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saving butterflies, moths and our environment
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Moths of the month: May 2014

This is a monthly series illustrating several characteristic moths to look out for in our area. Text and photos by Roy Leverton.

You can also view the other months by selecting the links at the bottom of this page.

   
Scalloped Hook-tip Falcaria lacertinaria (R Leverton)

Scalloped Hook-tip Falcaria lacertinaria

May - July

Birch woodland.

This is a widespread but fairly local moth of good-quality birch woodland, and even there it is never very numerous. The long flight period in our area may include a partial second brood, since this species is bivoltine further south.

The adult rests openly on foliage, often its host tree, relying for protection on its remarkable resemblance to a curled dead birch leaf. At night it is attracted to light, but not to nectar sources because it cannot feed.

Click on the image to enlarge it.


Lesser Swallow Prominent Pheosia gnoma (R Leverton)

Lesser Swallow Prominent Pheosia gnoma

May and June, then July and August.

Woodland and heathland with birch.

Although birch is the only foodplant, a few scattered trees are enough to support a population. In our area the flight period probably involves one extended main brood that merges with a partial second generation, particularly when a good summer follows an early spring.

The adult's coloration mimics the bark of Silver Birch so well that even persons with no lepidopteral knowledge have correctly guessed the foodplant when shown the adult in a light trap. It is many years since I found my first, sitting with wings furled tightly round a birch twig, and can still remember my double-take on realising the slight bulge was a moth.

In southern Britain the legs and thorax are light grey, but in the Scottish Highland a form where these are dark chocolate (as shown here) is equally common.

Click on the image to enlarge it.


Small Phoenix Ecliptopera silaceata (R Leverton)

Small Phoenix Ecliptopera silaceata

May and June, then August and September.

Road verges, woodland edge, farmland, gardens, waste land.

This carpet moth feeds on willowherbs, whether belts of roadside rosebay or the smaller species that grow as garden weeds. Thus it can occupy a wide range of open and lightly wooded habitats, where it is often numerous.

Though bivoltine further south, second brood examples were formerly unusual in our area, but have increased markedly in recent years.

Several other carpets have a similar dark brown and cream colour pattern, but none in our area has the central band broken into islets, as shown here. Unfortunately some examples of Small Phoenix lack this feature, having the central band entire. The much less common Phoenix (see July 2010) is easily distinguished by its size alone, but the two can look very similar in voucher photos with no indication of scale.

Click on the image to enlarge it.


Currant Pug Eupithecia assimilata (R Leverton)

Currant Pug Eupithecia assimilata

May into August, perhaps with partial second brood.

Gardens, allotments, woodland edge.

Because its larval foodplants are currants, gooseberry and hop, this pug is very much a suburban or rural garden species. Unsurprisingly, it is absent in more natural habitats where these plants are not present. Several other moths associated with currants have suffered major population declines in recent years, but Currant Pug seems as yet unaffected.

Many of the small brown pugs look very similar, so the easiest way to record Currant Pug is by the feeding signs of its caterpillars. In late summer these make numerous small round holes in the lower leaves of currants, leaving them looking as if they had been hit by shotgun pellets. Turning such leaves over may reveal the long green caterpillar resting along a leaf vein.

At dusk, the adults flit about the currant bushes and can be found by torchlight. They are sometimes attracted to lighted windows, and also feed on honeydew.

Click on the image to enlarge it.


Pale-shouldered Brocade Lacanobia thalassina (R Leverton)

Pale-shouldered Brocade Lacanobia thalassina

May into July, in one extended brood.

Woodland, scrub, hedgerows, rural gardens.

Like many noctuids, Pale-shouldered Brocade can utilise a wide range of foodplants, from deciduous trees and shrubs to low-growing herbs. It is commonest in open woodland, but can also be found in many other habitats.

The adult is all too similar to several other 'brocades'. Although the cream shoulder patch is a useful feature, this is more distinct in some individuals than in others.

At night the moth seems more attracted to 'sugar' than to flowers or light, at least at my own site. Normally a moderately common species, it has occasional years of abundance before dropping back to its usual level.

Click on the image to enlarge it.


View other months

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March

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2008: May | June | July | August | September

2009: May | June | July | August | September

2010: May | June | July | August | September

2011: May | June | July | August | September

2012: May | June | July | August | September

2013: May | June | July | August | September

2014: May | June | July | August | September

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