Saturday, 16 July 2016

Norfolk moths: Rocklands School Playing Fields Moth Breakfast, 16 July 2016

The moth whisperers (Simon Best)
To coincide with a Friday night camping event on our village playing fields organised by Rocklands School Council, I ran a moth trap so that pupils, parents and villagers might have a chance to see some of our local moths. Although it was warm (17°C minimum), humid and overcast, the strong breeze at this exposed site and losing the first hour in order not to irradiate the barbecue (light was on from 23h00) made for a slightly smaller haul than expected. I turned off the trap at 04h00, but had been beaten to the moths by an early-rising Blackbird. We opened the trap at 8 am and examined our catch, as we juggled our bacon and sausage butties. In the morning turmoil, with moths quite flighty in the sunshine, the list was not complete, but thanks to our scribe we did manage to note down most of the catch.

Trap full of moths (Ian Scholes)
The first to catch everyone's attention were several showy Swallow-tailed Moths, but they were immediately eclipsed by Elephant Hawk-moths. A fresh Peach Blossom and a Buff Arches that had settled outside the trap, just below the bulb, were next; then two striking Brown-tails, white micro teddy-bears with feathery antennae. Common, Buff and 'melon seed' Dingy Footman obligingly posed almost side-by-side. Early Thorn perched butterfly-like with wings pressed together over its back. Small Magpies were a favourite with the children.

Shaded Broad-bar Scotopteryx chenopodiata (Ian Scholes)
Shaded Broad-bar is a UK Biodiversity Action Plan species, being common and widespread, but rapidly declining (by 73% over the last 35 years). A couple of species that were new for tetrad TL99Y: Brown-tail and Peach Blossom.

Swallow Prominent Pheosia tremula (Ian Scholes)

Elephant Hawk-moth Deilephila elpenor in good hands (Ian Scholes)

The moth breakfast in full swing (Simon Best)
I had not realised that several dozen Lesser Black-backed Gulls use the playing fields as a roost, leaving behind blizzards of moulted feathers. 

Click on the links to see photographs from the superb Norfolk Moths website, managed by Jim Wheeler.

Macro-moths (81 moths of 34 spp.):-

Thyatira baits Peach Blossom 1
Habrosyne pyritoides Buff Arches 1
Deilephila elpenor Elephant Hawk-moth 2
Idaea aversata Riband Wave 2
Scotopteryx chenopodiata Shaded Broad-bar 1
Opisthograptis luteolata Brimstone Moth 2
Selenia dentaria Early Thorn 1
Crocallis elinguaria Scalloped Oak 2
Ourapteryx sambucaria Swallow-tailed Moth 7
Lomographa temerata Clouded Silver 1
Pheosia tremula Swallow Prominent 2
Pterostoma palpina Pale Prominent 1
Hypena proboscidalis Snout 1
Euproctis chrysorrhoea Brown-tail 2
Spilosoma lutea Buff Ermine 3
Eilema depressa Buff Footman 1
Eilema griseola Dingy Footman 1
Eilema lurideola Common Footman 4
Herminia tarsipennalis Fan-foot 5
Subacronicta megacephala Poplar Grey 1
Hoplodrina octogenaria Uncertain 7
Apamea monoglypha Dark Arches 4
Mesapamea secalis agg. Common Rustic agg. 4
Lacanobia oleracea Bright-line Brown-eye 1
Melanchra persicariae Dot Moth 3
Mythimna conigera Brown-line Bright Eye 3
Mythimna impura Smoky Wainscot 3
Mythimna ferrago Clay 4
Agrotis exclamationis Heart and Dart 3
Axylia putris Flame 1
Noctua pronuba Large Yellow Underwing 3
Noctua fimbriata Broad-bordered Yellow Underwing 1
Noctua comes Lesser Yellow Underwing 1
Xestia triangulum Double Square-spot 2

Micro-moths (7 moths identified, of 3 spp.):-

Pseudargyrotoza conwagana Yellow-spot Tortrix 5
Anania hortulata Small Magpie 5
Pleuroptya ruralis Mother of Pearl 1


  1. Apart from your amazing ability to identify moths, the best bit was undoubtedly the three youngsters who showed such an interest in moths and skill in handling them.

    1. I agree. I wanted to grab them before the event was over. Perhaps their parents will be able to bring them along to a future event.