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THE (COMPLETED ?) BRITISH HISTORY OF THE MOTH.

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known as both " Norfolk Plover " and " Thick-knee, " has been common in all suitable situations. A couple of Turnstones (Strepsilas interpres, L.) were observed at Shingle-street in Hollesley on 8 May ; Dunlins (Tringa alpina, L.) were seen upon their spring migration ; and Redshanks (Totanus calidris, L.) have been peculiarly common on saltings and marshes. Curlews (Numenius arquata, L.) or " Whaups " were observed during the breeding season, and doubtless possessed nests; while at Orford fully two hundred and fiftv pairs of Terns (Sterna fluviatilis, Nau.) were noticed. Little Terns (S. minuta, L.), termed " Lesser Sea-Swallows," and Ringed Plovers (/.Egialitis hialicula, L.) called " Ringed Dottereis," have both been evenly distributed along our coast. T h e crested Grebe (Podicipes cristatus, L.) occurred on Bos Mere ; and many Slavonian Grebes (P. auritus, L.), which species is not uncommon as a winter visitant on our coast but has not been recorded here in its beautiful summer plumage, were observed during the autumn of 1931 on the River Deben.

THE (COMPLETED ?) BRITISH HISTORY OF THE MOTH, FIDONIA LIMBARIA. BY EDWARD W . PLATTEN,

F.R.H.S.

W ITH ruthless felling of timber, stubbing of undergrowth, and conversion of Nature's carpet into artificial tilth or gardens, the Englishman's Home is fast losing the peculiar charm of its pristine beauty. With eradication of such Flora necessarily disappear all Animals that were dependent upon it for their sustenance, not the least numerous of which are phytophagous insects. Because Suffolk has been the last British home of the above moth, it seems incumbent upon our Society to give some account of its history and almost certain extinction. I will say at once that I am indebted to many of our Members' assistance in the compilation of the following details ; upon me the task devolves, as the sole living captor. W hen originally describing his PhaLena limbaria (Syst. Entom. 1775, iii, 141), Fabricius states it to be an English species ; and it is referred to as such, with no note of restricted ränge, by all the older British a u t h o r s : e.g. Haworth's 1802 Prodromus,


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T H E (COMPLETED ?) BRITISH HISTORY OF T H E

MOTH.

Stewart's 1802 Elements, T u r t o n ' s 1806 System, and Samouelle's 1819 Nomenclature. T h e same species was first termed conspicuata in the 1776 Syst. Wien, and this name is perpetuated in Hübner's 1786 Beitrage Schmet. Harris' 1782 Exposition originated its English name of " Frosted Yellow " Moth, under which it is classified in 1913 (p. 62) by L. W . Newman who says it pupates in earth and sometimes remains in pupa for four years ; it was early known to occur in Broom-fields during July (Haworth, Lep. Brit. 1803, 286 ; Samouelle, Useful Com. 423). Stephens' 1829 British Catalogue employs at p. 114 Curtis' name Speranza (Brit. Entom. 225) for the genus and indicates S. limbaria, Fab., as having been captured within five-and-twenty miles of London. This was doubtless, as Wood (Index, 1840) says, " near Birch Wood, among broom in May and July " ; and Curtis himself states " there are certainly two broods in a year, as I have taken specimens in Birch Wood, Kent, in the beginning of May and at the end of July, and it is found as late as August. It is attached to broom-fields, and flies during the day : the female is the rarer sex." ' T h e great and learned Douglas ' in 1851 reported that it had formerly been plentiful among broom in Birch Wood, but was then extinct there (Barrett's 1901 Lep. Brit.). So ends the Kent locality.

