Gypsy Moth – Friend or Foe? Moths of Kings Cross

After being frustrated by dead end internet searches looking for descriptions or photos that might-just-a-little-bit look like the tiny mostly brown moth I had in the pot in front of me, I finally decided it was time to properly delve in to the world of micro moths and went ahead and purchased this book. Btu3FEhCEAICuWrIt was definitely worth it. The introduction in itself is a great read and that’s before you get in to the delightfully extensive descriptions of flight periods, larval food plants, conservation status, similar species etc. I also really like the ‘at a glance’ guide to the different families of micro moths, very useful for a novice like me. A bargain at £21!

I’ve only had it a few days but it came in handy last night when I set up a moth trap demonstration at the London Wildlife Trusts Camley Street Natural Park, a small nature reserve in the heart of King Cross (I’m currently in the second month of an internship here). Admittedly a few ‘small brown jobs’ did evade me, mostly due to lack of time as we had to pack up in time for the last tube home. But at this point each successful micro moth ID is a triumph for me 😉

The biggest challenge was a Cydia splendanasimilar to a couple of other Cydia species but distinguishable with the help of a borrowed hand lens (I really must carry mine around more often!). This lovely Epiblema foenella and Beautiful Plume Amblyptilia acanthadactyla were more discernible (apologises for badly lit photos).

Epiblema foenella

Epiblema foenella

Beautiful Plume

Beautiful Plume

In the two hours the trap was out we also saw an abundance of Light Brown Apple moths and a few Crambid moths that looked good for Crambus perlella but I didn’t get a chance to examine them more closely. Macro moths included a Brimstone

Brimstone Moth

Brimstone Moth

a Setaceous Hebrew Character

Setaceous Hebrew Character

a couple of Tree-lichen Beauties

tree-lichen beauty 3

Tree-lichen Beauty

and this controversial Gyspsy Moth that took a liking to Marco, another LWT intern.

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Gypsy Moth

Cute right? (the moth 😉 ). Well, although the English form that became extinct in the early 1900’s was fairly inoffensive feeding mainly on bog-myrtle and creeping willow, the populations that have established in a few locations in Southern England are thought to have been accidentally introduced from mainland Europe where the caterpillar has a ferocious appetite and is a major defoliant of a wide range of deciduous trees and shrubs. Although it is suggested that these populations are unlikely to cause serve defoliation in the UK considering our climate, because of it’s potential pest status it was subjected to an eradication campaign led by Defra after it was first discovered in Northeast London 1995 and any sightings should be reported to them.

It’s difficult to look at this large attractive moth and think of it as a menace or even a small threat -to me it is just another species adding to the biodiversity of Camley Street. But of course there is a bigger picture to think of and I will report this sighting – not sure if anything will come of it but if strange men turn up dressed head to toe in fumigation gear in the next few days I will be in trouble 😉

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Pembrokeshire Coastal Walk Video + a Few Moths

Last week I got back from a fantastic hiking/camping/bird watching holiday around the Pembrokeshire coastline. We started off in Manorbier and ended up in Martin’s Haven where we had the chance to visit the beautiful Skomer Island – bird paradise! Here is a video my boyfriend made of the trip – finally found a way for him to enjoy bird watching too!!! 😉

I’ve got lots of photos and saw lots of fantastic birds, I will write a recap post  sometime this week but today I just wanted to share a few moths I came across in Pembrokeshire (campsite toilets are moth magnets!) and a few from some recent trapping in my garden. When I say recent some of my garden moth photos were taken over a month ago, just finding the time to go through them properly!

I started really looking forward to my early morning trip to the campsite toilets to see what I would discover, not sure all of the other campers were as keen though 😉 I particularly love the funky looking snout and the lackey with reminds me of my weakness for little fluffy ginger kittens…. Although I’m sure my cat would gobble this fella up in a instance if she got the chance!! I’m not 100% on the pug ID, I’m pretty sure but I know there are a few Eupithecia species that are quite similar so feel free to question it!

Buff arches (2)

Buff Arches

Buff arches cut

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Wormwood Pug

wormwood pug (2)

Snout

The Snout

Lackey

The Lackey

Lackey (2)

Buff ermine (2)

Buff Ermine

Buff ermineAnd a few from my garden…. Again feel free to correct me!

Codling Moth

Codling Moth

Bee Moth

Bee Moth, male

Willow Beauty

Willow Beauty

Endotricha flammealis

Heart and Dart

Heart and Dart

Treble Brown Spot

Treble Brown Spot

Marbled Orchard Tortrix

Marbled Orchard Tortrix

Common Carpet

Common Carpet

Enjoying getting my head around a few micros!

