The Sallow Kitten Larvae are continuing their rapid growth and have all now moulted into their 2nd instar, they all behave differently, some choosing to spend the daylight hours resting others not. The 'resters' all adopt different positions, some with heads up, tails down and together and others, head down, curled into the body.
Chard, 28 August
Bob Box reports an Elephant Hawkmoth larva on his Fuchsia in a Chard garden. These spectacular larvae are or will soon be fully grown and are worth looking out for - they feed on Willowherbs, Fuchsia and Bedstraws,
Elephant Hawkmoth 5th instar larva © Bob Box 2011
Langport, VC6, 27 August 2011
Another poor night, temperature down to 8˚C, but there was one Silver Y and my first Rush Veneer Nomophila noctuella
of the year.
Manor Road, Taunton
A wet night last night kept the number of species down to 14 but I did get my first Old Lady and Orange Swift for the garden. Large Yellow Underwings are on the increase with 61 last night out of a total of 123 moths.
August has proved to be rather a dull month here moth wise but in the last few days we have had Hedge Rustics, Feathered Gothic and Dark Spectacle. Also the Broad-bordered Yellow Under-wings have reappeared after their usual period of aestivation.
Langport, 23 August
Trapping here is pretty dire at the moment; the only good point seems to be a big increase in the number of Jersey Tiger which seems to be spreading and increasing.
Caterpillars are proving much more interesting. We have two Hummingbird Hawkmoth larvae on our garden Lady's Bedstraw which is surrounded by nectar plants.
Fourth instar Hummingbird Hawkmoth larva
It's worth looking at patches of Lady's or Hedge Bedstraw on south-facing banks for these larvae - and for Bedstraw Hawk larvae (spectacular beasts!), following the reports from Peter Tennant and from Portland. I found two in North Wales in 1973, a year when they spread right up to NW Scotland.
Bedstraw Hawkmoth (Hyles galii) 5th instar larvae, Morfa Harlech NNR, Wales, August 1973
Looking at William's image of the Sallow Kitten larva reminded me that the 'tails' of this group are actually modified hind prolegs (when they defaecate the 'tails' are lowered). It's worth looking out for mature Puss Moth larvae - there are still a few around.
Puss Moth larva threat display
Also, this morning, I had a 'phone call from Geoffrey Rose in Wrantage about a colony of Buff-tip larvae in his garden. He found them on an ornamental cherry tree, about to moult. In order to reduce damage to the cherry he transferred half of them to an ornamental willow (Kilmarnock Willow, a weeping cultivar of Goat Willow). The transferred larvae are feeding and interestingly when he measured them this morning those on the original foodplant averaged 4cm long while those on the willow tree averaged 6cm long. This is the opposite of what I would have expected!
Mature Buff-tip larvae
The Sallow Kitten Which I had in
the trap on the 16th
layed several eggs on the trays and
the trap's box. These have now hatched
and are feeding happily on grey willow.
They are charming little creatures and
have an interesting threat display when disturbed -
even when by another larva, they move their
elongated tails up and down and flick their
heads from side to side this lasts for about
10 - 15 seconds, I particularly like their
little yellow prolegs which contrast with the brown
of their bodies.
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East Lydford 18/8/11
A Humming-bird Hawkmoth on Verbena bonariensis (a real butterfly/bee-magnet flower if ever there was one) the other day (only my fourth record here) and this morning a Bordered Beauty in the window which must have come into the house last evening (only my third record here). Otherwise not a lot to report, as I haven't done very much trapping for the last week or so.
Cypress Carpet on 17th August in garden trap (Yeovil)
like others I have noticed numbers in the trap have been tailing off recently, but firsts for the year recently were sallow kitten, common marbled carpet, Orange Swift, Common Wave and Magpie as well as an abberant (orchard?) ermine. Also of note have been records of moths from taunton with both scarlet and jersey tigers straying onto the outfield at the county cricket ground.
On a visit to Steart N.N.R. last evening a Large Tabby was found in one of the bird hides, this is some way from the habitat indicated in the guide book for Pyralid moths and a little bit late in the year.
