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A REVIEW OF SOME BUTTERFLIES AND MOTHS IN SUFFOLK DĂœRING THE PAST FIFTY YEARS. BARON DE W O R M S

It is indeed a privilege to have been invited to contribute to the Jubilee volume of the Suffolk Naturalists' Society, of which I must count myself as one of its oldest members, having been elected in 1933. Not only do I well recollect some of its earliest members interested in the lepidoptera of the County, but I was also a fairly frequent visitor to it, even in pre-war days, to study the occurrence and distribution of these insects within its boundaries. There are few years in the post-war period when I have not been in Suffolk for this purpose. That is why I think it is an appropriate time to make a survey of the present status of this group of insects compared with their past prevalence in Suffolk. But before reviewing a good many species in this field it would also seem opportune to say something about the leading figures, mainly of the Naturalists' Society who did so much to put Suffolk on the map as regards its butterflies and moths. The most outstanding among these was doubtless our Founder and Honorary Secretary tili his death in 1952, the redoubtable Claude Morley, whom I met on many occasions. He was indeed a most colourful personality and at the same time a somewhat controversial one, whose appearance and manner smacked well of the last Century, as all who visited him at his home at Monks Soham will remember. But he was a delightful and entertaining companion in the field. Though his main interest was the huge family of Ichneumon flies, he took a great interest in the lepidoptera and initiated the catalogue of them in Suffolk, which was published in 1937. Three most eminent authorities on these insects acted as authors, all living for many years in the County. The butterflies were undertaken by D r . Herbert Vinter whom I never met, while the larger moths were covered by Canon A. P. Waller whose work at Waldringfield added so much to our knowledge of these creatures in the County, and it is a happy thought that this tradition is being carried on to the third generation in his family. The Right Reverend Dr. Whittingham, who was Bishop of St. Edmundsbury and Ipswich in the period just before the last war, contributed his great knowledge of the microlepidoptera. I well remember meeting this small, Trans. S u f f . Nat. Vol. 18

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b e a r d e d figure in the Breckland area and at Wicken F e n , of w h i c h he was a great f r e q u e n t e r . H e used to enlist the help of s o m e of the clergy of his diocese in search of these small c r e a t u r e s . A n o t h e r most important m e m b e r tili he left the C o u n t y in 1953 was P. J. ( " J i m " ) B u r t o n , who lived some t w e n t y years at L o w e s t o f t , w h e r e he practised as a dentist, dying in 1970. H e did a great deal in the years following the w a r p r o m o t i n g t h e study of the lepidoptera of the C o u n t y , o f t e n in the Company of C l a u d e Morley, with whom he and myself m a d e several startling discoveries which will be duly m e n t i o n e d . A n o t h e r k e e n lepidopterist w h o lived just before t h e w a r at Y o x f o r d was the late Col. Hawley, w h o added several i m p o r t a n t records to the County list, as did William S t o r e y at G r e a t Bealings where he lived f r o m 1969 tili his d e m i s e in 1975. H a p p i l y t h e r e are still quite a n u m b e r of newcomers, mcluding y o u t h f u l a m a t e u r s , who are carrying on the good work as well as several residents of long Standing. For the butterflies of S u f f o l k t h e r e is no greater authority than Sam Beaufoy who has m a d e a lifelong study of t h e m , while a m o n g the m o t h s o u r T r e a s u r e r H . E . Chipperfield contributes annually on this subj e c t , including the microlepidoptera, as does Charles Pierce of N e e d h a m M a r k e t . G e o r g e Baker of R e y d o n near Southwold has also d o n e m u c h over the years to f u r t h e r these interests, so t h a t the o u t l o o k for the C o u n t y is indeed encouraging as r e g a r d s t h e conservation a n d study of its butterflies and moths. N o w f o r a survey of these insects themselves with an insight into t h e status of quite a n u m b e r of the m o r e local species as well as into any increase in their distribution during the past half Century. But sad to r e p o r t also t h e r e has been a diminution o r e v e n total loss of a good m a n y species. In the 1937 C a t a l o g u e the total n u m b e r of species just exceeded 1,500. D o u b t l e s s quite a n u m b e r have b e e n a d d e d since t h e n , especially a m o n g the smaller ones, but this figure can be offset by q u i t e a r e g r e t t a b l e n u m b e r of losses in the last forty years. S t a r t i n g with the butterflies, in these Transactions M r B e a u f o y p u b l i s h e d in 1970 a most erudite r e s u m e of the State of the butterflies of Suffolk c o m p a r e d with that of twenty-five years e a r l i e r in 1945, a n d it reads as a very sorry story with the disa p p e a r a n c e of several of the most spectacular insects for no a p p a r e n t r e a s o n . A m o n g these are all five fritillary species w h i c h used to glide freely during the s u m m e r through many w o o d s in the C o u n t y . A m o n g these was the high-brown fritillary, Argynnis adippe L., once wide-spread in Suffolk, Trans. S u f f . Nat. Vol.

