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"A Nature Observer′s Scrapbook"

Micro Moths, page b

Many of the field guides fail to adequately cover the large number of small moths which fall into the 'Micro Moth' category. To be fair, many 'micros' can look confusingly similar and it is only the more distinctly marked species that I have found and been able to put names to, that are illustrated here.

Cocksfoot moth,Glyphipterix simpliciella

Cocksfoot moth

Glyphipterix simpliciella

This is a tiny little moth - really living up to it's 'micro' name. It is no more than 5mm long, with a stated wingspan of 9mm. It is so small that it is easily overlooked despite being very common throughout the UK.

My attention was drawn to this specimen by it's naturally inherent behaviour of continually 'twitching' or flexing its wings.

The adult moths are often seen in the months of May to July visiting the flowers of Meadow buttercup, Ranunculus acris.

It's common name derives from the tiny larvae feeding on the seeds of the Cocksfoot grass and when mature they then pupate within the grass stem.

17.05.2006 There was no shortage of Cocksfoot grass around but, this one was found on Cleavers, Gallium aparine.
20.05.2009 A mass emergence saw scores of these moths around banks of nettles in warm sunshine.

Larva of Paraswammerdamia lutrea Larva of Paraswammerdamia lutrea

No common name

Paraswammerdamia lutarea

With a scientific name like that, I would have thought that someone might have come up with a simple common name - but, apparently not.

The small slim 10mm moth can be quite variable in colour, ranging from pale ash grey to a dark steely blue grey. It is active during July but, rarely flies during the day.

The caterpillars, about 10mm in length, are to be found mainly on Hawthorn and Rowan. They tend to browse from the safety of a folded leaf held together with a fine silk mesh. But, they are very active and will readily gallop off the leaf if disturbed.

The minute early larval stage is spent within a leaf mine in September but then emerges from the leaf to lead a more conventional caterpillar life from October to May.

As the larvae mature they go through several colour changes from creamy brown to dark chestnut brown. Constant throughout the colour changes is the short thin white line at the back of the head and the broad white flashes running down the sides at the front of the body. The caterpillar's body is noticeably thinner at the front and broadens towards the rear, giving them a very distinctive appearance.

Pupation takes place in a silken sheath in a folded leaf.

05.06.2004 Larva found on a Hawthorn hedge in the process of building a silken web.

Brown House moth Brown House moth larva

Brown House moth

Hofmannophila pseudospretella

As the common name suggests, this is a moth adapted to living indoors and consequently, with no seasonal climatic changes to influence it, it is to be found all year round. Although it originated in Asia, world trade has spread it throughout many parts of the world.

Although its general appearance is fairly consistent, it can vary in overall length from about 7mm to 12mm. I find the moths to be hyperactive and a great strain on a photographer's patience.

The larvae have reddish brown heads and a sparsely bristled creamy translucent body, tinted pale brown behind the head. The intestinal colour will depend on the food source. They are to be found in any undisturbed area indoors, behind skirting boards, under carpets, etc., and survive on a varied dry diet of wool, fur, dead plant and animal material, etc.

The pictured 18mm larva was found in a disused bird nesting box, (a distinctly vulnerable location I would have thought!) and was reared through to maturity. The green leaf background was used for photographic contrast and played no part in the larva's natural habitat. A second generation was found in a container holding the dry dust and husks of bird seed.

27.06.2005 Found on an indoors windowsill.
14.03.2007 Larvae found in disused bird nest box.
Nov/Dec 2007 Second generation larvae being reared indoors.
11.06.2009 Pristine condition adult moth found in garage.

White-Shouldered House-Moth White-Shouldered House-Moth larva

White-shouldered House-moth

Endrosis sarcitrella

This inconspicuous little moth ( with a wing length of only 8mm ) occurs regularly inside buildings, and being continuously-brooded, can be found at any time of year indoors.

Colour variation within the species varies from light brown to slate grey but as the common name implies, the white shoulders are a constant feature.

While the adults survive solely on a liquid diet, the larvae live on dried plant and animal debris, and the species has been accidentally introduced into many parts of the world with the international transport of dry goods.

Although the 14mm larva image may look substantially similar to that of the previous species (and it was found in the same bird box), there were three distinct attributes which differentiated the larvae. This one was 'chunkier', more opaque and richer cream in colour, and less mobile. Whereas the Brown House moth larvae was capable of roaming free and climbing smooth vertical surfaces, this species was more lethargic, content to tunnel leisurely through the nest box substrate and tended to roll off its feet when brought into the open. It behaved more like a 'grub' than a caterpillar. I had no difficulty in separating the combined community into two discrete communities and rearing them through to maturity.

