Category: Mothing


Common Quaker

Hebrew Character

Two wee beauties from Sunday night’s and last night’s trappings respectively, my first two successful trappings of the year.

The WB100 is earning its stripes! Click on the photos to view them in high-res on Flickr.

More about them on the Log.

Common Quaker and Hebrew Character bring the year list to…
2013 MOTHS: 10


Merry Easter!

The retreating snow unburdens the lawn

The retreating snow unburdens the lawn

Merry Easter everybody!

It may be the last week of March, but in the UK and particularly here in Nornia and in Scotland, the white dragon of winter has mounted a late attack, making it more like Christmas than Easter, and even then not very festive for the hundreds of families suffering power outages, 16ft snowdrifts and huge losses of livestock.

The snow fell about half a foot to a foot in my garden but a few days of sunshine is thawing it well. The daffodils got a bit flattened by the weight but are mostly OK, with the petals pushing through and not far off blooming. Leafburst has been well underway on the elder and the roses for weeks, and are both now awaiting the onslaught of aphids. The black aphids which came to the elder last year provided a good amount of honeydew which the moths went mad over, including a Peach Blossom, so I’m hoping this year is a repeat!

There’s a bit to catch up on from this past month, and this will probably be my longest post for a while – or should be, since it’s That Time Of Year again, when exams take over and lepidoptery takes a hit. Most of my major exams are over by the second week of June, but anyone who follows this blog knows how hollow some of my promises to write-buckets-when-I-have-the-time have been! So we’ll see how things go.

Big changes are happening in my life this year, most notably I’m moving to St Andrews in September to take a four-year biology degree (with a bit of physics and chemistry on the side). Before that, I’m going to Switzerland. For a two-week mountaineering expedition. In July, when it could well be total lepidopteran overload. It hasn’t quite sunk in yet…

Back a bit… my first macro of the year

A few weekends ago I was in Ballintoy at our school Christian Union weekend. As we were leaving the hostel on the Sunday morning our guest speaker Sam Scott called me over to see something on the wall…

Pale Brindled Beauty

Pale Brindled Beauty

Here's lukin at ye

Here’s lookin at ye!

It was a moth!! My first macro moth of the year, and one I had never seen before – a beautifully-marked Pale Brindled Beauty!

Another pretty special mothy moment.

Back a bit further… Projects 29A and 31A

In one of my posts last year, “Where was I?“, I gave a short taste of what I was doing for about a week in August – going out early to inspect moth traps with recorder Andrew Crory in Murlough, then spending a few hours looking around bushes for leaf mines and larger caterpillars. It was the maddest, mothiest time of my life and I made 351 records in August alone! Only a few found their way onto The Caterpillar. But there were two caterpillars in particular that got much less attention on the blog than they should have.

After helping inspectthe traps one morning, I started out on my walk. I found two little Stigmella confusella caterpillars in a birch leaf, which I collected (but in the end had no success rearing), and then further up the path I dislodged a tiny caterpillar from a hawthorn bush:



On closer inspection, it was not only tiny but very funky indeed. So that’s what I called him.

Later on in my walk, I dislodged another tiny caterpillar from another hawthorn bush…

Coxcomb Prominent caterpillar "Smiley", 10 Aug 2012


On closer inspection, it was not only tiny but very smiley indeed. So that’s what I called him!

It took me a while to figure out what they were, but Funky turned out to be a Brimstone Moth while Smiley was a Coxcomb Prominent. Safely in a pot, they ate a lot of hawthorn and by September had turned into…

Funky... and big!

Funky… and big!

Coxcomb Prominent caterpillar "Smiley", 6 Sep 2012

Smiley, and big… but lost his eyespots!

These very impressive caterpillars then pupated for the winter, and here they are now, in the insect cage I borrowed from school (and will have to leave back at some point because I’m leaving in under 3 months…)

Funky and Smiley!

Funky and Smiley!

Funky (the Brimstone Moth) spun a cocoon under a leaf above soil level in the jar, while Smiley (the Coxcomb Prominent) burrowed into the compost and made a cocoon there. And there they pupated. You can just see Smiley’s red-brown abdomen showing through where I opened the cocoon.

Of course, I’ll need to re-bury Smiley’s cocoon as the moth will probably need a good struggle on his way out to get the haemolymph flowing. Hopefully the weather will warm up soon and they’ll be out! Whether they’ll make it back to Murlough is another matter.

And back to the present

Today, I went into the back garden primarily to take that photo of the cocoons, but also to have a look for any lepidopteran life on the rose bushes. And whaddya know?

Who is it? Who is it?

Who is it? Who is it?