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especially in the Breckland, tili 1959 which seems to have been, perhaps with its very fine and hot summer, a year of death for not only this species, but it also apparently saw the last of the two smaller ones in the County, the large pearl-bordered, Clossiana euphrosyne L., and the small pearl-bordered, C. selene L. This too was the last year in which the silver-washed fritillary, Argynnis paphia L., was recorded and also that splendid insect. the purple emperor, Apatura iris L., in Raydon Wood where I saw it Aying in 1955. Even the white admiral, Limenitis Camilla L., is no longer sailing gracefully about Bentley Wood where it was so numerous ir. the 1950's. These habitats do not seem to have changed so it is difficult to account for these disappearances. Fortunately on the positive side, such butterflies as the speckled wood, Pararge egeria L., hardly known in the county when Morley wrote in 1937, have now become quite common and the same can be said of the comma, Polygonia c-album L.. But another fine nymphaline seems to have gone the way of the fritillaries, notably the large tortoiseshell, Nymphalis polychloros L.. Suffolk was once its main home in the British Isles and I well remember in 1946 when at Easter it was quite numerous round Southwold and Blythburgh, and in the summer of that year when I was again with Jim Burton we found it once more on the wing and even pupae hanging under a shed roof at Fritton Lake. This fine insect does not seem to have been seen much after 1955. A m o n g the smaller species, especially the blues, the silver-studded, Plebeius argus L., is still plentiful on Martlesham Heath and near Westleton, but appears to have virtually died out from the Blythburgh district where it was so numerous in the immediate post-war years. Two hairstreaks, the purple, Thecla quercus L., and the green, Callophrys rubi L., still seem to be quite prevalent in the county, while the white-lettered, Strymonidia w-album Knoch, is to be found very locally. Of the five species of skippers from Suffolk the most interesting is the Essex skipper, Thymelicus lineola Ochs., for which new localities are turning up every year. and 1 well remember finding it Aying freely near Mildenhall. A few sporadic migrant butterAies are worthy of mention. The pale clouded yellow, Colias hyale L., was a frequent visitor to East Suffolk up to 1950, but since then, as in other parts of Britain, this insect has seldom been observed. However, another more spectacular butterAy, the Camberwell beauty. Nymphalis anliopa L . , has indeed made its presence known. Though quite a number have been reported in the county over the Trans. S u f f . Nat. Vol. 18 partl.


