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A REVIEW OF BRITISH LEPIDOPTERA FOR 1968 BARON DE W O R M S

a mild Start to the year a bleak and unpropitious spell set in during February which put the season well back and it was not tili towards the end of March that the sallow blossom was fully out. T h e last few days of the month brought some very spring-like and warm temperatures which tempted out the hibernating butterflies in plenty, especially the Commas, the Peacocks, and the Small Tortoiseshells. A Large Tortoiseshell (Nymphalis polychloros Linn.) was seen on the outskirts of the New Forest at this time. It is well-known that this fine insect has become very scarce in recent years, even in the Eastern Counties, once its stronghold. Early April saw the appearance of the first Whites, but the Orangetip (Anthocharis cardamines Linn.) was not out tili nearly the end of April when the Scarce Prominent (Odontosia carmelita Esp.) was recorded fairly commonly in the south of England. But the season met with a rude shock with one of the coldest months of May this Century. The two smaller Fritillaries, the Pearlbordered (Clossiana euphrosyne Linn.) and the Small Pearlbordered (C. selene Schiff.) only began to emerge at the end of May, a very late date for the former butterfly. AFTER

It was at this period that several collectors visited the Welsh locality for the Rosy Marsh Moth (Coenophila subrosea Stephens) where the handsome blue and green larva was found feeding in some numbers after dark on bog-myrtle. From them some fine specimens were bred out in August when the wild imagines of this species appeared at light even more abundantly than in 1967. June was a much better month with plenty of sunshine during the first half, though the season was as yet devoid of migrants. But a remarkable change started during the third week of June. Insects came in unusually large numbers to light and among these were the Water Ermine (Spilosoma urticae Esp.) in Kent and Sussex, the Alder Kitten (Harpyia bicuspis Borkh.) in parts of South Wales, the Alder Moth (Apatele alni Linn.) in the Wye Valley district and the Scarce Merveille-du-Jour (Moma alpium Osbeck) in East Kent. This local abundance was the prelude of better things to come. As will be well remembered, July opened with one of the hottest days of recent years with the thermometer at over 90°F. in the shade. Early that morning took place an amazing phenomenon, a freak rainstorm bringing with it a peculiar yellow dust which covered everything over a wide area in southern and eastern England. That very night some of the commoner migrant species of moths were recorded at light-traps and it was presumed they had been carried by high wind currents possibly all the way from


BRITISH LF.PIDOPTF.RA

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the Sahara whence this dust storm was supposed by the meteorological experts to emanate. The first migrants to appear were the Small Mottled Willow (Laphygma exigua Hübn.), the Bordered Straw (Heliothis peltigera Schiff.), and the Vestal (Rhodometra sacraria Linn.), while shortly afterwards some much less frequent insects were reported. These included the Ni Moth (Plusia ni Hübn.) and the tiny noctuid, the Small Marbled (Eublemma parva Hübn.) of which some tvventy were recorded over most of the south of England from Cornwall to Surrey, which was the ränge of most of the other species mentioned, though some, especially the Bordered Straw and Small Mottled Willow found their way further north to the Eastern Counties and the Midlands. Following this inrush it was the middle of July when a most spectacular and large Noctuid moth found its way into a light-trap at Pulborough, Sussex. It turned out to be Rhyacia lucipeta Schiff., a species emanating mainly from Southern Europe, but a most remarkable addition to the British List. About this period too there seems to have been an influx of Painted Ladies and Red Admirals from the Continent. A single specimen of the Death's Head Hawk (Acherontia atropos Linn.) was noted in the Isle of Wight with several seen later in the month and in early August, while a magnificent Oleander Hawk (Daphnis nerii Linn.) was found at Sheffield at rest with two more in East Kent during the third week of July. The well-known Pyrales, the Rush Pearl {Nomophila noctuella Schiff.) and the Scarce Olive-tree Pearl (Palpita unionalis Hübn.) also appeared during this amazing migrant period. Meanwhile in spite of the unfavourable weather in the eastern half of England during the main part of the summer many butterflies were on the wing in fair profusion, in particular the Chalk-hill Blue (Lysandra coridon Poda), also the first brood of the Adonis Blue (L. bcllargiis Rott.) and the Marsh Fritillary (Euphydryas aurinia Rott.) in June. Two examples of the little Nolid moth, the Scarce Black Arches (Celama trituberculana Bosc. = centonalis Hübn.) were taken in July on the Suffolk coast again, while another surprise for this county was a female Marsh Moth (Hydrillula palustris Hübn.) and the Rannoch Looper (Itame brunneata Thunb.). The fine summer months, especially July and August, in the western parts of the British Isles, in particular in Ireland and the Highlands, helped to increase the numbers of Painted Ladies and Red Admirals and there was quite a good showing of the Clouded Yellow (Colias croceus Fourc.). It was also a good year for Peacocks and the Comma. As usual the later months brought with them a further spate of migrant species. At the end of August and early in September several Camberwell Beauties (Nymphalis antiopa Linn.) were seen in Surrey and Suffolk, evidently arriving from some parts of the Continent, but the Convolvulus Hawk (Herse convolvuli Linn.) seemed unusually


Suffolk Natural History, Vol. 15, Part 1 scarce and there were very few Humming-bird Hawks (Macroglossa stellatarum Linn.). Two of the rare Plusias were taken in the West Country in September, the Scarce Burnished Brass (Plusia aurifera HĂźbn.) in the Scillies and two of the Scarbank Gern (Plusia limbirena Guen.) in Cornwall where the Cosmopolitan Wainscot (Leucania loreyi Dup.) also reappeared. But by far the most spectacular capture during this month was an example of the Scarce Arches (Apamea zollikoferi Freyer) which came to light on the east coast of Scotland and is probably the first British specimen of this eastern moth for some thirty years. It is especially interesting in this connection that the species was also taken in Finland after the same interval of years which indicates a general migration westwards from its normal habitat on the steppes of Russia and in Siberia. But it was not tili the autumn was well advanced during October that the most remarkable immigration took place in the appearance along the south coasts of England and of Ireland of the Monarch Butterfly (Danaus plexippus Linn.). At least thirty were recorded from the Scillies to Sussex and they apparently arrived at the same time as a number of American birds which seems possibly to indicate a direct migration from the other side of the Atlantic, though the Canary Islands and Madeira are much closer habitats whence they may have flown. No such numbers of the fine insect had visited our shores since 1933. The Silver-Y (Plusia gamma Linn.) was seen in profusion in parts of Cornwall in early September, but the general numbers of moths Coming to light, which had been exceptionally large during the summer, seemed to fall off abruptly just after the great rainstorm and floods in the south and east, the middle of that month and the autumn period proved somewhat disappointing for the night-flying species in general. The capture of a Silver-striped Hawk (Hippotion celerio Linn.) at rest in Folkestone early in November was the last notable event in a most interesting and in many ways a very memorable year for our lepidoptera. Baron de Worms, M.A.,

F.R.E.S., Three Oaks, Shores Woking, Surrey.

Road,

A Review of British Lepidoptera for 1968  
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