T h e first hint that its ränge is at all restricted in Britain comes from Shield who, writing in 1855 (Pract. Hints, 78), teils us " Speranza conspicuata occurs among broom, Spartium scoparium, near Stowmarket."—Evidently after previous but unrecorded acquaintance with the moth, " M r . Bree [C. R. Bree, Esq., Stricklands, Stowmarket : p. 15] continues to meet with Speranza conspicuaria regularly in the neighbourhood of Stowmarket, and will be happy to catch specimens next summer for those in want of this pretty species " (Ent. Annual for 1855, p. 47). On 24 May 1856 Bree wrote that " on Fridav last I was hunting after the moth, which is much scarcer than it used to be in consequence of a great deal of the broom being destroyed. It will probably soon become extinct and applicants, in consequence of the notice in the Annual, will have to go without " (Ent. Week. Intell. i, 1856, p. 68). A year later, on 11 June 1857 he had " taken a fine series and shall supply all those disappointed last year. During the past six years [1850-6] I have supplied nearly every cabinet in England. I am glad to see other [unspecified] localities springing up ; it is, however, very local and does not occur in all places [about Stowmarket, obvious y] where broom is indigenous " (lib. cit. ii, 1857, p. 94). F.nally Crewe writes from the same town : " On 4 May 1858 I took one specimen and saw another ; last year I took my first on 11 M a y , " without note of rarity (I.e. iv, p. 51). N o earlier Suffolk captures are known.


THE (COMPLETED ?) BRITISH HISTORY

OF T H E MOTH.

7

Stainton's 1856 Manual shortly describes Fidonia (Speransa) limbaria, both in the June imago State, allowed an expanse of 11-13 lines, and in the larval, feeding from July to October on broom only ; he confines the British distribution to " Stowmarket, abundant; Dunkeid and Bridge of Earn." These two places are in Perthshire, as also is Pitlochrie, where Dr. F. B. White had previouslv found the larva (Barrett, Lep. 1901); but since that time it does not seem to have been found there. So end the Scots localities. DĂźring early May 1865, Skepper and Lingwood took " several dozens " among broom on " t h e Creeting H i l l s " ( E M M . 1866, p. 208 ; Ent. Ann. p. 156). T w o vears later it was discovered commonly at both Ipswich by Tim* Last (Entom. 1868, p. 331) and Colchester in Essex by Harwood (Ent. Ann. p. 119), who again took it there the next year, when Gill found it near Grays in that county during " August " (I.e. 1869, p. 139) and melanic forms occcurred to Button at Gravesend, a new Kent localitv in May (Entom. p. 129). Newman's 1869 Moths well describes Fidonia conspicuata in both the above stages, adding that the egg State lasts but ten days and the larva is fully fed about the end of August on Cytisus scoparius : such single-broodedness suggests degeneration of the British race, though he confusingly adds it " flies in July " : and omits all Scots record. Merrin's 1875 Lep. Calendar at p. 222 gives its cycle as : ova on broom in July ; larva on broom in August-September ; pupa September to May ; and imagines in June-July, ignoring the above " early May " of Skepper and two broods of Curtis. Summarising in 1901, Barrett considers Fidonia conspicuata, Schiff., to have been " very plentiful at Stowmarket and elsewhere in Suffolk, and in Essex and Kent, forty years ago : probably it still exists in isolated spots in these counties. Its destruetion seems in part caused by ploughing and burning the large broom fields which formerly existed . . . There is a record of its occurrence in Devon." This Devon record is not referenced ; and Mr. P. P. Milman of 14 Lower Conway-road, Paignton, in Devonshire, is good enough to teil me (in lit. 24 Feb. 1932) that it has never occurred there since 1901, and that the local Lepidopterists are agreed it was either an error of identification or a single accidentally blown speeimen. So ends the Devon locality. AH the localised examples in M r . Adkin's collection are from Ipswich " ; the late Mr. B. A. Bower, of Chislehurst had many ; and Mr. Morley has old speeimens doubtless also from Suffolk though lacking data, found in a cabinet he purchased in an Ipswich shop on 5 February 1896. Bloomfield in 1890 considered (<


8

THE (COMPLETED ?) BRITISH HISTORY OF THE MOTH.