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y e a r s , n o t h i n g m a t c h e d t h e invasion of the E a s t C o a s t by this g r a n d species d u r i n g A u g u s t a n d S e p t e m b e r 1976 when at least nine sightings were r e c o r d e d in Suffolk. I r e m e m b e r my i n c r e d u l i t y w h e n M r . Tait wrote m e that a large butterfly with a y e l l o w b o r d e r flipped o v e r his Shoulder while he was Walking a l o n g t h e H i g h S t r e e t in S o u t h w o l d in late A u g u s t . A f t e r that r e p o r t s f l o o d e d in of this butterfly f r o m all parts of t h e c o u n t r y tili o v e r 300 w e r e reliably r e c o r d e d , a figure not rivalled since t h e e v e n g r e a t e r immigration in 1872 of N. antiopa. T u r n i n g to t h e large n u m b e r of m o t h s that inhabit Suffolk, o n l y s o m e of t h e local specialities c o m e within the scope of this p a p e r , t o g e t h e r with s o m e n e w c o m e r s and rare visitors over t h e p e r i o d u n d e r review. T h e C o u n t y f o r this p u r p o s e can be d i v i d e d m a i n l y into two parts, the western fringe comprising t h e B r e c k S a n d , while on t h e east coast t h e r e are the rieh m a r s h l a n d s . In b e t w e e n t h e r e is, of c o u r s e , a large a r e a w h e r e c e r t a i n i n t e r e s t i n g species have a p p e a r e d . Beginning with t h e B r e c k l a n d r e g i o n , t h e r e a r e f o u r species of m o t h s which are virtually p e c u l i a r to it. F o r e m o s t a m o n g these is that pretty n o c t u i d , t h e v i p e r ' s bugloss, Anepia irregularis Hufn., which u s e d to be a b u n d a n t w h e r e v e r its special f o o d p l a n t the Breckl a n d catchfly, Silene otites, flourished. B e f o r e the last war the m o t h could be seen in n u m b e r s Aying over this insignificant p l a n t just a f t e r d a r k and its larvae w e r e f o u n d plentifully on it in A u g u s t . B u t with the a d v a n c e of cultivation a n d depletion of t h e silene, the insect has of late b e c o m e e x t r e m e l y scarce a n d possibly extinet as n o o t h e r a r e a has h a r b o u r e d it. A similar tale can be told of the tiny noctuid, t h e spotted s u l p h u r , Emmelia trabealis Scop.. This little m o t h used to be a b u n d a n t in t h e vicinity of Mildenhall w h e r e it could be flushed by day a m o n g g r o u n d convolvulus, its larval plant. But f o r s o m e r e a s o n it has steadily declined in the past 25 years a n d it is d o u b t f u l if it still exists in Suffolk or Britain. F o r two o t h e r species a m o n g the g e o m e t e r s t h e r e is b e t t e r news. T h e g r e y c a r p e t , Lithostege griseata Schiff., can still be f o u n d sitting on g r o u n d looking like a small white s t o n e a m o n g its larval f o o d p l a n t , the flixweed, Sisymbrium, while t h e little t a w n y w a v e , Scopula rubiginata Hufn., has t u r n e d up a b u n d a n t l y in t h e a r e a in recent years in new localities as well as in s o m e on t h e east coast of t h e C o u n t y . T w o o t h e r small g e o m e t r i d m o t h s , usually very local, still occur in this region, t h e royal m a n t l e , Euphyia cuculata Hufn., a m o n g yellow beds t r a w a n d t h e o b l i q u e - s t r i p e d , Mesotype virgata Hufn. T h e p o p l a r s r o u n d M i l d e n h a l l have always b e e n a n o t e d head-

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quarters for the autumn noctuid, the pale lemon sallow, Cirrhia ocellaris Borkh., and in a marsh in that vicinity the mere wainscot, Arenostola fluxa Hübn., was discovered to occur commonly just before the war. Two other noctuids, normally very scarce, were quite numerous in the Breck in 1978. These were the square-spotted clay, Amathes stigmatica Hübn., and the lunar yellow underwing, Euschesis subsequa Hübn., now very rare in Britain. In the 1960's it was plentiful for a short time round Walberswick, migrating to this grand marshy region of the County which harbours so many species peculiar to this terrain. It was in 1950 that Jim Burton and myself found that both the white-mantled wainscot, Nonagria neurica Hübn., and Fenn's wainscot, Arenostola brevilinea Hübn., inhabited almost every reedbed between Southwold and Dunwich, whereas in the 1937 Memoir there were hardly any Suffolk records and the latter species was supposed to be confined to the Norfolk Broads. Both insects still occur freely in this area as does the flame wainscot, Meliana flammea Curtis, apparently unknown in the County before the war. The silky wainscot, Chilodes maritima Tausch., appears there in its many forms together with the powdered wainscot, Simyra albovenosa Borkh., and Webb's wainscot, Nonagria sparganii Esp., which has been found to occur over a wide area. Leaving the marshes for Kessingland, the water ermine, Spilosoma urticae Esp., almost unknown to Morley, was found there commonly by Jim Burton and nearby, also by him, probably the most northerly limit of the ground lackey, Malacosoma castrensis L., together with an occasional Kent black arches, Nola albula Schiff., of which there was only one recorded in 1937. In other parts of Suffolk the pine hawk, Hyloicus pinastri L., has greatly increased its ränge in the past thirty years and about 1950 the advent of mercury vapour light has much enhanced the attraction to it of otherwise rare species. In 1961 I saw at my apparatus no less than sixty small elephant hawk, Deilephila porcellus L., on the chalk near Barton Mills when the maple prominent, Lophopteryx cucullina Schiff, also appeared as it has done in many other regions of the County. This moth was virtually unknown to Morley, while its relative the plumed prominent, Ptilophora plumigera Schiff., is not in the 1937 list but was discovered by the late E. W. Platten in 1938. In 1957 it was abundant among maple during November near Needham Market where it has been seen often since then. A n o t h e r insect seldom seen in the County before Trans. S u f f . Nat. Vol. 18

