Moths: Winter 2020/2021
Two moth related Zoom sessions coming up on March 10th and April 1st.
The Observatory organises regular Zoom courses on Wednesday evenings and Zoom talks on Thursday evenings. There are two coming up which relate to moths:
Wednesday March 10th 2021 – An introduction to Moths and Moth Recording by Sally Hunter
Thursday April 1st 2021 – An A to Z of Sandwich Bay Moths by Ian Hunter.
Details and the link to obtain tickets are on the main observatory page.
ALSO: Kent Moth Group are holding a free meeting on Saturday 6th March. Click below for information and how to join the meeting.
The wind continued to limit the catch to a couple of moths. However last night the wind dropped and before it cleared and got cool there were better conditions. With this plume of wind from the south and Saharan dust on the cars there was great interest to see if any insects got drawn up as well. At some times of the year this can result in quite exotic visitors. Well we did not make exotic but we did catch a Turnip. This is a common moth in summer being both resident and an immigrant. The earliest previous record for us was April 12th.
The wind continues to be the limiting factor as out of the wind the temperature stays in double figures overnight. There were five moths at Sandown Road. These were two new Hebrew Characters, another Oak Beauty, a Common Quaker and a Dark Chestnut.
Third time lucky! After two blank nights there were actually three moths in the Sandown Road trap – two Hebrew Characters and an Oak Beauty. At the Observatory the first trap of the year contained Early Moth, Satellite, Common Quaker, two Dark Chestnuts, and two March Moths.
More and more sites are starting to catch at least a few moths and with the temperature forecast to remain in double figures the Sandown Road trap was activated. However the forecasts did not take in to account the strength of the wind which was still gusting in the 20’s. It did remain around 10°C out of the wind but no moths graced the trap.
Summary of 2020
Some interesting facts from looking at the moth data for this year (though there’s still more to come in). We logged over 8,000 macro records comprising 43,000 individual moths and 3,500 micro records comprising 10,500 individual moths over the course of 2020. There were 374 macro species (our joint 3rd-best year on record) and 424 micro species (almost 100 more than last year and likely our best year ever). Most astonishing were the 53 new species recorded (this includes several macro species as well), plus three late additions from 2018 and 2019.
We are very grateful to those people who have sent us their records or have helped by doing gen dets. It was a very successful year despite following all the restrictions.
We can only hope that things will improve and more people will be able to enjoy the great variety of flora and fauna around here.
More records continue to come in from moth trappers that visited earlier this year. Coleophora saxicolella, Coleophora ibipennella, Scrobipalpa artemisiella, Acleris notana, Mompha sturnipennella, and Caloptilia cuculipennella were all recorded for the first time at Sandwich Bay whilst Coleophora saxicolella was the first for 60 years.
A trap was set in the carpark last night with promising southerly winds, mild overnight temperatures, and little moon. Only seven moths were caught though. There were three Winter Moths, a Chestnut, Acleris hastiana, Epiphyas postvittana, and Crocidosema plebejana.
More results from mystery micros over the summer. This time it included two probable firsts for East Kent (Coleophora vestianella and Trifurcula eurema) and a first for Kent (Phalidonia udana). The latter has only recently been separated from P. manniana. It has a different foodplant – Loosestrifes.
Interesting news from earlier in the year. Two moth identifications have been confirmed. One was our first record of Rhopobota stagnana and the other is Kent, and our first, confirmed record of Cnephasia pumicana.
The MV trap was run in the carpark last night and two actinics were placed in The Elms. The resulting 25 moths was good considering the time of the year. The majority were Winter Moths with seven December Moths in second place. Also recorded were Chestnut, Dark Chestnut, and Red-green Carpet. A few of the large Winter Moths were scrutinised for possible Northern Winter Moth but alas this species still evades the Sandwich Bay list.
We haven’t been setting the moth trap recently but it might be tempted out again if the weather remains mild. A trip to Middle Field did discover larval feeding signs of Phyllonorycter lantanella on Wayfaring Tree though. The last few days has mostly been spent entering and tidying up all the moth data for the year. It has been an excellent year for diversity and lots of scarce species recorded, including over 30 new species for Sandwich Bay.
With thick cloud and little breeze the Sandown trap was activated. Surprisingly all the catch was of micros. It included a Diamondback, a Rusty-dot Pearl, an Epiphyas postvittana and an Acleris hastiana. They are just keeping going until frost gets them.
