Sunday, 28 April 2013

Sticking around...

Light Rain27-28 Apr 2013 | 25W Blacklight | @ home garden, Springmartin HVC39 J3074
8-7°C, Beaufort 2-3

Another wet night with very few flies arriving but, surprisingly, three moths in the egg boxes:

Diurnea fagella: 1♂
Hebrew Character: 2

On close inspection of the scales, I found the Diurnea to be the same individual caught on Tuesday night! It's a small world/garden.

Another sleepy Hebrew Character (Orthosia gothica)

Rearing: Angle Shades (Project 3B)

The focus of this blog is twofold I suppose: recording moths and rearing moths. I've got off to a good start with the recording side - so now time I think to do my first proper post about one of my current rearing projects.

I already introduced it in "The story so far" - this is my second Angle Shades caterpillar (Phlogophora meticulosa), which is of course the Moth Of The Blog...


Angle Shades: 1L (Ye) (GYe)

Angle Shades caterpillar on rose

This is the third Angle Shades caterpillar I've found in my garden - it's a common migrant Noctuid moth. I reared the first one I found (in 2010, on the exact same plant), and I'm doing the same with this one. At the minute it's under a half-eaten rose leaf in a cottage cheese carton on my bedroom windowsill, in the process of moulting its skin. That'll bring it to its penultimate or maybe third-last instar.

Update on Project 3B

I took the caterpillar indoors the following day, by which time it had moved up the plant to a spray of leaves precariously flapping in the breeze:

Angle Shades caterpillar on rose, 29 March 2013

On the windowsill in its cottage cheese carton, it grew and ate quite quickly, as caterpillars do...

Indoors, 29 March

1 April

2 April

Just over a week later, it moulted onto its final instar (jargon buster: caterpillars periodically moult their skin; the periods between moults are the instars)...

Moulted head case, 5 April

It took me a while to remember my tactic with the previous Angle Shades caterpillar (Rosebud, the blog icon) of feeding it elder leaves, to spare mum's roses...!

Nearly full grown, 9 April

On 14 April I found it, with its velvety patterned complexion changed to a plain shiny yellow-green, spinning a loose cocoon of silk and chewed-up leaves in the bottom of the container. Angle Shades number one had done this and pupated and emerged successfully, but I suspected that, like other Noctuid caterpillars, it would much rather prefer some soil.

Turning yellowish as it prepares to pupate, 14 April

So I provided some, and it dove right in!

Diving straight into the earth, 14 April

And that's the last I saw of it. I moved the jar outside to give it normal conditions for pupation.

Based on how long it took Rosebud to go from spinning its cocoon to emergence (49 days) I'm predicting Angie will emerge around 2 June. So until then, I just have to keep the soil moist and wait.

And wait for the Brimstone pupa to emerge. And take care of James's two Lozotaenias. I got some good photos of the older Lozzy today - and a video clip - but that's another post for another day!

Wednesday, 24 April 2013

Coun't 'em - one... two...

23-24 Apr 2013 | 25W Blacklight | @ home garden HVC39 J3074
11°C, Beaufort 1-3 White CloudLight Rain 

Thrilled to find not just one but three moths in the trap after a wet but mild night - all new for the year!

Diurnea fagella: 1 male [Y] [GY]
Double-striped Pug: 1 [Y] [GY]
Caloptilia stigmetella: 1 [Y] [n] [GY] [GN]

Caloptilia stigmatella (White-triangle Slender)
Caloptilia stigmatella bears the relatively unoffensive vernacular name "White-triangle Slender" in Jim Porter's 2002 paper. You'll hear a lot of micro-moffers grumbling about that piece of work (in which all British micro-moths which previously had no common names were landed with names with all of the character of Crayola crayon colours). I'm currently trying to get to the bottom of Whodunnit, so if anyone reading this is any the wiser on that subject I'd love to hear from you! Rant over.

C. stigmatella is one I recorded as a larva last year (in a leaf fold on sallow) but not as an adult and not in the garden, which means it's number 118 on the garden list!

(By the way... Caloptilias are one of many moth groups which can be difficult to identify. Please don't hesitate to correct me if youthink I've got an ID wrong on this blog - I don't mind!)