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mercury vapour is the alder moth, Apatele alni L., now known frequently f r o m several localities. The same can be said of the buff f o o t m a n , Eilema deplana Esp., which was in great n u m b e r s in 1975 in Dunwich Forest where it was discovered by Col. Hawley in 1937. By that year only one alder kitten, Harpyia bicuspis Borkh., had been recorded for Suffolk. In 1973 it was seen in numbers near Waldringfield by Mr. Alfred Waller. It has also since then turned up freely on the Norfolk B r o a d s . T h a t large noctuid the butterbur, Gortyna petasitis Doubleday, has been found in numbers among its foodplant in most places where it exists in the County. Two geometrids merit special mention in this section. These are the tiny pale ochraceous wave, Sterrha ochrata Scop., which still flies on the sandhills at Thorpeness, one of its few known localities. The o t h e r is the barberry carpet, Pareulype berberata Schiff., which used to be found only near Bury St. E d m u n d s but has almost died out owing to the destruction of its foodplant. A t t e m p t s have been made to transfer the species to another spot where this rare plant occurs. In the concluding paragraph I have thought it of interest to summarise most of the rarities and unexpected visitors to the C o u n t y during the last fifty years, most of which have been e n u m e r a t e d in these pages. A m o n g the newcomers have been two examples of the scarce chocolate-tip, Clostera anachoreta Schiff., with one at Waldringfield in 1956 taken by Canon Waller and another at Southwold in 1976 recorded by Mr. Clarke. Only a handful of this moth has been seen in Britain since 1920. T h e year 1965 saw the record of two remarkable insects for Suffolk. In August Mr. Austin Richardson had a specimen near Walberswick of the foreign form Arenaria Lempke of the speckled footman, Cocinia cribraria L., much paler than the resident form from Dorset. The number of these from Britain is still in single figures. In July of that year a small moth a p p e a r e d at light at Thorpeness for Mr. E. Pelham-Clinton which turned out to be new to the British Isles. It has been named the shaded fan-foot, Zonclognatha tarsicrinalis Knoch. A n o t h e r specimen was taken in that area by D r . A . A . Myers in 1967 so that it may be widespread and o v e r l o o k e d . In the next year 1966 there were two further surprises with an example of the concolorous wainscot, Arenostola concolor Guen., also at Thorpeness, an insect virtually confined to the fens round Huntingdon, while at Walberswick was taken a golden spangle, Plusia bractea Schiff., essentially a northern and western species in Great Trans. S u f f . Nat. Vol. 18 part 1.


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Britain. T w o other extraordinary records for the County were a waved black, Parascotia fuliginaria L., taken by Prof. Sir John Dacie from Walberswick in 1959, an insect seldom seen north of the Thames, and in 1968 the Rev. Guy Ford took in his garden at Norton near Bury St. E d m u n d s a Rannoch looper, Itame brunneata Thunb., which as its name implies is a denizen of the Scottish Highlands. Occasionally migrants of this species visit our southern counties, possibly from the Belgian Ardennes. In 1969 also at Norton he had our largest noctuid the clifden nonpareil, Catocala fraxini L. Morley only recorded a single example of the little scarce black arches, Celama centonalis Hiibn. It reappeared in 1964 at Thorpeness to the light of the late Mr. S. Wakely. The present decade has also seen the arrival of some unusual visitors. A white-banded carpet, Euphyia luctuata Schiff., was taken at Lakenheath in 1971, the tirst for the Eastern Counties. It has extended its ränge greatly since it first appeared in the South just after the war. T h e striped hawk, Celerio livornica Esp., never numerous as a migrant in eastern Britain came to the trap of the late William Storey at Great Bealings in 1974. In 1969 he had seen there the white-speck wainscot, Leucania unipuncta Haworth, with only one previous record in the 1937 Memoir. This insect again a p p e a r e d at Walberswick to Mr. Chipperfield in the great immigration in the autumn of 1978. Finally, another speckled f o o t m a n was noted by Mr. Waller at Waldringfield in 1973. This saga of Suffolk butterflies and moths gives a somewhat selective picture of their present status in the County compared with that depicted by Claude Morley over forty years ago. Indeed the outlook is far from discouraging in spite of the apparent loss of some of the choicest species so that we may well wonder what their overall prevalence and distribution will be when the Society celebrates its centenary. The hope is that there will still be plenty of these insects to engage the attention and study of survivors tili that day rather long hence. Baron de Worms, M.A., Ph.D., F.L.S., F.R.E.S., Three Oaks, Shore's Road, Horsell, Woking,

M.B.O.U., Surrey.

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A review of some butterflies and moths in Suffolk during the past fifty years  
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