Monday, 11 August 2014

The Moths Come Calling, With Mucho Excitemento Caused By The Arrival Of A Rare Mocha

I know, I know: I've got holiday pictures to post, but those of you who know me well won't be at all surprised that the Moths have got in there first. Well, I have been absent from them for nearly a fortnight so they were over-due a visit (I did see a very small Grass Veneer moth who fell asleep on my bedside table during the hols and a Ghost Moth who landed on my chair in the pub on our last night).

Cooler weather at night means a smaller haul (it was 13 degrees here last night) and there were only 56 in the box this morning: 24 species including 6 new, bringing my 2014 total so far to 259 species.

There were two really pretty moths in the box (I think they're all lovely, as you know, but these two are particularly nice because they are reasonably unusual): a Mocha, and an Orange Swift:

Mocha

Orange Swift
 
At the risk of boring the pants off you (I'm going to, so best hang on to them if you're in a public place), I've got Rather Excited about the Mocha because it is a) rare, b) pretty and c) I've never seen one before.

This is what my Moth Bible has to say about it: "Resident. Nationally Scarce B. A species of Southern Britain with two main areas of distribution: one roughly following Triassic mudstones and lower lias clay beds (so south devon, somerset, glos and worcs), the other roughly following Cretaceous greensands (southern hants (me), dorset, south wilts, west sussex."

I'm fascinated that the distribution of rare a moth can be mapped according to underlying geology. Of course, geology dictates flora, and this moth's larval foodplant is Field Maple which is largely a southern species, but even so, this is the first moth I've come across whose distribution is described in terms of geology. Fascinating (if you're me). They also (perhaps unsurprisingly) favour long-established hedges and woods, of which there are not all that many left in the UK :-(
The other nice thing about them is their pupa, in which they spend the winter. It is described as 'naked and silk-girdled, attached to leaf or among moss' which I think's quite evocative.

The Orange Swift (the other pic above) is also interesting in its own right, being a member of the most Primitive moth family in evolutionary terms. They belong to a family of about 500 moths (the Hepialidae) who all have elongated wings held close to the body when at rest and no mouth parts. 
The Orange Swift is the second type of Swift moth we've had here, the other being the Ghost Swift. Orange Swift larvae eat docks, dandelion and bracken and they over winter twice as caterpillars before pupating into adult moths. They are reasonably widely-distributed in the UK and frequent gardens, so you may well have them in yours if you're UK based, I just don't see them here all that often, which makes them special.

Other Mothy Folk who came a-visiting include....

Common Wave

Coronet

Canary-Shouldered Thorn

Early Thorn

Garden Pebble

Lots of Lesser Broad-Bordered Yellow Under-Wings

Maiden's Blush (my all-time favourite moth name)

Our Old Friend The Poplar Hawk (x2)

Poplar hawk

Sharp-Angled Carpet (new for the year)

I've got rid of all my guests and caught up on the washing, which means life is starting to resemble something like normality again. They were all lovely and no trouble at all, but I still ended up in bed and snoring by 9pm from all the cooking, cleaning and simple talking. I must be getting old!

Aside from that and the moths, I'm busily collecting seeds from the garden and our local nature reserve (for which I have permission). I am planning on doing a post about that sometime this week - once I've got my Daubenton Bat survey done and dusted....

I've written the majority of this post with Poppy curled in a ball asleep on my lap, which isn't really big enough to hold her safely. I've been trying to balance her against the table and my tummy with my feet up on their toes for balance to make my lap flatter. This is not the most comfortable position in the world, nor the most sustainable. As a result I am now twisted and contorted into the most unnatural shape while she is completely blotto. She's as snuggly as a pussy cat though, so I don't really mind.

Hope you all have a peaceful evening,

CT :-)

18 comments:

  1. I do love the coloration on these moths, especially the Mocha and Maiden's Blush. To me they look like faded, antique watercolors. And that is a very interesting take on distribution - using the underlying geology to help map them out. Mind. Blown. It makes so much sense!