Fidonia conspicuata (Lep. Suff. 29) to have become extremely local and throughout Britain almost confined to Suffolk, where he knew it as having occurred only to Garrett of Ipswich at B a r h a m ; to Crewe at Stowmarket; Lingwood and others at N e e d h a m ; and Henry Miller at Ipswich. T h u s we see the entire county distribution restricted along the Gipping Valley ; with the sole exception—ignored by Bloomfield and nearly certainly erroneous—of dealer King's record from Raydon Wood in 1851 ( T h e Naturalist 1858, p. 61). Later, Bloomfield remarks that it " used to be quite common about Ipswich half a Century ago [circa 1860], but it has been only thrice noticed during the last fifteen years, and may now be extinct " (Vict. Hist. 1911, 131). Actually, since 1890 occurrences are known from all the places then cited, except Barham During 1896 Norgate bred two imagines from larvae obtained on the east side of Stowmarket; two larvae were found by Miller during 1899 in " the old locality," which Sparke in 1904 explained as the Creeting Hills opposite Needham though that the latter found the species there is not p i a i n ; and in 1896 I had the pleasure of confirming the Ipswich record by taking specimens within the borough boundary. Meyrick shortly describes both the June-July imago, allowed an expanse of 23-6 mm., and the larva feeding in ^ AugustSeptember on Cytisus only ; and gives it a distribution in " Suffolk, N o r f o l k * Perth ; WC. Europe." I n 1895, p. 266, he sinks Fidonia to the genus Bupalus, Lch., including both B. piniarius, Linn., and limbarius, Fab. ; but in 1927, p. 280, our species limbaria, Fab., is removed from Bupalus and forms part of the genus Semiothisa, Hüb., along with Bupalus carbonarius, Macaria notata and Strenia clathrata. Its former British distribution is thus shown to have been :— Perth ; Suffolk, Essex and Kent, only.—Abroad Isturgia (Hüb. 1816) limbaria, Fab., is still wide sprea'd on the Continent, though Seitz shows it of restricted ränge in Central Europe. Zeller described the local form Rablensis from Carniola, Carinthia and Macugnaga ; and later Staudinger brought forward others, i.e. Pedemontaria from the Alpes Maritimes and Piedmont, Ansascaria from northern Piedmont and the Val d'Anzasca, and the small Delimbaria from Digne, where Mr. Morley vainly hunted for the species within fifty miles of the Mediterranean during April 1931 (found there in 1890: E M M . xxvi, p. 283). * T h e occurrence in this County must be deleted : thence Meyrick's is the sole published instance.—" I am very sorry I cannot help you about the record of limbaria, as I cannot now say where it came from " (Edward Meyrick, F.R.S., F.E.S., in lit. 11 Feb. 1932).—" I can throw no light upon the Norfolk record " (Robert Adkin, F.E.S., in lit. 8 Feb. 1932).—" T h e r e is no authentic record of its having ever occurred in N o r f o l k " (W. Rait-Smith, F.Z.S., F.E.S., in lit. 5 Feb. 1932).


THE

(COMPLETED ? )

BRITISH

HISTORY

OF THE

MOTH.

