Friday, 2 August 2013

Ash Bud Moth melanics

The black & white micro Prays fraxinella (Ash Bud Moth) is highly distinctive and one of the first micros I learned to recognise.  Over the years I've seen 100s of them, including a few totally dark melanics.  Last night I caught 3 Prays here at Cnwc, all of them melanic (and I was thrown by them, in part because the melanics aren't in Sterling & Parsons so I didn't ID until I looked in MBGBI 3).

Sterling & Parsons mention Prays ruficeps in their text, saying it "has the head orangey brown and thorax and forewings unicolorous dark brown".  I wondered whether this was a new name/status for the melanic Prays, and sure enough many European lepidopterists recognise these uniformly dark Prays as P. ruficeps and consider P. fraxinella to be black & white only.

Frustratingly my past records don't say how many Prays I've seen were melanic, so I can't establish any kind of pattern.  There are hints on Atropos Flight Arrivals that people are getting more melanics at the moment than they usually do, so perhaps Prays ruficeps is migrating into the country along with Plutella xylostella and Yponomeuta species.

So, please keep an eye out for uniformly dark micros with an orangey head if you're trapping in the next few days, record them as Prays fraxinella but include a note that they are melanic!

1 comment:

  1. Sam, I could be wrong, but I thought that there was still considered to be a dark form of Prays fraxinella, as well as the other species (Prays ruficeps). I believe that David Agassiz is working on them to try to resolve the issues, not least because they appear to have completely different larval stages!

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