I’ve had two days recently when I went looking for butterflies and was feeling a little disappointed not to see very many when, all of a sudden, a moth flew by and landed at my feet … like Nature saying ‘Here’s a consolation prize!’ or, maybe, ‘Don’t be a Wally! Look at this amazing creature!’ … and so I did. And then another moth appeared, and another, and …
It seems surprising to me that a rainy day walk can turn up moth sightings. I’m not talking about heavy rain – I probably wouldn’t be out in that – just a very slight drizzle, which in this week’s heat was actually quite refreshing. Only a few hardy Meadow brown butterflies flitted up as I passed by but the moths were more frequent than I expected.
Silver Y (Autographa gamma)
Late summer through to mid autumn is probably the best time to see these distinctive immigrants, though some hardy souls do manage to breed in Britain. I imagine this one wafting in from the Continent on last week’s hot southerly winds.
Common purple-and-gold (Pyrausta purpuralis)
I’ve seen quite a few of these tiny moths during my daily meanders, presumably because they have two broods each year and the second brood emerges right about now, July-August.
Shaded broad-bar (Scotopteryx chenopodiata)
Two of these beauties have popped up for me recently, one at Grangemoor Park, the other at Cosmeston, both quite light in colour, though a quick look at the images on the Butterfly Conservation website will show how variable they can be.
Common grass-veneer (Agriphila tristella)
I tend to avoid photographing the many grass moths that, like crickets and grasshoppers, flit up as my legs disturb them when I’m walking through longish grass or wildflowers, because they can be difficult to identify. Luckily, my local Twitter pal George, a senior moth ecologist at Butterfly Conservation, was able to put a name to this one very quickly. It’s a common grassland species that flies from June through to September.
Believe it or not, this amazing creature is a moth, an aptly named clearwing moth – you can see parts of her wings are not covered by scales so are transparent. She is a Six-belted clearwing (Bembecia ichneumoniformis) and I know it’s a female because she only has five belts, i.e. five yellow stripes on her abdomen – the males have six.
I discovered her completely by chance – I was scanning the ground at Cosmeston Lakes Country Park for butterflies and happened to notice her stripes. Cosmeston actually has the perfect habitat for these moths as they like chalk and coastal grasslands and quarries, and their caterpillars like to munch on Common Bird’s-foot trefoil, which grows locally in abundance. I’m amazed, then, that there have been very few locally recorded sightings – maybe everyone who spots them thinks they’re wasps or bees.
These are day-flying moths and the adults are on the wing between June and August, so I’ll be on the look out for more of them over the coming weeks.
I’ve had the most wonderful day out butterflying but it’s already 5:30, I have a lot of photos to go through, I’m hungry, and I desperately need a shower to wash off the heat and insect repellent – okay, probably too much information, but you get the picture. The butterfly blogs will have to wait till tomorrow and Sunday. So, here’s another gorgeous creature from today’s outing, a Humming-bird Hawk-moth.
Remember I said on Friday that they’d be ‘coming soon‘, well here they are. The Six-spot burnet moths have begun to emerge, buzzing around the wildflowers like little red-and-black bumblebees. Delightful!
This is one of my favourite moths, a Latticed heath (Chiasmia clathrata, from the Greek chiasma, meaning formed like a cross, and clathrum, meaning lattice or grate, a reference to the lovely interlaced and criss-crossing patterns on its wings).
As well as flying in the night time, the Latticed heath also flies by day, which is how I’m able to see them, though they’re very good at hiding in amongst the long grass and wildflowers. I saw my first for 2019 on 23 May at Cosmeston, and I’ve since seen them at most of my regular haunts, Grangemoor and Hamadryad Parks in Cardiff, and Lavernock Nature Reserve.
It’s a smallish moth, with a wingspan between 20 and 25mm, and can be found around clovers and trefoils and lucerne, which are the plants its caterpillars feed on. The first adults can be seen in May and June, and then there’s a second generation that flies in August and September.
I’ve had a lucky week with my Lepidoptera sightings – that’s moths and butterflies, for those who didn’t know – and the week’s not over yet. As well as the Narrow-bordered Bee Hawk-moth on Monday and the Burnet Companions on Tuesday, yesterday I found my first (three) Large Skipper butterflies for the year at Cosmeston.
And, today, my wander around Grangemoor Park was something of a Lep-fest, with the first (five) Mother Shipton moths I’ve seen in 2019.
And I spotted a nice Latticed Heath moth trying to hide in the grass.
And, then, just as I was about to head for home, I noticed something small flitting about along a side path, went to investigate and found two Brown Argus butterflies, which I have seen already this year but not in Wales. You can see why I named this blog ‘leptastic’!
I mentioned in yesterday’s post about the amazing Narrow-bordered Bee Hawk-moth that I had actually been trying to re-find a Burnet Companion moth when I spotted the Hawk-moth. Well, today I got the one that got away yesterday – not the actual moth, as today I was at Cosmeston not Lavernock, and not just one but three Burnet Companions appeared for my camera today.
I felt a bit sad for the first one I saw (below left). Either it hadn’t developed properly in its pupa or something had happened to it since hatching, as its wings appeared damaged and it didn’t seem able to fly.
But the other two were flitting merrily from flower to flower, drinking in as much Bird’s-foot trefoil nectar as their tiny tongues could manage. And not only do they have lovely markings on the top side of their wings but they’re a wonderful buttery yellow underneath as well (above right).
I had a heart-stopping few moments at Lavernock Nature Reserve this afternoon. I’d just taken a rubbish photo of my first Burnet Companion moth of the year but it had flitted off and I was trying to re-find it when I spotted this beauty … and I couldn’t believe what I was seeing. It’s a Narrow-bordered Bee Hawk-moth (Hemaris tityus) and it’s something of a rarity here in south Wales.
According to Aderyn, Wales’s Biodiversity and Information Reporting Database, this species has not been recorded anywhere near my area for more than 50 years, yet they seem to be having a good year in 2019: George, from our local Butterfly Conservation branch, tells me this special moth has been seen in three new sites in south Wales so far this year. Long may this trend continue!
I’d only ever seen this beautifully patterned moth once before so it was a treat last week to see two of them on two consecutive days. Despite having a guide book, I always find moths difficult to identify but this one, the Treble-bar (Aplocera plagiata), lives up to its name rather nicely. Having said that, there is a chance these could be Lesser Treble-bars but they are much less common so I’m assuming they’re not (and I wasn’t able to check the ends of their abdomens to be sure!).
These are probably second generation moths, the first having emerged, mated, laid, munched, pupated during May and June, and the second now going through that process during August and September.