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    1. They are very like faded water colours; a lot of moths have an antique patina type look which I love. And yes, I am feeling a bit dim for not having considered geology as a distribution guide for moths properly before. I know you get chalk species of butterfly, just hadn't made the leap for moths. Doh!

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    2. Damn Casey that's a beautiful description you used there. CT, like Casey I was surprised at the use of geology to map their ranges but it does make perfect sense.

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    3. We've all learnt something new today, Pirate John :-) Funny how small nocturnal creatures can teach us so much.

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  2. Ooh a lovely selection of moths and well done a a couple of new ones too. The names are fascinating (I know I always say that) and I have to wonder at who thought of them....every time. My insect, plant and bird books are all packed away in boxes and I have no idea where...I should have kept them to one side. Glad to hear you have caught up after the guests and holiday.

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    1. I really feel for you being separated from your ID books. Mine are never far away and I even took four of them on holiday! You've given me an idea- I'd like to know why and how moths get their names too: I shall investigate and report back my findings :-)
      I'm back out butterfly surveying again as of next week, so the Clouded Yellow competition will be back on with a vengeance! x

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    2. I'm so cross I missed getting a photo of it, will have to go back to Brixham to see if I can find it again, do you think it'll be too late as it's a lot cooler?

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    3. They should still be flying- my books says Aug-Sept is the best time to see them. If you've got chalk or clover near you that's their preferred habitat, although they can be found all over. Good luck- hope you manage to get a pic, then at least one of us will have recorded it this year! x

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  3. Lovely, lovely, lovely. I have been away Then back. Then away. Then back again. Happy but exhausted! It must be such a thrill to see something new. I have been collecting seeds from the garden too, and was going to maybe post about it soon. Perhaps I'll leave it to you;)
    Leanne xx

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    1. Hello lovely! Hope the hols are progressing well. I was only thinking of you the other day and wondering how you were getting on, so it's lovely to hear from you.
      You must def do a seed post then we can compare :-) xx

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  4. Well done on the Mocha - what a really beautiful moth and a great species to find in the trap. Getting more Orange Swifts here this year than usual - in fact have found about 5 in the house and had to release them. Must be a good year for them here at least :)

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    1. I was thrilled to see it. We don't see many Swifts here so that's interesting about yours. I'll keep more of an eye out here. :-)

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  5. Beautiful selection of moths! I particularly love the Coronet. Can I just ask, what is the title of your moth bible? I thought my id book was quite good but there have been a few recently that I couldn't name.

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    1. Hi Petra, thanks for stopping by :-) My moth bible is a 'Field Guide To The Moths Of Great Britain And Ireland' by Waring, Townsend & Lewington. A micro moth guide is also available in the same series. Very comprehensive and easy to use.

      Another good resource is the hants moths website 'flying tonight' page, which is mightily useful for seasonal moths, even if you're not hants based: http://www.hantsmoths.org.uk/flying_tonight.php

      Finally, the other resource I use is the UK moths website: http://ukmoths.org.uk/ although you have to know which moth you've got for that one. Hope that's all useful.

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    2. Thanks :) That's actually the book I have too! I'm guessing that there will be very minor aberations on moths so they may not look exactly like those in the book? I did see the micro moth guide too but feel that I need more time to get to know the larger ones first!

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    3. There can be very significant colouration differences between the same species which makes them confusing to ID with certainty. Ispot is a useful resource if you've got a photo of something but aren't sure what it is. I agree about micros- a minefield!

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  6. So fascinating as always!! I hope that you and Poppy and Teddy are enjoying lots of hugs! xx

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    1. Thanks Amy :-) Yup, always spend hours every day being distracted by those doggy people! xx

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Thank you for leaving a comment. I always enjoy reading them and will try my best to reply to every one. CT x