The unmistakable bright banded green of a caterpillar peeked out from behind a newly-unfurled rose leaf. It was déja vu, an Angle Shades caterpillar on the same plant on which I had found my very first Angle Shades caterpillar (“Rosebud”, project 3A) three springs ago.

So what’s this one going to get called? Well, quite simply, “Angie”.

Say hi to Angie! Angle Shades ~ Phlogophora meticulosa

Say hi to Angie! Angle Shades (Phlogophora meticulosa).

The first project of 2013 begins.

Ongoing projects:
Project 29A: Brimstone Moth in pupation stage
Project 31A: Coxcomb Prominent in pupation stage
Project 3B (New!): Angle Shades in larval stage

Pale Brindled Beauty and Angle Shades caterpillar bring the year list to…
2013 MOTHS: 2, 2e, 1t 

And finally, a shout out: huge congratulations to Alastair Herron (a friend of mine from right here in Nornia) who just got offers from Harvard and Princeton. Some of you American folks mighta heard of them… 😀

Mompha subbistrigella (Garden Cosmet), at home, 20 Feb 2013

The Garden Cosmet (Mompha subbistrigella) – only 6mm long, a very welcome harbringer of spring, in our upstairs loo!

Omitting details of my activity when I discovered it (in the upstairs toilet), I will say that I was very, very pleased to see this little chap.

A Garden Cosmet, Mompha subbistrigella, my first adult moth of 2013!

Hey, it is the year of release (relief?)! (Wee inside joke for the DP team :))

Mompha subbistrigella (Garden Cosmet), at home, 20 Feb 2013

Blending in with the sparkling reflections from the obscured-glass

After a tricky (but successful) photo shoot involving a torch – and a magnifying glass blu-tacked to my camera lens – I released him in the back yard.

Going to a talk by Don Hodgers on the insect life of County Louth and further afield, tomorrow night on the Malone Road, Belfast, at 7:15 pm. For anyone interested, check out the Butterfly Conservation Northern Ireland facebook page or their website – anyone is welcome to come along!

Mompha subbistrigella makes the year list…
2013 MOTHS: 1, 1e, 1t 

(that’s 1 as adult [M. subbistrigella], 1 in early stage [S. aurella], 1 as trace [S. anomalella])

Pink-barred Sallow, Murlough NNR, 20 Oct 2012

The fantastic Pink-barred Sallow, nectaring on ragwort at Murlough.

In my last post I presented three photos of lovely moths but didn’t have time to say much about them.

Aaaand I still don’t! But here’s a brief synopsis of the fabulous weekend the moths were photographed on.

The Belfast Naturalists Field Club and Butterfly Conservation organised a joint outing at Murlough National Nature Reserve last Saturday. 3 Mercury Vapour Robinson traps and 1 Blacklight Heath trap were set out in the woods around Murlough House on Friday night and on Saturday morning at 8:00 I arrived on my bicycle to watch as the traps were opened.

The sheer variety of moths was fantastic. I’ll have to post a list of all the species I saw, but not now! I was also going to post all the photos here, but instead – here’s the link to my set on Flickr. Below are some of my favourites from the day – click on them for high-resolution versions…..

Peach Blossom, Murlough, 26 May 2012

Peach Blossom

Emperor Moth female

A rather old and tattered, but still beautiful, female Emperor Moth. She laid some eggs in the trap which I released later in Murlough.

Elephant Hawkmoth

PINK ELEPHANTS!!! The magnificent Elephant Hawkmoth

Is there a pink theme going on here?

Early Thorn

Early Thorn

And finally two from the walk later in the day. A freshly-emerged Narrow-bordered Bee Hawkmoth…

Narrow-bordered Bee Hawkmoth

A dream come true to get this close to one of these. Once it starts flying all those lighter-brown scales fall off to leave a clear wing with brown borders.

And we’ll end on a butterfly!

Marsh Fritillary

A glorious Marsh Fritillary, probably a male.

What a fantastic weekend. Coupled with Monday night’s trapping (I’ll have to do a post on that) it brings my moth year list to 85 and my butterfly year list to 13! The new-for-year butterflies were the Marsh Frit, Green Hairstrak (only the second year it’s been seen at Murlough) and the Small Heath, all of which are photographed on the Flickr set.

And with 18 minutes left on the laptop battery, I’d better stop.

Barred Umber, by SamuelMillar153 on Flickr

Barred Umber

Peppered Moth, by SamuelMillar153 on Flickr

The famous Peppered Moth, an example of natural selection – but not, I would argue, evolution!

Least Black Arches, by SamuelMillar153 on Flickr

Least Black Arches – a macro-moth smaller than quite a few micro-moths!

