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.

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.

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