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NOTES AND COMMENTS ON SOME SUFFOLK MOTHS IN 1992

M. R. H A L L

What seems to be the typical pattern of East Anglian springs was repeated again in 1992. Irrespective of temperature and conditions during daylight hours the first hint of darkness brought Clearing skies and plummeting temperatures, and frustration for all hoping to attract and record moths. Even with such early season set-backs the number of people sending in records is increasing year by year and such enthusiasm is greatly appreciated. All records are important, whether they are comprehensive lists from Single sites, Single night details from a special habitat, casual observations or any other information about the moths (or their caterpillars) seen in Suffolk, as they add to our knowledge of a very important indicator group in wildlife monitoring. The cyclical pattern of appearances referred to in previous 'Notes and Comments' was again apparent in 1992. The clouded drab, Orthosia in Hufn., the lackey, Malacasoma neustria Linn., and the lesser broadbordered yellow underwing, Nociua janthina D.&S. were all less numerous than in previous years. On the other hand there were more broad-bordered yellow underwings. NoctuafimbriataSchreb., noticed and the prolonged appearance of both the red twin-spot carpet, Xanthorhoespadicearia D.& and the Chinese character, Cilix glaucata Scop., has led to speculation abou a third brood during the late summer and early autumn. The treble lines, Charanyca trigrammica Hufn., also seems to be more abundant at the present time. A much less common species, the peacock, Semiothisa nota Linn., which is associated with Sallow, Blackthorn or Alder and is found locally in southern England and East Anglia, was recorded from Brandon (MH), the King's Forest (RE), and Hollesley (RSL who also recorded the sharp-angled peacock, Semiothisa alternaria Hb.) One of our most notice but frequently mis-named, micro-moths, the white plume moth, Pterophorus pentadactyla Linn., was much less in evidence than usual. This small whit feathery-winged moth is to be seen almost everywhere that the larval foodplant Convolvulus is found and its weakflightat dusk has caused it to b incorrectly called a ghost moth. Conversely, the twenty-plume moth, Alucita hexadactyla Linn., which also has divided wings but is not related to the whi plume moth, has become common (AW). A particularly interesting Pyralid, Apomyelois bistriatella HĂźlst., whose larva feeds on a fungus known as Cramp Ball or King Alfred's Cakes, Daldinia concentrica, growing on burnt gorse, was recorded from Southwo (St. Felix School, DL/AP). This moth is reputed to be very local in Surrey, Hampshire, Dorset, Devon and the Isle of Wight, and this is a new county record for Suffolk. Another uncommon Pyralid, Palpita unionalis, which is usually recorded as an autumn migrant, was trapped at Minsmere (RC). There was a good number of migrants noted in 1992 with hawk-moths well represented. The most frequently recorded was the convolvulus hawk-moth, Agrius convolvuli Linn., which was spotted at Minsmere (RC), Brampton Trans. Suffolk Nat. Soc. 29 (1993)