Interestingly, I also noted that the Brown House moth was a much more active adult than the White-shouldered House-moth.

15.08.2003back garden.
23.09.2006Found indoors.
14.03.2007Larvae found in disused bird nest box.
Parsnip moth Parsnip moth larva

Parsnip moth

Depressaria pastinacella
also known as D. heraclei

The 15mm Parsnip moth is to be found from mid August through to April - although it will hibernate as a moth through the worst of the winter. In my experience, overwintered moths tend to look paler, almost creamy.

It is quite common as the larvae feed on Wild Parsley and Hogweed which are usually in no short supply on verges and waste ground.

The larvae feed communally both within the unopened flower buds, causing distortion and marking of the bud, and are more conspicuously seen on the fully opened flower panicles often under a silken web that constrains the flower head from opening fully.

The larvae develop from small creamy orange caterpillars through pale green, dark green and finally pale brown phases, to eventually reach a length of some 24mm. At all stages they have black heads and a patterning of raised black dots.

Having fed on the flower head, the mature catepillars then burrow into the hollow stems to pupate.

20.10.2006 Moth found indoors at midday.
21.04.2007 Found inside workshop in mid-afternoon.
29.06.2009 Larvae found grazing on Hogweed flower heads.
08.08.2009 Attracted to light at night.
14.04.2010 Worn specimen found in shed, presumably coming out of hibernation..

Agonopterix heracliana

no common name

Agonopterix heracliana

There are two very similar species, A. heracliana and A. ciliella (fore-wing lengths of about 10 and 12mm respectively), that fly at roughly the same time of year (from August through to May). They can be positively separated only by close inspection of the hind wing to determine the number of fine dark bands on the long hairs that trail from the end of the wing - and the hind wing is rarely displayed.

In spring-time, having endured the ravages of winter, the moths generally appear to be in good condition but the frill of hairs at the wing extremities can be a little threadbare.

The larvae are greenish, speckled and up to 20mm long and favour umbellifer food plants such as Cow Parsley, Hogweed, Ground Elder and the like during the months of May, June and July.

Based on the 10mm wing length of the image, the local abundance of the food plants and the fact that it is the more common species, the image is thought to be representative of A. heracliana.

19.03.2006 Attracted to light. Still in nice condition if it has been flying from August/September.
05.03.2007 10 attracted to light in the garage. All appeared to be in silky smooth condition although the underwing fringe hairs were somewhat worn.
27.01.2008 Disturbed from wood pile and in good condition.
26.02.2009 5 found active inside garage after dark.

Agonopterix arenella

no common name

Agonopterix arenella

The resting position of this moth, with wings flat, overlapped and parallel, is characteristic of the Depressariinae family of Micro Moths. Within that family there are about 30 Agonopterix species and the distinctive colouring of A. arenella makes it one of the easier to identify.

It is a winter night flying moth, being on the wing from September through to April / May, although it will seek shelter from the worst of the winter weather.

Eggs laid in the spring will give rise to the thistle and knapweed eating larvae in early summer.

28.03.2007 Found indoors in good condition considering that it had overwintered.
28.04.2007 Another also found indoors but showing signs of wear and tear.

Agapeta hamana Agapeta hamana

no common name

Agapeta hamana

At just over 10mm, this is a very distinctive little moth. Although there are many images showing some variation in the intensity of possible markings, I have found that the local population are all very similar in coloration, the dark 'vee' mark standing out prominently from the plain pale yellow ground colour.

It is readily attracted to light and when seen indoors the silky sheen on the wings can be highlighted quite dramatically.

The moth flies from May to September and is common in lowland areas and waste ground where the larvae feed on the root system of thistles.of thistles.

13.06.2006 Came to light at dusk.
06.07.2006 Now becoming a regular visitor.
02.06 - 22.07.2009 Attracted to lighted window.
08.06 - 10.09.2010 Attracted to lighted window.
17.05 - 20.08.2011 Attracted to lighted window.
26.06 - 07.09.2012 Attracted to lighted window.

Agapeta zoegana

no common name

Agapeta zoegana

Agapeta zoegana is commonly found throughout England and Wales but is fairly localised in southern Scotland. In my locality in Lincolnshire it does not appear to be as numerous as the previous species, Agapeta hamana, and also has a shorter flight window, seemingly limited to July and August.

