Friday, 8 July 2011

Tiger and Hawk Moths (and others) in Cornwall - July 2011

Another weekend in Cornwall, and with no chance of doing any bird ringing, and not much happening on the birding front, it was again time to get out the moth trap. It always makes the neighbours chuckle when I run the moth trap in Boscastle as it reminds them of a film that was partly filmed in the village, called Saving Grace, it was about a woman growing cannabis, and using lights that were very reminiscent to my moth trap...worth a look if you get a chance. Obviously I am only interested in the moths!

We were in Cornwall for two nights, and the weather looked good, so I thought I would try both nights, and was rewarded with 38 and 40 species, respectively. Most of the species caught were run-of-the-mill species that I normally catch at home, such as Heart and Dart, Dark Arches and Spectacle, but included a few more unusual species for me such as Grey Arches, Plain Golden Y and True Lover's Knot.

Spectacle, Boscastle - July 2011

The haul included colourful individuals such as Garden Tiger, a species which can be very abundant, but I have only ever caught five in one night. The adult moth has one generation, flying in July and August; they fly late at night and are readily attracted to light.

Garden Tiger Moth, Boscastle - July 2011

Three species of Hawkmoth were also in the trap, Eyed, Poplar and Elephant. All three species are common but the pink and olive green Elephant Hawkmoth is the most distinctive. The adults have a long flight season which extends from May through to early August. The pupae are most often found on Great or Rosebay Willowherb.

Elephant Hawkmoth, Boscastle - July 2011

Two species that I had only previously encountered once before, were Broad-barred White and Marbled Coronet. Broad-barred White is a resident species which usually inhabits vegetated coastal dunes, shingle and disturbed rough grassland, so not really sure what its doing on the cliffs in northern Cornwall.

Broad-barred White, Boscastle - July 2011

Marbled Coronet is classified as a Local species of open grassland on calcareous soils, especially on the coast. The species flies from May through to early July, and in total I captured three over the two nights, so obviously a more common species in Boscastle than in my Hampshire garden, where I have caught just one in 12 years.

Marbled Coronet, Boscastle - July 2011

Another species captured was the Drinker moth, with two caught on the second night. The female, pictured below, is larger than the male and is usually coloured deep yellow through to very pale buff. Males are usually warm reddish brown in colouration, with yellowish patches, but the species is variable.

Drinker Moth , Boscastle - July 2011

Surprisingly, the majority of the moths captured were larger macro moths, although some micro species were captured. Celypha striana and Chrysoteuchia culmella were relatively abundant with double figures captured and a single Diamond-back Moth was in the trap. But another micro species and one that I don't see very often was Udea prunalis. This is a common species that is normally associated with blackthorn, with the larvae feeding on the leaves of Woundwort, Dog's Mercury and Honeysuckle.

Udea prunalis, Boscastle - July 2011

Not all of the moth species encountered over the weekend were in the moth trap, a stroll around the cliffs produced several Scarlet Tigers. A copulating pair of moths was located in the cliff top grassland. This is another species which is classified as having a Local distribution and is associated with marshy ground, river banks and water meadows.

Scarlet Tiger, Boscastle - July 2011

Most of the moths encountered were high up on the cliff tops and not in the river valley, which is apparently their preferred habitat. The food plant of the larvae is Comfrey, Nettle, Bramble and Meadowsweet.

Scarlet Tiger, Boscastle - July 2011

Other selected species recorded included Buff Arches, Lackey, Purple Clay, Cabbage Moth, Ingrailed Clay, Purple Bar, Sharp-angled Peacock and Dot Moth.

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