NOTES AND COMMENTS ON SOME SUFFOLK MOTHS IN 1992

23

(LB-L), Oakley (TH-W), Ipswich (EL) (LS), Boyton (NM), Wetherden (TL), Woolverstone (Mrs. G l ) , Shottisham ( A M ) , and Lowestoft (Mrs.G2). T h e bedstraw hawk-moth, Hylesgallii Rott., was also recorded at Minsmere ( R C ) . The day Aying humming-bird hawkmoth, Macroglossum stellatarum Linn., was recorded from Hollesley (RSL), Ipswich (Mrs.K), Felixstowe ( N O ) and ( B W ) , Long Melford ( R M ) , and Minsmere (RC). Three migrants, the vestal, Rhodometra sacraria Linn., the great brocade, Eurois occulta Linn., and the delicate, Hythiana vitellina H b . , were recorded at Nowton by Rafe Eley who also trapped Blair's mocha, Cyclophora puppilaria H b . , in the King's Forest. T h e bordered straw, Heliothis peltigera D . & S . , was recorded from Barrow ( A P ) and Hollesley (RSL). A closely related species, the marbled clover, Heliothis viriplaca H u f n . , which has come to be regarded as a Breckland species in East Anglia, with its larvae feeding on a variety of flowers and seeds, was recorded f r o m the King's Forest ( R E ) but also from Ellough Heliport (MP). This site also produced two other species, the alder kitten, Furcula bicuspis B o r k h . , and the lunar thorn, Selenia lunularia H b . , which although widespread in their distribution, are local in occurrence and very little mentioned in current Suffolk records. Regulär recording in the King's Forest ( R E ) also produced the yarrow pug, Eupithecia millefoliata Rosl., which until 1991 has not been recorded in Suffolk, and the cream-spot tiger, Arctia villica britannica O b . , which is having a revival at the moment. T h e cream-spot tiger was also recorded at Barrow ( A P ) , Brandon ( M H ) and Mildenhall (M&JB). T h e Mildenhall records also included the tawny wave, Scopula rubiginata H u f n . , which was noted f r o m several sites in 1991, Freyer's pug, Eupithecia intricata arceuthata Freyer, whose larvae feed on various Cypress trees and is associated with these trees in parks and gardens (it was also recorded at Icklingham in 1991), and the yellow belle, Aspitates ochrearia Rossi, which is to be found in both the Brecks and coastal habitats where the larvae feed on Buck's-horn Plantain, Plantago coronopus L., and probably other low plants. It was recorded at Felixstowe (Languard, N O ) together with other regulär coastal species like the mullein wave, Scopula marginepunctata G o e z e , with caterpillars feeding on Mugwort and Yarrow; the brown-tail, Euproctis chrysorrhoea Linn., whose caterpillars can reach pest proportions (and was also recorded at Trimley M H and Hollesley RSL); and the feathered ranunculus, Euchmichtis lichenea Hb. This last species, with larvae feeding on a wide variety of wild and cultivated plants, was also recorded from Minsmere ( R C ) , was abundant through September and October at Hollesley ( R S L ) and, somewhat surprisingly, recorded from an inland site at Barrow, near Bury St. E d m u n d s (AP). Recorders at both Southwold ( D L / A P ) and Felixstowe ( N O ) noted the day-flying hörnet moth, Sesia apiformis Cl., whose larvae feed internally in Poplar wood. A n o t h e r day-flying species the speckled yellow, Pseudopanthera macularia Linn., was recorded at Brandon (PW) and although this moth is widespread through the north west of the county, with larvae feeding on Wood Sage and Yellow Archangel, it is rarely noted and must be greatly under-recorded. Another day-flying species which is also probably under-

Trans. Suffolk

Nat. Soc. 29 (1993)


24

Suffolk Natural History, Vol. 29

recorded is the broad-bordered bee hawk-moth, Hemaris fuciformis Linn., which was noted at Dunwich in May (GS). However, two records of the related narrow-bordered bee hawk-moth, Hemaris tityus Linn., need verification before they can be accepted as this species, with larvae feeding on Devil's-bit Scabious, is a much rarer insect and thought to be virtually extinct in the eastern counties. These two species can be distinguished by the large brown discal spot and broader terminal fascia (particularly noticeable on the hind-wing) of the broad-bordered bee hawk-moth, but any future sightings should be captured for expert confirmation. A species that is being regularly recorded away from its described habitat is the dotted fan-foot, Herminia cribrumalis Hb., which was recorded at St. Felix School, Southwold (DL/AP). Although said to inhabit marshes, where the larvae feed on various marsh grasses, it has been found well away from such sites on Breckland heaths. The occurrence of the star-wort, Cucutlia asteris D.&S., at the same site is a good record of a coastal species with larvae feeding on the flowers of Sea Aster. This species was also recorded from Minsmere (RC), Felixstowe (NO), and Hollesley (RSL). The black rustic, Aporophyla nigra Haw., which flies late in the year in September and October, with larvae overwintering on Heather and heathland grasses, was a new species for Hollesley. A related species, with very similar habits, the deep-brown dart, Aporophyla lutulenta D.&S., was also a new addition for the Minsmere list. One species, found in good numbers on the heathland areas of the Minsmere reserve, and which is only known from this part of the county, is the grass wave, Perconia strigillaria Hb. It had not been seen by Morley (although he knew of one record from Newmarket) and only previously recorded from Dunwich (1979) and Hollesley (1981). This fairly distinctive moth can be readily flushed up from heather, in the daytime, in June and July and any further probable records are eagerly awaited. Another species also recorded from the Minsmere reserve (RC/GH), but this time associated more with the wetter habitats, is the marsh oblique-barred, Hypenodes humidalis Doubl. This small, easily overlooked species, is local and sporadically distributed over Great Britain with its better known localities being the heaths of Surrey, Dorset and Hampshire, the turf moors of Somerset and the more northerly mosses and boggy moorland. A species that was confirmed as having 'returned' to Suffolk in 1992 is the small eggar, Eriogaster lanestris Linn. The very distinctive larval tents were recorded in June along a short Stretch of Hawthorn hedge in Lower Oakley ( M H ) , which is just across the river Waveney from a large number of similar nests in Norfolk, first noticed in 1991. It is likely that the species is also established in a similar Stretch of hedgerow at Ixworth Thorpe (NG) but confirmation needs to be made in 1993. Anyone operating a light trap will usually add useful and interesting information to our knowledge of the activity and movement of moths, especially if the light is operated virtually every night (and it doesn't have to be a 'special' mercury vapour light, an outside light on the house wall is very effective). This is borne out by the record from Arthur Watchman of a pale brindled beauty, Apocheimapilosaria D.&S., which came to his light on the

