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Thursday, 22 May 2014

The Elusive Anania funebris

Anania funebris (`white-spotted sable`) is a very attractive little pyralid, which reminds me -in terms of colouring- of those little penguins with a yellow crest. It is only known from three sites in the county, but may be at more. It was first found in 2006, new to Carmarthenshire, at a disused coal-mine site near Bettws in the Amman Valley by Barry Stewart. I`m not sure whether this site has since been destroyed by `landscaping`?. Shortly afterwards, in 2007, I found it on the Carmel ridge, where it solely occurs alongside a limestone chipping path that ascends to a mast-type structure near Garn-big (the `pointed cairn`or `cairn on the peak`). I have also subsequently seen it at this latter site. George Tordoff of Butterfly Conservation has also found it within Pembrey Forest.
Mat Ridley (who lives at Carmel) had a quick search for Anania last week but saw none, and I intended yesterday (21/5/14) to see if I could find any, but I also failed. The food-plant, golden-rod, still grows alongside the path and I am not suggesting that Anania is not extant at the site - sometimes repeat visits are required to re-find a species.
I`m afraid that this particular blog has a real dearth of moth photos, with just compensatory habitat shots on offer. I hope, however, they will be of use to those involved in lepidoptera conservation or with an interest in wildlife.
Above: a view from the east of the Garn-big mast. Note the rank vegetation and ongoing successional change to scrub.

Above: a view looking south, over a linear topographical depression with heather and bog habitat. I`ve had neglected and heath rustics at this site, as well as a trap-full of marsh oblique-barreds on one occasion. Great views of a cuckoo here yesterday. This ridge once formed the northern edge of the huge Mynydd Mawr common which extended southwards to the Pont Abraham area of the M4 extension.

Above: common heaths were abundant over the heather. They were very difficult to catch, let alone photograph - hence the inadequate photo of a tubed individual.

Above: this the main area where Anania has been found - looking down the track from the Garn-big mast. The goldenrod (not yet in flower) grows at the track edges. I have also found the brightly-coloured caterpillars of the starwort moth here in the past. In the distance, and beyond another boggy hollow to the SW, is the tall Llyn Llech Owain TV mast.

Above: on `Garn-big` itself - the Bronze Age cairn with trig point and looking along the spine of the Carmel ridge, over Carmel Woods to Mynydd Du in the distance. A certain Carmarthenshire moth-er lives in the white house on the far left!

Above: looking northwards from the cairn and viewing Pwll Edrychiad (part of the NNR) and mostly limestone grassland. Perhaps worth exploring for its lepidoptera?

I then visited a second area not far away - a disused limestone quarry (photo below) SW of Carmel hamlet and where I`ve had some interesting day-flying moths in past years including six-belted clearwing (swept from bird`s-foot trefoil), and Pyrausta spp pyralids.  Note the rich (but rabbit-grazed) ground flora and the distinctive blue-grey of the Carboniferous Limestone.

Above: what I did chance upon though, was the weevil Apoderus coryli (living up to its name by being on hazel!), and copying Ali Baird`s recent find!

Finally, en route home, I stopped off at a small, domed peat bog, SE of Pont Abraham. I`ve had some typical heathland species at this site in the past - neglected and (many) heath rustics and also the pyralid Pempelia palumbella (as new to Carms). The site is very degraded, however, and drying out with much birch invasion (expectedly it has orange underwings in spring). I`ve also seen brimstone butterflies at this site and was pleased yesterday to find the food-plant, alder buckthorn - just one large shrub becoming overshadowed by birches. The only moth I saw yesterday was common heath - again in abundance.
This site once formed part of a medieval `forest` or `hunting ground`(and not woodland), an use fossilised in the nearby place-name `Fforest`. You can still discern the approximate boundary of this minor `forest` on the modern OS map, perhaps the hunting domain of local gentry.

Above: the peat bog SW of Ty-llwyd near Hendy.

Once again, I apologise for the profusion of landscape photos, but I hope that it may at least give an insight to the butterfly and moth habitats and the conservation problems that they face in Carmarthenshire.
The conservation issues include the need to prevent excessive succession on heathland and bog sites by re-introducing adequate grazing and re-wetting by ditch blocking. These measures are difficult to re-introduce in practice, requiring landowner agreements, funding for fencing and the motivation to graze highly sub-optimal agricultural land. It is sobering to think that the Carmel ridge for example, is now more scrubbed over than any time since the time when the cairns were built - the Bronze Age! More strategically, the wildlife of unimproved land is being squeezed to extinction by the two-pronged assaults of agricultural improvement and scrubbing over.


  1. Sorry to hear of your lack of success Ian. I didn't see any at Pembrey yesterday either. However, I was rather more successful on the way home, see the Glamorgan blog (if you can face it).


  2. Oh, the pain!....good stuff being found in both Glamorgan and Ceredigion (eg bird`s wing at latter)...perhaps vc44 really ought to annex these neighbours, Crimea-style!!!

  3. That did make me laugh Ian!

    Bird's Wing is an amazing record - essentially an English moth that doesn't seem to like the west, so impressive that it has turned up at Aberystwyth.

  4. You should publish a compilation of your landscape photos, Ian. I'm sure that the Welsh Tourist Board would welcome it!
    I've just seen an Anania, close to where I sited the trap last night. Unfortunately it was A. hortulata.