Tuesday, 1 March 2016

News from the moth trap: February 2016

Comparing and contrasting February 2016's moth sightings with those of previous years


The 125W Mercury Vapour light lit up the skies of Newhaven on only six nights during the month - and we enjoyed an additional day this leap year. The average number of nights that a trap has been run at home during February over the last ten years is nine nights. Of the six nights managed in February 2016, three returned zero counts.The ten moths of six species I recorded on the other three nights was my best return since 2012. Of those six species, two had never previously been recorded by me in February (Southern Bell and Oak Nycteoline), both of which I believe were emergent adults which had hibernated over the winter.

Away from home, the chilly weather made fieldwork difficult and I had to settle for mostly occasional sightings of larvae or larval feeding signs, but these included thousands of leaf-mines on Holm (Evergreen) Oak (Quercus ilex) trees made by Ectoedemia heringella (see my previous blog dated 27th Feb) and the chance discovery of hundreds of bulrush heads showing the characteristic feeding signs of Limnaecia phragmitella.

I had never recorded in February either of the adult species that I saw during the month (White-shouldered House-moth and Mottled Grey). The two Mottled Grey sightings I made, at Itford Hill, have been confirmed as the earliest records ever made in Sussex. This is probably because the first half of the winter was much warmer than average. The larvae would have been able to continue feeding longer than usual and consequently pupate much sooner. Climate change appears to be affecting many species in this way, but this can be precarious because sudden and extreme changes in weather can wreak havoc on some colonies and many species need to time their emergence as adults with other things such as nectar sources or plant growing seasons, along with changes in day length. If a habitat's phenology is thrown out of balance by environmental stressors such as climate change, what might at first appear to be an exciting observation could be a cause for concern.

Mottled Grey (Colostygia multistrigaria)

Bulrush Cosmet (Limnaecia phragmitella) larval feeding signs on bulrush


The tunnel survey made at Newhaven Fort on 2nd February has already been discussed in my blog post dated 9th February.


Here's the full list for the month:

Species summary, February 2016 (total of 22 species) (all adults unless stated)

125W Robinson trap at home (5 species)
0998  Light Brown Apple Moth (Epiphyas postvittana)  6
1157  Southern Bell (Crocidosema plebejana)  1
2190  Hebrew Character (Orthosia gothica) 1
2243  Early Grey (Xylocampa areola)  1
2423  Oak Nycteoline (Nycteola revayana)  1

Other garden observations at home (1 species)
0240  Case-bearing Clothes Moth (Tinea pellionella)  1

Fieldwork (16 species)
0036a New Holm Oak Pigmy (Ectoedemia heringella) mines - see blog dated 27th February
0648  White-shouldered House Moth (Endrosis sarcitrella)  1
0898  Bulrush Cosmet (Limnaecia phragmitella) larval feeding signs on bulrush
1775  Mottled Grey (Colostygia multistrigaria)  2
2134  Square-spot Rustic (Xestia xanthographa)  1 larva
2306  Angle Shades (Phlogophora meticulosa)  2 larvae

Newhaven Fort tunnel survey of hibernating species (02/02/16) - see blog dated 9th Feb
0472  Fleabane Smudge (Digitivalva pulicariae)  6
0476  Bittersweet Smudge (Acrolepia autumnitella)  1
0672  Parsnip Moth (Depressaria heraclei)  1
0688  Common Flat-body (Agonopterix heracliana)  3
0689  Large Carrot Flat-body (Agonopterix ciliella)  1
1288  Twenty-plume Moth (Alucita hexadactyla)  28
2469  Herald (Scoliopteryx libatrix)  4
2478  Bloxworth Snout (Hypena obsitalis)  7
59.026  Peacock (Aglais io)  14
59.027  Small Tortoiseshell (Aglais urticae)  7

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