Monday 11 September 2023

The Moth Diary

Predictably it is getting harder to add new species to the garden moth lists. Even so, the totals are way beyond what I might have imagined in June last year, when this all began. The year list stands at 456 (including aggregates) and the all-time list at 532. Yet that barely scratches the surface of what is out there. Moths have got under my skin. I find myself looking for moths when I'm out birding, or out anywhere in fact. This is a story which is going to run and run.

Keeping a moth diary on the blog has been fun, and quite useful for me too, and this post simply brings it up to date...


Thursday night, 7th September

119 moths of 43 species; two new for year. Both NFY moths were very autumnal species...

The year's first Lunar Underwing. I expect to see a lot of these. This attractive version is like a poor man's Feathered Rustic.

Centre-barred Sallow, another moth of autumn leaves.

Another delicate Portland Ribbon Wave.

A fair few micros have random tufty bits, and this is one of them. Well, not random I guess. Carefully organised and in exactly the correct place, more like.

Friday night, 8th September

153 moths of 53 species; two new for year, one new for garden. I'm not sure why, but this night's catch included a bigger selection of micros than usual. Both NFY were micros. One, Bucculatrix nigricomella, avoided the camera, but the other just snuggled down in the lid of its pot and let me get a couple of shots...

Yes, another nuisance moth.

In my 'Manley' field guide, this moth looks exactly like the photo of Mompha divisella. The other two species looked quite different, so I thought, 'Excellent, job done', and wrote it down. A bit of online research soon pulled me up though. Although I have yet to see a photo of M. jurassicella that looks anything like my pic, there are plenty of M. bradleyi that are the spitting image, so I am stuffed. Another poxy aggregate. M. bradleyi was apparently overlooked until the 1990s, which is presumably why it has that silly vernacular name. Neat Mompha is pretty bad, but New Neat Mompha is another level of badness. Or am I just letting my grumpiness show?

Common Marbled Carpet is a pretty moth. I've started taking photos of nice examples simply to illustrate the variability shown by this species. Helps take my mind off the annoying aggregates too.

Saturday night, 9th September

115 moths of 37 species. Nothing new, but the Dewick's Plusia that featured in the previous post, plus an unprecedented three Blair's Mochas were highlights. Also, the first Box-tree Moth for more than three weeks.

Sunday night, 10th September

141 moths of 42 species; one new for year. Last night's catch was notable for two main reasons: our third (different) Dewick's Plusia, and a total of four Blair's Mochas! There were other highlights of course...

First of the year, following one in 2022. Does not eat clothes.

Am I going to get blasé about Dewick's Plusias? I hope not...

Dewick's Plusia #3

Looks pretty cool in plan view too.

A lovely, second-generation Maiden's Blush.

A shaggy little Pale Eggar.

The annotation should really say 'presumed Acleris laterana'. Sigh...

Yes, the above moth - of which we trapped three last night, all similar - has a look-alike, Acleris comariana, or Strawberry Tortrix. The latter is much scarcer in Dorset, and I get the impression that most don't look like our moth, though both species apparently are very variable. So anyway, I'm going with the commoner of the two.

Finally, it was nice to catch a favourite mini-tripod moth - Caloptilia semifascia - in its autumn colours. It seems that many moths with more than one brood per year also have a different appearance with each brood. Here it is in summer plumage...

Caloptilia semifascia (Maple Slender) caught 11th July 2022.

The autumn version, sans big creamy cummerbund. Our first.

Right, that's everything up to date. Now I'm off to do some serious birding...


  1. Gav, just wondering. That day where you observed moth experts recording multiple specimens without having to consult the manual? Whereabouts would you say you are now by comparison?

    1. Good question. I am a very long way from that level of expertise. What I can do is go through my own catch pretty quickly now. Unfamiliar moths are usually recognised as such, even if I cannot put a name to the. So I probably have a mental library of 3-400 species or so, maybe more. Which compares with about 20 back then! 😄

  2. I'm fascinated by animal camouflage and moths take it to extremes but, that they have seasonal variations has blown my mind.

    1. Yep, fascinating isn't it? No wonder I'm hooked. 😊