With temperatures still up at 11°C by morning, the two micros were a bit jumpy. I immediately went in to photograph the Caloptilia and I'm thanking Heaven I managed to get the above photo of it before it lifted off and disappeared into thin air! First lesson of the year learned - I immediately potted the Diurnea to photograph later.

And when I have photographed the other two, I'll update this post.


Double-striped Pug (Gymnoscelis rufifasciata)

Male Diurnea fagella (March Tubic)

Diurnea fagella

Diurnea fagella, close-up

Sunday, 21 April 2013

Butterflies and other Characters

19-20 Apr 2013 | 25W Blacklight Heath Trap | @ home garden, Springmartin HVC39 J3074
8-5°C, Beaufort 1, clear with FQ moon

Resting in a very dewy moth trap this morning was a sleepy...
Hebrew Character: 1 [Y] [GY]

Hebrew Character

20 Apr 2013 | Daytime observation | Glencairn Park, Belfast HVC39 J3075

My first butterfly of the year was quite a surprise!
Peacock: 1 [Y]
Small Tortoiseshell: 1 [Y]


Small Tortoiseshell

You can read more about my butterflying afternoon at Glencairn Park on The Caterpillar.

Tuesday, 16 April 2013

The first visitor at the trap

As you can see in the details below, it was a wet and windy night on Sunday. But with temperatures far higher than they've been the moth trap got its first patron of the year!

14-15 Apr 2013 | 25W Blacklight Heath Trap | AT HOME GARDEN, SPRINGMARTIN HVC39 J3074 | 11-9°C, Beaufort 4-3, rainy

Common Quaker: 1 (N) (Y) (GN) (GY)

Common Quaker
The Common Quaker is one of the commonest spring moths, but not one I'd seen before. A great sight to see after a long winter!

Another record came in on Monday evening (14 Apr) with the discovery of a Brown House-moth (Hofmannophila pseudospretella) larva (Ye) (GYe) (GB) on my wall. I've seen plenty of adults, but never the larva. And what an extraordinary creature it is - just look at the internal details you can see through its translucent skin! Hopefully it hadn't been getting fat on anything important...

Brown House-moth larva

Sunday, 14 April 2013

Lots o' Lozotaenia!

I realised this evening that my very bedraggled-looking garden ivy is partly in such a state because of about fifteen Lozotaenia forsterana (GYe) (GB) caterpillars munching away betwen its leaves! Once you get your eye in...

Yeahhhh... another "notation". (GB) means first breeding record for the garden!

My Angle Shades caterpillar was trying to make a cocoon of munched up elder leaves when I checked on it this evening. I had an inkling that that was a backup strategy, and that it would much rather prefer a jar of soil. So I provided one, and straight away it was digging in. I'll check the timings on the last Angle Shades caterpillar I reared, and make a prediction on when this one will emerge. Place your bets folks!

Which reminds me. Matthew Oates, the National Trust's butterfly expert extraordinaire, along with his team, meticulously monitor the progress of Purple Emperor Apatura iris caterpillars over on their patch in England. You can check out their blog at The Purple Empire.

And the moth trap is out tonight in the mildest conditions yet, but with a Beaufort Four blowing and rain due later tonight, and with not even a fly at the trap in the first quarter of an hour... it ain't looking good!

Sunday, 7 April 2013

Butterfly Conservation NIRD 2013!

The mad, hilarious NI Recorders Day. On Saturday. Not Sunday, early hours of when I wrote this.

[Updated with photos sensible hours of Sunday 7 Apr.]

6 Apr 2013 | Day Obs / On Veg | at Peatlands Park / Annagariff NNR

Stigmella aurella: 4L
Carcina quercana: 1L (Ye)
Epiphyas postvittana: 2 (Y)
Lozotaenia forsterana: 2L (Ye) (Collected to rear - project 36A)

Stigmella aurella larva in mine on bramble (Rubus fruticosus agg.)

Carcina quercana larva in spinning on bramble

Light Brown Apple Moth (Epiphyas postvittana)

Lozotaenia forsterana larva on ivy

Year list shoots up to 7!