Also I spotted lots of day flying Mother Shipton and Burnet companion moths on my home from work a few weeks ago, along with some large skippers. I discovered a detour which takes me through a fantastic little bit of acid grassland which is much more exciting then my usual walk alongside a busy road!

Mother Shipton

Mother Shipton

Large Skipper

Large Skipper

 

 

Green Elfcup Fungus and Colour Variations in the Lunar Underwing Moth

Hi all!

As some of you may know I have recently completed a MSc in Species Identification and Survey Skills. At the moment I am filling my spare time with habitat management based volunteer work – super excited to be starting at London Wetland Centre next week!

I also joined Natures Gym earlier this week for a couple of sessions thinning and removing scrub and clearing green waste at Crane Park. During the Monday session we came across this funky looking blue fungus:

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Green elfcup fungus Chlorociboria – either C. aeruginascens or C. aeruginosa; apparently microscopic examination is needed to tell the difference between these two species! Although C. aeruginosa is the rarer of the two.

It’s common to see blue stained wood caused by the mycelium of these species, but not so common to come across the fruiting body so this was a good find!  Can’t say we were looking out for it (or even knew what is was when we found it!) but still pretty cool!

Mycelium is the main part of a mushroom consisting of thread like tissue (called hyphae) that run underground or, as in this case, through dead wood; what we see on the surface is just the fruiting body!

Fascinating to think there’s a whole other world of life going on beneath our feet!

Anyway, I also wanted to share a few recent moths from the trap and look at the different colour variations of the Lunar underwing:

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Lunar Underwing

Lunar Underwing

Luner Underwing

As you can see individuals vary from light creamy yellows to dark orangey browns. The darker ones are particularly stunning as the pale veins and cross-lines contrast beautifully with the darker background.

I’ve been getting quite a few of these guys lately but the variation between individuals make it just as exciting as getting a different species!

I also wanted to share a few micro moths; Originally I found the thought of identifying micros a bit daunting but actually they are not too difficult and are just as stunning as the big guys! Must purchase this book!

Garden Rose Tortrix

Garden Rose Tortrix Acleris variegana

Light Brown Apple Moth

Light Brown Apple Moth Epiphyas postvittana 

Tachystola acroxantha

Tachystola acroxantha – this one doesn’t have a common name! Tiny but beautiful – love the flame orange tipped wings! 

DIY Skinner Moth Trap

Hi all!

I’m very happy to report that the first run of my homemade moth trap was a success, despite the iffy weather! See the end of this post for photos of the catch…

First I’d like to share with you how the moth box was made (all credit to my lovely boyfriend David!) so that if you would like to make your own you can do so following this simple guide; it really does save a lot of money should only take 2 – 4 hours! There are a few internet sources about making your own moth trap mostly from other blogs (Such as here, here and here) however everyone seems to do it a bit differently so it was more a case of using these for inspiration, doing our own research on what materials are out there and just doing a bit of logical thinking!

We went for a Skinner trap over a Robinson one just because it seemed an easier/cheaper option with what materials were available. This was done on a budget but once you get the basic design down you can then go on to upgrade/improve your moth box (e.g. by making it battery rather than mains powered) as we intend to do when we have the money, or you can just spend a bit more in the first place. Total cost came to around £40, pretty good considering buying one of these would set you back more than £100!

So, here’s a step step by step guide on how we made our Skinner moth trap….

Tools:

Numbered Tool Pic

  1. Wood Saw.
  2. Surform – For taking the edges off of cut wood to prevent splinters – A rough piece of sand paper will also do the job.
  3. Hack Saw.
  4. Set Square.
  5. Tape Measurer.
  6. Bradle or point – for making holes in the plastic box and for making starting holes the wood for the screws.
  7. Screw driver (with changeable heads depending on what screw you use).
  8. Spirit Level.
  9. Permanent pen that will mark plastic and a pencil.
  10. A single piece of fine sandpaper.
  11. Hand Clamps – For holding the perspex down while you saw it; other clams or holding systems may work just as well.
  12. Screws – approximately 12 depending on what you use – no longer than 1.5 CM
  13. A work bench or level work surface that is not going to move or rock.

