One casualty of the lockdown imposed due to the Covid-19 crisis (July 6th was the first day that we were allowed to venture more than 5 mls from home) was that I was unable to continue with my springtime (c mid-April to mid-May) search for adults of the alien micro-moth Pachyrhabda steropodes, a species first discovered by Jon Baker on ferns in Aberglasney Gardens near Llandeilo. Since that discovery, it has colonised the mid-Tywi Valley area from Abergwili to at least just beyond Llandeilo and with records as south of the valley at the NBGW and (less so) at Gelli Aur. Furthermore, Steve Clarke caught a singleton at Cwmllwyd on the northern edge of Mynydd Du and, in 2020, Sam had one at Cnwc. It favours soft-shield fern Polystichum setiferum which, in turn, likes base-rich soils. Pachyrhabda may have been expected by now to have reached the Carboniferous Limestone ridge woodlands (to the south) and their profusion of that fern, though a recent checking of woodland at Crwbin did not reveal its presence. Since first posting this piece on the blog, Sam has informed me that it has also been recorded at Johnstown, on the western side of Carmarthen town - it is evidently on the move.
Glancing through the ever-useful British Moths (2nd Edition) by Chris Manley, I noticed a photo of the seemingly distinctive tube-like spinning that the Pachyrhabda larvae make on the underside of fern fronds and, thinking that it might be an useful characteristic to extend the season for recording this moth, I ventured forth yesterday (6/7) to one of its known sites. The site visited - again close to Llandeilo - is where I recorded many scores of adults a few years back; it has the advantage of easy access and an abundance of soft shield ferns.
I may return to collect some soil and leaf litter from around some of the soft shield ferns that have the abundant silken larval tubes, to investigate whether any pupae can be found. Perhaps I shall retain some until next April to see if any Pachyrhabda emerge.
In the last couple of weeks, I was made aware of two photos (one on the Glamorgan moth blog) of the related Stathmopoda pedella which had been very recently recorded in Glamorgan, one at Gorseinon and the other on Gower (both very close to south-east Carmarthenshire). Furthermore, Sam also emailed me to say that he had recently recorded it (in Mons) by beating alders, its food-plant (the larvae feed in young alder cones). Today (7/7) I ventured out mid-morning, before the anticipated rain, to do some general daytime moth recording in the Ashpits Pond area, between Pwll and Burry Port. The first `beat` of an alder branch produced the individual of Stathmopoda pictured below - what luck! However, it went missing for a brief panicky period after I`d tapped it into the net. I`d seen this distinctive moth momentarily and then I`d swiftly closed the net to prevent escape and to get a container ready - who would believe me without the specimen? Upon peering into the net it was nowhere to be seen! In the event, it was there, accidentally hidden behind an alder leaf, and it was duly potted up - phew! It is new to Carmarthenshire. The individual was on a solitary young alder (c 20 ft high), part of an amenity planting, rather than in old alder carr which I`d hitherto imagined would be its habitat. I did some beating of the few alders (as well as grey alders) growing in nearby planted woodland, but no more individuals were found.