New Project 36A
Large Ivy Tortrix ~ Lozotaenia forsterana

Hooray! (Credit to James Rainey who found two early-instar larvae sandwiched between two ivy leaves! They are now re-settling down on the separated ivy leaves - in a sandwich carton on my windowsill!!!)

[Update: now an ice cream carton, not that it really makes a difference.]

Ivy leaves with Lozotaenia forsterana larvae and feeding damage

Update on Project 3B

The Angle Shades caterpillar has now moulted and is cramming leaves into its gub to fill out its baggy skin!

Project 31A

Just ended - my Coxcomb Prominent pupa from Murlough has died and gone mouldy! :( Noooo, that story ended before I could start to tell it!

Project 29A

Is in its final stages - my Brimstone Moth pupa from Murlough did a wiggle when handled yesterday and could emerge any day! :) That will be a good story!

This is the madcap world of moth recording and rearing! Spectacular overuse of question marks!! Goodnight!!!

[Update: It was getting late. I meant exclamation marks of course...]

Thursday, 4 April 2013

The story so far

British and Irish readers will already know what the story so far this spring is...

Polar bear eating marshmallows in a snowstorm
That picture is intended to represent everything covered in copious amounts of crystalline dihydrogen oxide and blank after blank night in many moth traps, including mine.

25W Blacklight Heath Trap

Yes, may I introduce the 25W Blacklight Heath, my humble home-made moth trap, glowing steadfastly yesterday morning after a seventh mothless night out in my back yard/garden in the Springmartin area of west Belfast. It's in its second year of operation and last year pulled in a fair number and variety of species, including this Firethorn Leaf Miner (Phyllonorycter leucographella; a relatively recent arrival to Nornia and as you can see, dwarfed by my cat's hair fibre):

Back to the present, most lepidopterists in the UK running traps in favourable habitats have got something this year, and you can check out their successes in the blog list on the right and at the Back Garden Moths forum (where I spend a lot of time, and where I'll be duplicating the garden moth reports I post here). Still, all agree moth numbers have been down on previous years due to the cold weather.

So have I anything to report from the garden yet? Well as it so happens...

Jan 2013 | Trace records | at home garden, Springmartin HVC39 J3074

Rose Leaf Miner ~ Stigmella anomalella: vacated/failed larval leaf mines on Rose
Stigmella aurella: vacated larval leaf mines on Bramble

Stigmella anomalella, mine, by SamuelMillar153 on Flickr
Rose Leaf Miner. As you can see there appears to be the remains of a larva
in here, although it could simply be a discoloration of the leaf epidermis
I haven't included a photo of Stigmella aurella leaf mines for the simple reason that those who don't know it will merely have to make a trip to their nearest bramble bush where they will very likely find at least one, and those who do know it will already be sick to the back teeth of seeing it!

I've also seen a few tenanted mines at Glencairn Park (my local "patch") and Jordanstown. 

I successfully reared four S. aurella larvae (in their mines) to pupation stage last year, from which I got a parasite and three tiny moths (one of which escaped somehow, one of which I kept as a specimen as it died before I could get it back to where I got it at Murlough House, and the other I released at the colony in my garden lest it suffer a similar fate). 

That was my first rearing project on this species, which was "Study Species" number 27 of the 30-odd species I've reared over the past three-and-a-half years. That gives you an idea of the work I'll have to do to summarise all the Lepidoptera rearing projects I've done on that "Projects" page I'm planning on doing!

When it comes to biological recording, as I see it, there are basically two kinds of record: live records and trace records. Traces include dead individuals, feeding signs, vacated cocoons etc. Live records go on my year list, trace records don't. That may sound like moon waffle to most people, but I find it a very useful principle to live by.

But before my readership falls asleep, I must move on to my first live garden record of the year...

20 Feb 2013 | Indoors | at home garden, Springmartin HVC39 J3074

Mompha subbistrigella: 1 (Y) (GY)
An overwintering Momphid in the window of our family's upstairs loo. Still counts as a garden record by my rules! (Strangely, no White-shouldered House Moths [Endrosis sarcitrella] or Brown House Moths [Hofmannophila pseudospretella] have showed up yet.)