9

The questions remain : Is F. limbaria extinct in Suffolk and, if so, Why ? The food-plant is still quite common with us, but this insect did not occur in all the districts affected by Sarothamnus (Cytisus) scoparius. The areas covered by Broom are certainly diminishing ; but the very ones where our Moth used to be found so freely are just those where Broom has been least cleared for either building or cultivation; indeed, the Creeting Hills themselves are very little modified by the graveldiggings now in progress there. These Hills were the favourite haunt of. F. limbaria in the years before 1902, about which time Mr. Henry Lingwood and I hunted the locality for several seasons ; but only once, in 1903 I think, did we succeed in capturing two specimens. As far as I am aware, he never discovered the larvae ; and, frequently as I have brought such home from the Broom there, they have always emerged into the wrong sort of moths ! Right away through the following thirty years I paid frequent visits to these gravelly Hills during both May-June and August-September, without having my eyes gladdened by a single individual. However, with South (who regards the species as still double-brooded and adds ihat the imago sits with wings closed in butterfly-fashion above its back), I consider that the bare possibility of persistency yet exists. not only in the Barham and perhaps Raydon sites but, as Dr. Whittingham points' out, among the equally broomy gravels upon the Gipping's southern acclivity. It is a difficult moth to net, and no less difficult to identify, when on the wing; for, as soon as disturbed, it is very quick in the uptake. Unlike Rupalus piniarius, it never appears to me naturally to fly by day : it must be beaten out of its foodplant. Hence its capture necessitates at least two persons' presence, one to beat the Broom and the others to take whatever mav be disturbed from it by that process* Creeting Hills being fairly high as hills go in Suffolk and rising in gravel terraces from the valley, there is usually a stiff bree/.e, especially disconcerting because F. limbaria always careers down the wind at a terrific speed. A great deal of " sport " is thus easily to be had, for all pale moths going away must be captured in order to be examined, as well as a good many dead Broom blossoms accompanying them ; in June the pest that persists in fruitlessly raising one's hopes is the horribly common Yellow Shell (Hydriomena bilineata, L.), with similar Geometers. Lingwood was wont to expatiate upon the great numbers of F. limbaria that occurred here, up to fairly late in the last Century ; and Baker of Battisford took it near Stowmarket, I know : possibly * T h i s method was most vigorously pursued by three of our Members, ,°,r _a, , o n g period at both the Creeting Hills and Ipswich localities. on 1 4 May last: fruitlessly.â&#x20AC;&#x201D;Ed.


10

THE (COMPLETED ?) BRITISH HISTORY OF THE MOTH.

upon these same hills. T h e latter died in 1917 ; and when the former preceded him on 7 February 1906, his collection passed to the widow and is now in Bury Museum, as his grandson, our Member, Mr. Lingwood, teils me. Will F. limbaria ever be found upon these particular Hills again ? Even of this I retain a modicum of hope. One reason is that it seems such a difficult Moth to exterminate artificially : the Broom, that had been its especial habitat, was very badly burned by fire in 1899, despite which fact Lingwood found examples in more than average plenty the next season. Another is that, though they were nominally private, these Hills have always formerly been used as a playground by the rising generation, to the no small detriment of their Vegetation ; but now the whole is strictly preserved, so that the danger to its fauna by both fire and folly is minimised. Meliora speramus ! [As no parasite had ever been recorded as preying upon this M o t h here or abroad, it seemed to me superfluous to suggest its extinction by such a means. However, after the above article was in type, I happened to light upon a box that had lain perdu in my collection for thirty years. In it were eleven cocoons attached to twigs of Broom, along with the parasitic Braconid flies (Microplitis vidua, Ruthe) which had emerged from those cocoons, and one female of the hyperparasitic Ichneumonid fly (Mesochorus pectoralis, Ratz.) that had attacked those parasites. T h e whole is labelled by the late Mr. Frank Norgate, of Bury and Santon-downham, " From Creeting Hills, bred out of Fidonia conspicuata, 1900." This is the first, and I fear the last, intimation extant of introparasitism on the Moth, though the above Ichneumonid has been bred on the Continent, through " Microgaster-species," from the allied Fidonia csbraria = fasciolaria, Rott.â&#x20AC;&#x201D;C.M.]

A CASUAL I N T R O D U C T I O N . â&#x20AC;&#x201D; A West Indian Mollusc is obviously out of place in any catalogue of Suffolk Shells ; yet perhaps worth a note, if merely as a curiosity. Our Member, Mrs. J. Lee Moore, was given a specimen of the great Strombus gigas, L., that had been just dredged from the river at Gorleston, last September. It occurs in the utmost profusion in the Bahama Islands and is, or used to be, extensively imported into Britain to be used as porcelain on which to paint cameos ; its great size, in the present instance roughly nine inches by seven, lends an ample field for such work. One often sees them adorning window-sills of the more pretentious cottages, brought home by sailors ; but the discovery of a " wild " one must be very exceptional.

British History of the Moth, Fidonia limbaria  
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