Friday, 1 April 2016

March in the moth trap

I ran my moth trap on 21 nights during March, slightly up on the average number of nights over the last ten years, which is 17 nights.

Despite starting the month with some wild weather and enduring the ferocity of Storm Katie on the night of 27th, the nights during March were generally quiet and chilly, with a mainly northerly flow to the weather. This is the probable reason for the slightly depressed numbers of moths recorded. March, like the first two months of the year, can be painfully slow on the relatively treeless parts of the Downs where I operate my trap. Species and numbers seen were both below their ten-year averages, with the exception of the March Orthosia stalwarts Common Quaker (Orthosia cerasi) and Hebrew Character (Orthosia gothica), which were about a third higher than usual, but still very low in number compared with many more wooded locations. Early Grey numbers were low, despite an exceptionally early record I made on 4th February, and began to appear only during the final week of the month, which suggests a late emergence locally, along with the two Orthosia species Small Quaker and Powdered Quaker, both of which were absent during the month.

There was a similar pattern to the butterfly sightings, with numbers only starting to improve towards the end of the month as the sunlight strengthened and the winds became milder and lesser in strength. Most Small Tortoiseshells were seen basking around rabbit holes, as is the March norm, but they were beginning to wander on the wing during the last two days of the month. With warmer temperatures forecast next week, we should all see a welcome increase in numbers and species.

Ectoedemia heringella (New Holm Oak Pigmy) dominated my fieldwork efforts. This Nationally Scarce species has now been recorded in 59 locations in Newhaven, Peacehaven, Seaford, Lewes and the villages between.

There was a bonus record of the willowherb-feeding Mompha epilobiella, which was seen during a visit to Charleston Farmhouse within one of the bedrooms. At first sight I thought I was witness to the destruction of the natural fibres making up the fabrics and other textiles on display at the house, but relief came with a closer look - so hold off with the pheromone traps!

Hebrew Character (Orthosia gothica)
Common Quaker (Orthosia cerasi)
Early Grey (Xylocampa areola)

Species summary, March 2016
32 species recorded (10-year average is 25), 150 individual moths and butterflies (10-year average is 186).

125W Robinson trap at home (17 species)
Parsnip Moth (Depressaria heraclei)  2
Common Flat-body (Agonopterix heracliana)  6
Brown-spot Flat-body (Agonopterix alstromeriana)  1
White-shouldered House Moth (Endrosis sarcitrella)  1
Light Brown Apple Moth (Epiphyas postvittana) 6
Common Plume (Emmelina monodactyla)  6
March Moth (Alsophila aescularia)  2
Double-striped Pug (Gymnoscelis rufifasciata)  1
Oak Beauty (Biston strataria)  4
Common Quaker (Orthosia cerasi)  41
Clouded Drab (Orthosia incerta)  2
Twin-spotted Quaker (Orthosia munda)  2
Hebrew Character (Orthosia gothica)  40
Early Grey (Xylocampa areola)  3
Chestnut (Conistra vaccinii)  1
Angle Shades (Phlogophora meticulosa)  2
Silver Y (Autographa gamma)  2

Other garden obs at home (5 species)
Small White (Pieris rapae)  1
Brimstone (Gonepteryx rhamni)  2
Peacock (Aglais io)  1
Oak Eggar (Lasiocampa quercus)  2 larvae
Large Yellow Underwing (Noctua pronuba)  2 larvae

Fieldwork (12 species)
New Holm-oak Pigmy (Ectoedemia heringella)  mines
Golden Pigmy (Stigmella aurella)  mines
Holm-oak Pigmy (Stigmella suberivora)  mines
Bordered Carl (Catoptriche marginea)  mines
Brown Oak Slender (Acrocercops brongniardella)  1 mine
Garden Midget (Phyllonorycter messaniella) mines
Common Flat-body (Agonopterix heracliana)  1
Common Cosmet (Mompha epilobiella)  1 - seen inside Charleston Farmhouse!
Bulrush Cosmet (Limnaecia phragmitella) larval feeding signs on bulrush
Peacock (Aglais io)  4
Small Tortoiseshell (Aglais urticae)  12
Comma (Polygonia c-album)  2

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