3 Mar 2013 | Day Obs | at Ballintoy VCH39 D0444

Pale Brindled Beauty: 1 (N) (Y)

Pale Brindled Beauty

This, my first macro-moth of the year, was one I'd never seen before, a fantastic furry Noctuid resting on the wall of the youth hostel at Ballintoy. I wrote about it recently on The Caterpillar, before I started this blog.

Also in that post I wrote about my current rearing projects, one of which features the following little fella:

28 Mar 2013 | On vegetation | at home garden, Springmartin HVC39 J3074

Angle Shades: 1L (Ye) (GYe)

Angle Shades caterpillar on rose

This is the third Angle Shades caterpillar I've found in my garden - it's a common migrant Noctuid moth. I reared the first one I found (in 2010, on the exact same plant), and I'm doing the same with this one. At the minute it's under a half-eaten rose leaf in a cottage cheese carton on my bedroom windowsill, in the process of moulting its skin. That'll bring it to its penultimate or maybe third-last instar.

(That, by the way, is project 3B. I'll get round to talking about my projects some day....)

Another moth recording vagary (which, be ye warned, may send you to sleep) is those Ys and Gs and Ns above. Those are my "list" notation. Moth-ers generally keep life lists or garden lists and often year lists, and they use abbreviations when sharing their finds to indicate that a moth is new for a particular list. Most use NFM/NEW, NFG and NFY (new for me/garden/year).

I was pernickety and pointed out to myself that it's possible to see a new species for the first time in a year outside the garden as an early stage then see the adult, again outside the garden, then later find the adult in the garden and what, may I ask, are you supposed to do then?

So I've developed a "simple" system for my notebook using squares and circles and ticks, which I'll adapt for use on this blog...

(Y) New for year for me (adults)
(Ye) New for year for me (early stage)
(GY) New for year for garden (adults)
(GYe) New for year for garden (early stage)
(N) New for me (all stages)
(n) New for me (adult, after early stage)
(GN) New for garden (all stages, and traces provided they haven't blown in)

This is the corner of my life where I'm obsessive-compulsive about things. Just ignore me if it annoys you!

And after this very long post which took two hours to write and which hopefully sets the scene for what I'm hoping to do with the Lepidoptera Log this year, I'll end on a moth please Carol!

Pink-barred Sallow, in Murlough NNR, Oct 2012

Tuesday, 2 April 2013

Coming soon...

Paradise, by SamuelMillar153 on Flickr
Welcome to the Log! God willing it gets off the ground, I'll be using this blog to share photos and records from my adventures in the world of moths and butterflies.

(Coming to you from the birthplace of Mr C.S. Lewis, which I like to refer to as "Nornia"!)

The blog is named after the extremely megabyte-rich spreadsheet where I've been keeping my Lepidoptera records for the past three years, and I'll try to post here as many as possible of the records I make this year.

There'll be moth trapping reports from my garden... 

Moths on Wheels!, by SamuelMillar153 on Flickr

hopefully a page cataloguing my work on rearing early stages (that'll take a while)...

Cinnabar moth pupae, by SamuelMillar153 on Flickr

daytime observations of butterflies and dayflying moths from the local Glencairn Park or anywhere I happen to be...

Marsh Fritillary monocolour variety, Murlough NNR, by SamuelMillar153 on Flickr

leaf mine searches...

Stigmella confusella larvae in mines on birch, by SamuelMillar153 on Flickr

and when summer comes along, some dusking in and around Murlough NNR.

White Plume Moth, by SamuelMillar153 on Flickr

Accompanied by some hopefully decent photos and videos on my new Samsung WB-100, with the help of Flickr and YouTube.

And all of that (or more realistically, the main highlights of that!) in the spare moments between getting my A-levels sorted and preparing for university in September. Mission impossible? Bring it on!

You can also check out my general nature blog "The Caterpillar" - click the tab at the top of this page. The link to my Flickr photostream is up there too.

Happy mothing!!!

Say hi to "Rosebud"! I chose this Angle Shades moth,
from my third caterpillar rearing project, as the blog icon.
It's one of my favourite moths with its unique wing shape
and impressive thoracic crest.