Trans. Suffolk

Nat. Soc. 29 (1993)


NOTES AND COMMENTS ON SOME SUFFOLK MOTHS IN 1992

25

14th December 1992. This species is 'never' seen until late January at the earliest, and more usually in February. Such information is very valuable, as are all records of moths, so please send any you have (even that casual sighting) to the County Recorder, Arthur Watchman, Onchan, Back Lane, Monks Eleigh, Suffolk, IP7 7BA, or to the Suffolk Biological Records Centre, c/o The Museum, High Street, Ipswich, IP1 3 Q H . Acknowledgements I thank those recorders whose records have helped to compile this report: Mik & Julie Bentley (M&JB), Luke Broom-Lynn (LB-L), Russell Cryer (RC), Rafe Eley (RE), Nick Gibson (NG), Mrs. Gooch (Mrs. G l ) , Mrs. Gotts (Mrs. G2), Gerry Haggett (GH), Tim Hoit-Wilson (TH-L), Mrs. Kendray (Mrs. K), T. Langford (TL), Mrs. E. Leddley (EL), David Lees & Alan Pearson (DL/AP), N. Mason (NM), Richard Michette (RM), Audrey Morgan ( A M ) , Nigel Odin (NO), Mike Parker (MP), Adrian Parr (AP), L. V. Scurrell (LS), G. Shepherd (GS), Robert St. Leger (RSL), Bob Warren (BW), Peter Wilson (PW), and in particular Arthur Watchman (AW) whose detailed comment on species and general numbers is so valuable. M. R. Hall (MH) Hopefield, Norwich Road, Scole, Diss, IP21 4DY.

Suffolk names for fossils My query regarding the local name for Belamnites {Trans. Suffolk Nat. Soc. 28, 53) i.e. 'Did Suffolk country folk call Belamnites "thunderbolts"?' was answered by Eric Parsons, who referred me to George Ewart Evans' book The Pattern under the Plough. Evans recorded that Suffolk Belamnites were known as 'thunderbolts" or 'thunderpipes', and were often thought to be prehistoric arrows in some villages. Evans also mentions the internal casts in flint of fossil sea urchins. These fossils of the regulär dome-shaped echinoids such as Echinocorys spp. are often found when gardening or field Walking in Suffolk, where they were known as 'Fairy loaves', and sometimes as 'Farcy-loaves' (probably a corruption of "Pharise's l o a f ) . In my home county of Sussex we called them 'Shepherd's crowns' and cottagers would put them on a window ledge to keep out witches. They usually were effective in doing this. My colleagues at Broom's Barn Experimental Station often picked up these fossils and oddshaped flints which ended up on a window ledge; perhaps the sign of a folk memory! Editor.

Trans. Suffolk Nat. Soc. 29 (1993)


P l a t e 1: C o n v o l v u l u s H a w k - m o t h Agrius convolvuli), showing warning eye-spot; a frequent migrant in 1992. (p.22).

Notes and comments on some Suffolk moths in 1992  

Hall, M. R.

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