There was a Silver Y but it was on the road down to Royal St Georges.
My concern about the temperature was well founded as it dropped a bit further to 1.5°C and a layer of frost formed.
If there was a moth in the trap it was a new species with fantastic camouflage and I missed it.
After a Silver Y and a Diamondback in the Sandown Road trap last night the car park trap was back in action tonight. However I do not hold out a lot of hope as the temperature (3°C) is already below the minimum forecast and its not even the end of Strictly.
It remained breezy but the temperature did not drop below 12°C and so there was some moth activity. The Sandown Road trap held two more December Moths, two Silver Y’s and singles of Oak Rustic, Pine Carpet and Large Wainscot.
The forecast does not sound suitable for at least the next couple of nights.
The forecast was for continuing mild weather with the night time temperature not dropping out of double digits and the wind from the south.
It was not quite like this as the night started with rain and the breeze was fresher than expected. However, the Sandown Road trap did yield this years first December Moth plus a Large Wainscot and another Setaceous Hebrew Character.
A recent paper in Atropos magazine described the establishment of the fact that the species we thought of as Fern is actually two species – Fern and Cryptic Fern. We have had both Cryptic Fern (9th and 12th August) and Fern (25th June) confirmed. Our previous records will all have to be changed to Fern agg. though.
A mild night, possibly the last for a few days as strong winds approach, but very little activity. Sandown Road managed just a Silver Y and a Large Wainscot.
Very interesting news from earlier in the year with gen dets revealing our first records of Elachista freyerella (7/9/20), Coleophora Glaucicolella (25/6/20), and the very scarce migrant pyrail Psammotis pulveralis (8/8/20). There will be more posted on the quiet days.
Last night was clearer and comparatively cool. The Sandown trap was quieter with just two Rusty Dot Pearls possibly related to migration. The Observatory trap held just seven moths but did include another Radford’s Flame Shoulder.
A quick look at the fallen Aspen leaves in Little Gully discovered the distinctive leaf mine of Ectoedemia argyropeza, a new species for Sandwich Bay.
Another two traps at the Observatory last night but with slightly less on offer. There still a good number of Rusty-dot Pearls around but best were two Scarce Umbers. The species is not common at all Sandwich Bay with less than ten records, so to get two together on one night is unusual.
The night had started overcast and with showers which kept it warm for the time of year but it did clear and cool a bit.
Down the road there were two more (different) Oak Rustics, a Silver Y, a Diamondback and four Rusty-dot Pearls.
The conditions looked promising for overnight migration so two traps were set at the Observatory. There were 91 moths in the carpark (an excellent tally this late in the season) but just 19 in a separate trap by the feeders. Migrant totals from the two traps comprised singles of Radford’s Flame Shoulder, Gem, Delicate, Dark Sword-grass, plus three P.vitrealis and 31 Rusty-dot Pearls. Mottled Umber was also new for the year.
Sandown Road chipped in with single Silver Y, Turnip, White-point and another Oak Rustic plus two more Rusty Dot Pearls. A couple of late-ish Mallows were not a surprise but Beaded Chestnut and Setaceous Hebrew Character were even later.
Another mild night with less breeze. There were eight moths of six species, only one of which had been recorded the previous night. Oak Rustic was new for the year. There was also two each of Rusty Dot Pearl and E. postvittana and single Feathered Thorn and Grey Shoulder-knot.
The wind moved into the south but was unexpectedly cool feeling. The trap on Sandown Road yielded two Diamondbacks, two Large Wainscots and three Epiphyas postvittanas. If the forecast is anywhere near accurate moths will trickle on for at least a few more days.
After several days of high winds and/or rain at night, plus the previous nights operator error (I switched the wrong bit on!), it was good to get the trap in action. The wind calmed and it was a beautiful clear night with a bright moon. The temperature dropped to 2°C. The trap was packed full of a Red-line Quaker and a November Moth agg.
The macro season seems to be coming to a frustrating end with some regular species (as at the start of the season) not being recorded. With lockdown starting the next months trapping in the car park will depend on the residents.
It is just as well that despite the wind there are still trees with leaf on and so our Warden can keep leaf-mining.
A little spell looking for leaf mines in The Elms produced Ectoedemia occultella and Phyllonorycter coryli larval signs on Silver Birch and Hazel, respectively. The former has not been recorded here since 1996. It was also interesting to hear that the Coleophora tamesis that was confirmed recently was the first record of this species in Kent!