Moth larvae, as their name suggests, feed on stored grain (and other vegetable matter) though they can also feed on bracket fungi outdoors.  Given that it was found indoors and given the cold conditions and the fact that not even robust macros are appearing in my trap at the moment, it seems unlikely to be an 'outdoors' breeding individual.  But I don't have any stored grain in the house, and I've not had any Corn Moths here before.  There is a plausible explanation though, I think... On Saturday my wife dragged me to a certain farm shop not a million miles from here which is famed for its popcorn and birdfood.  There must be plenty of grain stored there, and we came away with a good few bags of various food items (and daffodils).  No popcorn or birdfood though, and nothing in which I would expect a Corn Moth larva to be at home in.  But maybe a recently emerged adult might have found its way on to the daffodils or into one of the bags?  Maybe it came home with us that day and managed to stay out of my way until Tuesday?  Pure speculation, and it was so lively and fresh I am not convinced it's the right answer, but it's the best I've got to go on for now.

Either way, a rarely recorded moth with just 6 previous records this century, the last in 2013.

Friday, 5 February 2016

Acleris hastiana

Moth activity has been increasing over the last week or so.  Early Moth last Thursday followed by Dotted Border and Dark Chestnut on Friday, then 3 Early Moths on Saturday.

On Sunday night the quality level notched up a peg with a fantastic Sallow Button Acleris hastiana (and another Early Moth).  The first hastiana I've seen since 2012 and so new for the house.

Sallow Button Acleris hastiana (female, gen det), North Elmham, 31st January

A 2-spot Ladybird woke up from hibernation in my study:

2-spot Ladybird, North Elmham, 31st January

Monday and Tuesday nights were similar with Pale Brindled Beauty and Early Moth, and Pale Brindled Beauty and 3 Early Moths respectively.

Wednesday was a nil return but last night (Thursday) was the best night of the year so far in terms of variety, I think.  Best was my first Oak Beauty of the year.

Oak Beauty, North Elmham, 4th February

The others were 3 Pale Brindled Beauties, Spring Usher, Dotted Border, Early Moth, Chestnut and Dark Chestnut. Not bad for early February, but others in the county apparently did much better!

My 4th species of Ladybird this year already came in the shape of this Cream-spot Ladybird in the moth-trap.

Cream-spot Ladybird, North Elmham, 4th February