Materials:

Numbered Material Pic

  1. A Box – There are several options for this, primarily you need something with flat sides that dose not dip in or wave to accommodate handles. We used a Recycling tub as issued by the council, your other options are to use a collapsible box like the one used in this design. Or any other box of around the dimensions 50cm X 40cm with a depth of around 30cm or more.
  2. A piece of perspex big enough to cover the top of the box – a good place to buy it from is here I would recommend getting a piece at least 4mm thick.
  3. A light – For this design you need an Actinic tube. We used a 15 watt mainly because it was the right length as the length seems to vary with wattage, however I’ve seen anything form 6w – 40w used. We have found the best place to get these is from an aquarium suppliers; we got ours from here.
  4. Wiring and power – For those who can’t be bothered to wire things (like us) you can buy a waterproof power supply for your Actinic tube from an aquarium suppliers; we got ours from here. While the connection to the light bulb is water proof the actual power pack is not and they are mains supplied so they can only be used a little bit out side the house. Alternately you could look in to ways of making it wireless with a self contained power pack or maybe use a waterproof junction box, but we haven’t looked in to these options yet.
  5. Wood – You will need enough wood to create a beam across your box and create two stops to hold your perspex in place. The piece across the box will need to be the length of the box (so approximately 50cm in our case) then an additional 10cm or so per stop.  So 70cm in total of 4cm by 1.8cm plank.
  6. Something to hook the beam with the light on onto the box – We used two fixings for a blind however any bendable metal bracket will do.

Methods:

Step one: Making the light beam

  1. First you must cut your wood so it is the right length to fit just inside your box – 49cm was the perfect length for this one. Use your surform or sand paper to remove any splintery edges left.IMAG0870
  2. Next attach your brackets too the beam – you need to have already bent them to fit the box and drilled holes in them so they can be screwed onto the beam. Luckily mine already had holes in the right places and didn’t need any bending.
  3. To attach them line one up with the end of the piece of wood and make a pencil mark in the two screw holes, remove the bracket and use your bradle to make to holes to help start the screws, put the bracket back over the holes and screw it on firmly. IMAG0874
  4. Do the same for the other end but first make sure you get the other one in the right place so it sits on the box and position the lose bracket at the optimum place, make sure you haven’t made it too long or too short.
  5. Next you need to attach your brackets for holding the light – these are supplied with the power pack if you bought the one we suggested. To do this mark the two places the brackets screw holes line up on the wood and then remove the bracket and make holes with the bradle then screw it on, taking care to make sure it is straight.
    IMAG0886
  6. Repeat this for the opposing bracket but first place the light (wired into the power supply) into the fixed bracket so you can measure how far along the unfixed bracket needs to be to mark the holes, bradle it and screw it on. IMAG0879

You have no successfully made the light beam and if done properly it should sit nicely on top of your box.

Step two: Fixing the Perspex in place

  1. First of all you need to cut two fixings to hold the Perspex in place inside the box – these can be cut out of wood. You begin by sawing your remaining piece of wood in to two 10cm (approximately can be anything from about 5cm to the width of the box) pieces.
  2. Next you measure a 2cm section in the middle – this is the section that will stop the two pieces of Perspex meeting in the middle. You then measure a drop of around 1cm down and then draw a line out the edge, the two boxes in the corners you have just created you are going to saw out. Do this twice to make both pieces. Use your surform or sand paper to remove any splintery edges left. IMAG0899
  3. Next you have to attach these to the inside of the box – the first trick is finding the middle of the box; to do this I measured across the width of the box and made a mark with my permanent pen. Next I used a set square on this mark to decide how far down they should go (I chose a drop of 10cm because it looked about right). IMAG0903IMAG0921
  4. Then line the middle of one of your stops up with this and make four holes with your bradle all the way through the plastic – these don’t have to be precise so long as they aren’t wildly out of place and aren’t going to make the stop wonky.
  5. Then you screw one end of the stop in tightly and you a spirit level to make sure its level before screwing then other end in. Repeat this process for the other side making sure you use exactly the same measurement for the middle and the drop so your stops are both in line. IMAG0909
  6. Then two last things you have to do is cut the Perspex so it fits in to the box and then cut it in half. If you are super lucky you will be able to buy a piece that’s perfect for your box. If not (like us) you will have to cut a slight bit off the end. I suggest doing this before sawing it in half as then you only have to make one cut on one piece not two cuts on two pieces. I had to cut 5mm or so off the end of ours to make it the right width. IMAG0939
  7. Then you just have to cut the Perspex in half – when cutting Perspex I found the best way to do it was to clamp it to your surface with hand clamps then cut through it with a hack saw (a tenon saw or wood saw don’t really work) however when doing the long cut across the middle you may find that the hack saw won’t reach even if you cut from both sides. To tell the truth I snapped the last little bit I couldn’t get the saw to reach but it snapped straight and worked out well. IMAG0944
  8. Finally rub the cut edges of your Perspex down with some fine sand paper just to take the roughness out and you should have a finished moth trap IMAG0953

So there you have it! You’ll need some egg crates to put inside the box to provide somewhere for the moths to hide and rest; ask at your local green grocers or veg market, they are usually happy to give you some of their used ones as they will only throw them away. 

