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Friday, 15 May 2015

A poor show last night at Pwll

Feeling rather `moth-deprived`, and as the weather forecast seemed suitable, I put out two traps at home last night (an MV and a 40W actinic). The results were dire, with just over a dozen species in small numbers, though including a couple of common FFYs such as Chinese character. The actinic performed better than the MV, as it often (but not always) does for me.

The only bit of `mothy excitement` for me last night occurred in bed! I was reading a modern print of JW Tutt`s classic `Practical Hints for the Field Lepidopterist` which was published before c.1905. In it, he refers to the white-barred clearwing in the entries for June. He writes,
 " The first week in June is the time for Sesia sphegiformis, which assembles freely. It occurs with considerable abundance in Tilgate Forest, Basingstoke and was so abundant in a Welsh locality - Dolau Cothy [=Dolaucothi, near Pumsaint in N Carms], Carmarthenshire recently, that the larvae destroyed almost all the alders growing there".

I was already aware of the above record, as TW Barker mentions it in his Handbook to the Natural History of Carmarthenshire (1905) but, somehow, I had overlooked this original reference in Tutt. There is a more modern confirmed record of the species in our county, as Dafydd Davies caught it on the Afon Bran NE of Llandovery in the 1970s. He gave me the specimen, which was later seen by Jon Baker and Sam Bosanquet.
It may be worth looking for this clearwing next month, with the alder thickets growing on our larger rivers perhaps providing the best chance of finding it - certain shingle shoals on the Tywi come to mind, as do the shingle banks on the Rheidol and Ystwyth for any Ceredigion moth enthusiasts who may read this note. The species is said to favour younger alder trees. It has also occurred to me that the dead riverside alders that I have seen on occasions in recent years may not be all due to Phytophora infection.
In my recent Nantybai blog, I mentioned the finding of a particular hoverfly and it was my past enthusiasm for that group that lead to past success in finding adult clearwings in the pre-pheromone lure days. Six-belted could be (relatively) easily found by sweeping bird`s-foot trefoil in season; I once chanced upon red-tipped clearwing flying low in woodland near Kidwelly and yellow-legged was found when I was checking a decrepit old sweet chestnut for deadwood invertebrates. In other words, the different technique of observing and checking `other insects` paid off.


  1. I'm glad i'm not the only one Ian - my trap at Parc Slip had 3 moths in it this morning with another 6 outside it - none new for the year. Not worth the 4am start...would the weather yesterday have played a part do you think as it was the same overnight temperature last week and i had 40-odd?

  2. Poor catches do seem to follow from wet days. It often seems to me that the weather during the preceding day is more important than the weather on the night itself.

  3. Interesting point, George. I had a nice afternoon at Pembrey Harbour area, with some moths seen and caught. Will blog about it tomorrow.