Wednesday, 22 July 2009


Moths came under the spotlight at the park on Tuesday 21st, when members of the Essex Moth Group made their annual visit to Cudmore Grove. Six light traps were dotted about the edge of the car parking area and despite the threat of rain, it stayed dry for a rewarding evening. The breeze died down just after darkness fell and the temperature appeared quite warm. There was a good showing of moths up until midnight but later on the breeze picked up, the skies began to clear and less moths appeared after midnight.

At least 90 species were recorded with 70 macro-moths and 20 micro-moths noted. The tally is just below that of last year's meeting when 100 species were recorded, although there were two more traps last year and the weather conditions were muggier and cloudy.

This garden tiger moth was one of the stars of the night although for the second year running, it made its appearance after everyone else had gone home. When the moth is alarmed or touched, it flashes open its wings to reveal the dark orange hindwings, as in the picture above. It was discovered at dawn in the one trap left running through the night. Just the one individual was noted last year and this one here will probably be the only one this year. This once common moth has declined sharply in recent years.

This light brownish and furry moth caused a bit of excitement as many members hadn't seen a ground lackey before. It's found around the saltmarshes on the coast where the caterpillars feed on plants such as sea lavender and sea purslane. It is listed as nationally scarce and also a red data book species for Essex and if our saltmarshes keep being eroded away, then the moth will become even rarer still.
The colourful caterpillars have been seen in recent years here at the park and one adult has been noted at the trap before. For a good camparison the common lackey moth was also seen on the night.

Two pine hawkmoths were noted, this one pictured above being the better marked of the two. Just after midnight a very worn elephant hawkmoth was found and then at dawn a poplar hawkmoth was seen too.

This colourful individual is the rosy footman wih its peachy pink colours and the black squiggle marks on the wings. It was nice to see it here again as the last one recorded here was three summers ago. Amongst the other footmans seen were dingy footman, common footman and scarce footman.

Whilst checking the trap at dawn this one was potted up for a closer look and was later identified as a lunar thorn which has not been seen at the park before. One of its close relatives the early thorn had already been noted in the trap but the markings and the general colour of this lunar were different. In typical thorn behaviour, it kept its wings upright like a butterfly.

The biggest of the moths to come crashing into the traps were a couple of these oak eggars. This is another of those brown and very furry moths. Before this female was released back onto the park, she had laid a few eggs in the container, just as other females have done in previous years - so definitely an eggar species!

Charles Williams took this impressive close-up of one of several drinker moths that were seen on the night. The picture shows the striking pattern of the feathered antennae, which this male will use in trying to track down the scent given off by female drinkers.

Some of the other moths seen on the night included riband wave, small scallop, least carpet, V-pug, latticed heath, peppered, swallow prominent, maple prominent, pale prominent, coxcomb prominent, chocolate-tip, ruby tiger, kent black arches, 5 species of yellow underwings, cabbage, marbled brown, silver Y, lunar-spotted pinion, dun-bar, copper underwing and lots of dusky sallows.


John said...

Cracking photo's and esp the Drinker Moth. Moth's are amazing to study.

Well done.

Dougal Urquhart said...

I shall tell my friend Charles how much you enjoyed his Drinker photo. It's certainly an impressive set of antennae the moth has!