Despite a couple of promising nights moth numbers have dried up here. It's just possible we are in a bit of a temporary dip with several common moths having peaked and still waiting for the large numbers of Flame Shoulders, Setacious Hebrew Characters and Large Yellow Underwings to come on the wing. What I am missing here is Wainscot Moths. I don't think I have yet got into double figures for either Common or Smokey.
Recent firsts for the year include Oak Eggar, Black Arches and Dogs Tooth.
Jersey Tiger - newly emerged?
I found this Jersey Tiger in my garden this morning perched near the base of a fern. It's the first one I've ever seen perched with the wings up like a butterfly and I wondered if it was newly emerged. Later it was sitting with the wings flat as is the norm. I found a caterpillar of Jersey Tiger earlier in the year so they do breed here.
What appeared at first to be a poor night due to the cool temperature and attentions of the Local Blackbirds despite my early start was saved by 2 firsts for the year, tawny speckled pug and one of my favourite moths - a Garden Tiger a much awaited first for the garden in the adult form - I found a larva a few years ago.
To add to the comments about campsite loos I am glad that I'm not the only one who looks for moths there when the occasion arises. I saw my only ever Lace Border at the toilet block at Burton Bradstock beach about 10 years ago and at about the same time was impressed bby the number of Rosy and Muslin Footmen in the loos at Bossington. I have since been told by Robin Clatworthy that the last Somerset Buttoned Snout was found in the same block.
I was slightly disappointed by numbers last week. The weather never really seemed to be as humid and overcast here as elsewhere in the country. I am still catching lots of the most common moths with Dark |Arches and Common Rustic having their best ever years but I do seem a bit short of numbers on some of the less common moths especially the Geometridae.
Ian's post on campsites encourages me to mention that I have found many caravan parks to be somewhere between tolerant of and enthusiastic about moth-trapping (at least with actinics - MV would probably be another matter).
Nothing rare to the garden trap recently though Dark Arches seems to have had a particularly good year. Another species to be doing well is Shaded Broad-bar which I am disturbing by day in unusual numbers.
Dragonflies - a plea for records
The British Dragonfly Society is currently in the middle of the recording phase for a new national atlas, finishing after the 2012 flight season. I've recently taken over as recorder for VC5 (yes, I know I live well into VC6...). Unfortunately, we have very few records away from the Levels (Langport/West Sedgemoor area) and I would very much appreciate records from BDS members - especially from the Blackdowns, Exmoor and the Yeovil area. Please send them to me at kifill22"at"hotmail.com (replace "at" with @).
These are interesting times for dragonflies in Somerset. Probably as a result of rising temperatures, species are spreading into and across the county from east to west. Brown Hawker and Scarce Chaser are recent arrivals in VC5 and the former, especially, seems to be spreading rapidly.
Frome and ablution blocks
3rd Aug was a good moth night for my Frome garden with first site records of Tissue, Dusky sallow, Cloaked minor and Brussels lace.
Also last weekend was good for campsite ablution blocks with Small Scallop, Black Arches and Garden Tiger near Spaxton and Chevron, Grass Emerald amongst other near Winsford. But you can only do so much creeping around toilet blocks with digital cameras without looking very suspicious!!!
On the night of 1st August I caught a rather interesting little plume in the garden here in Weston identified as Oxyptilus laetus. This rare migrant turned up in the country about 4 weeks ago being recorded in the West and in Ireland with a second wave coming through in the last few days where 3 were recorded at Portland and 1 taken by day in the Forest of Dean in addition to my record. According to literature the moth flies in several successive generations until October so it's worth keeping an eye out.
Just had two new species confirmed by Bill and James: Silky Wainscot on 12.07.11 and Sclerocona acutellus on 28.07.11 (3rd Somerset record)
Yesterday afternoon we were delighted to see a Jersey Tiger resting on our house wall. Recently we have had a number of firsts for the year - Copper Underwing, Oak Nycteoline, Oak Hook-tip, Tawny-speckled Pug, Pretty Chalk Carpet, Poplar Grey, Straw Underwing and two lifetime first for me Double Lobed and Triple-spotted Clay. The garden trap has been very full with 60 to 80 species a night.