Obviously we are no experts but all I can say is that this is what we did – and it works! Maybe not as well as if you were to go and spend £200 on something but still, I’m pretty happy with what we have produced with £40 odd!

I say we but it was all David really! 😉

Here is what I caught the other night, despite a little bit of rain:

Cypress pug, Eupithecia phoeniceata

Cypress Pug Eupithecia phoeniceata

Square-spot Rustic, Xestia xanthographa

Square-spot Rustic Xestia xanthographa

SAM_3135

Setaceous Hebrew Character, Xestia c-nigrum

Setaceous Hebrew Character Xestia c-nigrum

SAM_3223

Flounced Rustic Luperina testacea – my friend pointed out that this guy looks like he has an old fashioned fur stole around his neck which made me chuckle 🙂 

SAM_3180

Light Brown Apple Moth, Epiphyas postvittana

Light Brown Apple Moth Epiphyas postvittana

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Any questions feel free to ask 🙂

Will have another go when the weather clears up a bit! 

FSC Moth Course & Homemade Trap

Hi all!

Well this is my first post on my shiny new blog! It’s taking me a while to figure out how everything works, I have to admit I am not the best with technology (understatement!)!

I just wanted to share a few photos from the FSC moth course I went on about a month ago now (a birthday present from my lovely mum) and show you my new and exciting contraption! You can probably guess what this is from the title… 

For those of you who don’t know, FSC, or Field Studies Council is a environmental education charity. I would definitely recommend their fold out ID charts! They do a number of courses for different levels at several centres around the UK. One of these centres, The Stockyard, happens to be just down the road from me in Bushy Park (a brilliant place for wildlife watching!).

The course was 1 day long and started with a introduction to moth identification. Considering there are around 2,400 UK moths this is not easy to compact down in to 1 hour so we just focused on the main families. Then we ventured excitedly outside to have a look at the catch from the trap set out the night before.

SAM_2863

This is a Robinson moth trap. There are three main types of moth trap; Skinner, Robison and Heath but I’ll talk about them in more detail in a different post.

Now on the the catch….. These are just a few of my favourite macros moths from the day, there were also lots of micros but my camera isn’t high-tech enough for them!

Blood vein

Blood-vein Timandra comae – I have been longing to see this moth in the flesh ever since I saw it in my book. It didn’t disappoint!

Brimstone

Brimstone Moth Opisthograptis luteolata 

Early thorn

Early Thorn Selenia dentaria

September thorn

September Thorn Ennomos erosaria

Septmeber thorn

September Thorn face shot – as cute as a duckling!

Iron and Swallow prominent

Iron Prominent Notodonta dromedarius (left) and Swallow Prominent Pheosia tremula (right)

Iron and Swallow 2

Iron Prominent Notodonta dromedarius (left) and Swallow Prominent Pheosia tremula (right)

Flame shoulder

Flame Shoulder Ochropleura plecta

Ear moth 2

Ear Moth Amphipoea oculea

LBBYU

Lesser Broad-bordered Yellow Underwing Noctua Janthe – probably my favourite of the day, such beautiful colouring! From silvery purple, to velvety maroon, to the pastel lime green frontal area of the thorax. Like other underwing moths is has bright yellow-orange hindwings; this species has relatively broad black hindwing bands (see this photo), hence it’s common name.

Lesser broad bordered yellow underwing

Lesser Broad-bordered Yellow Underwing again – beauty!

Straw underwing

Straw Underwing Thalpophila matura – another underwing, same family (Noctuidae) but different genus

ruby-tiger-26.jpg

And last but most definitely not least the stunning Ruby Tiger Phragmatobia fuliginosa – this is a day flying moth (although still attracted to night time moth traps) and the most common of the tiger moths, which were the theme for this years National Moth Night.

So all in all it was a brilliant day and definitely sparked my enthusiasm for moths! So much so I had a look at purchasing a moth trap. After seeing the prices I decided that building my own would be the cheapest option – or more enlisting my lovely boyfriend to build it for me (to reduce the risk of injury/explosions).

£40 or so later (buying this sort of Skinner moth trap will set you back more than £100) and here is a sneak preview of the result!

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All I need now is some egg crates to put inside! These provide shelter and somewhere for the moths to hide and rest. Going to ask at the local green grocers tomorrow. Very excited to try it out! 

More information, photos and a step by step guide on how to make your own moth trap coming soon….