Photos from the traps at the BNFC/BCNI outing at Murlough on 26 May 2012. Thanks to Ted Rolston, Pamela Thomlinson and Catherine Bertrand.


Micropterix aruncella, Glencairn Park, 21 May 2012

Micropterix aruncella, Glencairn Park, 21 May

This week has been blessed with heavenly weather across the UK. To wind down after my AS Chemistry practical exam on Monday, I took to Glencairn Park where warm and mostly cloudy conditions made ideal dayflying-micro-spotting conditions. I bagged no less than four new species for my list [NFM]: Micropterix calthella, Micropterix aruncella, Psychoides filicivora and the Nettle-tap Anthophila fabriciana.

Cryptic Wood White, Cinnabar and Ancylis badiana showed up too, all [NFY]! (“New For my Year list” for anyone unfamiliar with mothing terminology.)

Psychoides filicivora [NFG] (New For Garden) showed up again as I was putting the 25W Blacklight trap out in the garden last night. It sat on a rosemary plant for a photo shoot but didn’t come to the trap when it went on. Probably for the best – the dew on the trap is pretty dangerous for micros and flies, they tend to get stuck to the lid and perish!


Some light fog rolled in overnight but the morning revealed:

Ancylis badiana : 1
Silver-ground Carpet : 1

and a couple of unidentifiable micros (one too fast, the other too bedraggled)

Common Pug : 1 [NFY]
Spectacle : 1 [NFY] Not a Dark Spec! What????
Silver-ground Carpet : 2
Mompha subbistrigella : 1 [NFY]
Grey Pine Carpet : 1 [NFY][NFG][NFM] 
Common Marbled Carpet : 1

All in all my best catch so far this year!

Grey Pine Carpet, trapped in garden 22-23 May 2012

Grey Pine Carpet, with a sticky-up bottom

Grey Pine Carpet  and too many micro-moths to list again make it:
2012 MOTHS: 24

Cryptic Wood White boosts the butterfly total to:

The usual moth craic

Endrosis sarcitrella, 5 Apr 2012


Due to a run of cold or wet nights recently, I haven’t been putting my moth trap out. But last night didn’t seem too bad, so I decided to give it a whizz. As I was finishing setting up, I looked at the lit kitchen window and found two White-shouldered House Moths, Endrosis sarcitrella (this photo from my trapping session on 5-6 Apr). Now, I realise most people are not fond of clothes moths (even some moth enthusiasts squish them) and I can understand why. But even though it’s like counting feral pigeons on your bird transect, I record all the WSHMs anyway. It gives a more accurate picture of how frequently I see different species.

I realised just now that I haven’t actually taken time to explain my rationale behind moth trapping. In fact, I haven’t actually explained how it works!

The key thing is, insects, including most moths, are attracted to light, especially UV light. (Why that doesn’t make them fly towards the sun all the time is beyond me. Furthermore, scientists don’t have a definitive answer to why they are attracted to light at all.) So if you want to find out what moths are in your garden, you can set up a UV lamp with some kind of container that the moths will fall into when they bump into the lamp.

The moth trap I built was based on a design by a local Butterfly Conservation branch member. Instructions for building it can be found on the BCNI Resources page.

Oh yes. What did I find in the trap this morning?


Sorry if the suspense is killing you, because all there was was…

Hebrew Character: 1!

Hebrew Character, 29 Apr 2012

If I don't be creative with these Hebrew Character photographs they will take over the blog.

Trap Report 6 Apr 2012

A mainly cloudy night from 5-6 Apr produced just one moth in the trap on Friday morning, but a year tick for me:


1 Endrosis sarcitrella White-shouldered House Moth (NFY)

I’ve created a new ‘Moth trapping’ category in but I’m not yet decided if I want to clog up the blog with trap reports (which some readers might find boring). As long as I put a photo or two on each post it shouldn’t detract from the aesthetics.

In any case, I report all my catches on the Back Garden Moths forum.

A proper catch

Hebrew Character, 24 Mar 2012

My First Alphabet

I put the moth trap out for its first all-night spin over Friday night. When I checked on the trap in the morning I found it covered in dew. Opening it up I found the expected infantry of flies… and then, crouching in the corner of an egg crate, the first moth to actually come into my trap.

It was a Hebrew Character, a new ‘tick’ for me. Judging by the feathery antennae, I’d say it was a male.

As I cleared up the trap, I found a second, rather bedraggled-looking Hebrew Character, sitting on the grass at the edge of the old shower curtain which I had laid out as a groundsheet.

Hebrew Character, 24 Mar 2012


Quite cool.

2012 MOTHS: 5
life list: 138