The dark 'ring' at the wing extremity is very distinctive and the ground colour of the wing can vary from light yellow to a dull orange colour. Wing length is about 8 - 12mm.

It frequents grassland and roadside verges and the larvae feed on the roots of Knapweed and Small Scabious.

17.07.2009 Attracted to lighted window.
09.08.2010 Attracted to lighted window.
05.08.2011 Attracted to lighted window.
05.07 - 14.08.2012 Attracted to lighted window.

Clepsis consimilana, Micro moth Clepsis consimilana, Micro moth

No common name

Clepsis consimilana

Clepsis consimilana is one of the large Tortix group of micro moths.

There can be some variation in the wing colouring, but our resident population is predominately of the darker form.

Adult moths fly from June to September and ours are much in evidence in late afternoon and dusk flying around the flowers of the larval food plant. Forewing length is about 7 - 9 mm.

Clepsis consimilana larva

The larvae is said to prefer Privet type foliage and certainly we have had many of them (moths and larvae) on small Cotoneaster microphylus shrubs in the garden which have similar shiny, fleshy, evergreen leaves.

As can be seen from the lower image, the bright yellow larva folds a leaf together around itself and 'stitches' it together with silk. From the safety of this enclosure it can then leisurely browse the inner surface of the leaf. An estimate of size can be judged from the 15mm leaf.

18.06.2006 Many moths flying around the larval food plant at dusk.
19.06.2006 Inspection of folded leaves led to the finding of the feeding larva.
23.06.2006 Pale form seen around the larval food plant at dusk.

Pseudargyrotoza conwagana

No common name

Pseudargyrotoza conwagana

The general colouration of this moth can vary quite coniderably. Freshly emerged from pupation it can look bright and contrasty. Towards the end of its flight season it can appear quite drab. But the one significant identification feature that remains constant is the central light mark in the middle of its folded wings. This can often appear to be fan shaped.

With a forewing length of only 7mm, this day flying moth is, indisputedly, a true micro.

The moths are to be found from May to July where ever Ash trees and Privet (the larval food sources) are growing.

19.06.2004 Found on an indoor windowsill.
22.05.2009 Found on vegetation under an Ash tree.
26.06.2012 2 found in garden MV moth trap.

Isotrias rectifasciana

No common name

Isotrias rectifasciana

Before having this positively identified for me as Isotrias rectifasciana, I was almost persuaded that it might have been Argyrotaenia ljungiana. The coloration was similar but there are differences in the wing patterning. And although this specimen of I. rectifasciana appears somewhat darker than others seen on the web, the females do tend to be more prominently marked than the males.

Other confirmatory details were that this species is thought to develop on Hawthorn - and there was a Hawthorn hedge shading the Stinging nettle that I found this one on, and that this species flies in May and June - which helps to differentiate it from A. ljungiana (which, being a heather loving heathland species would have been an unlikely visitor in my neck of the woods).

04.06.2004 Found on Stinging nettle at base of Hawthorn hedge.

Codlin moth

Codlin moth

Cydia pomonella

The Codlin moth is quite a smart well marked little moth having striated grey wings with a dark gold or copper tinted band towards the rear. Overall length is only about 10mm.

It flies from May to October and may be multiple brooded. It is normally found in the vicinity of Apple or Pear trees - where its larvae are considered to be a significant pest of the fruit.

When the eggs hatch, the larvae (cream, on the way in) quickly make their way to the fruit and tunnel right to the heart in search of the much favoured seeds. And when mature (pink, on the way out), they tunnel back out to pupate. That alone may well make the fruit unattractive to the buying public but, the tunnels also provide easy access for flies and wasps to reach the fruit juices and that usually results in open rotten wounds.

It is therefore of little surprise that much money and effort is spent in trying to eradicate the Codlin moth from orchards.

12.06.2006 Flew indoors attracted to light.

Chrysoteuchia culmella

no common name

Chrysoteuchia culmella

There are a large number of species within the Pyralidae family of moths, commonly known as 'grass' or 'grass veneer' moths. And many are difficult to positively identify.

The apparently 'embossed' wing veins and the 'V' shaped cross line at the rear of the wing make this one of the easier to name. It flies in early summer, usually June and July.

The larvae are rarely seen as they feed at the base of grass stems

24.06.2006 Daytime indoors visitor.

Diamond-back moth Diamond-back moth

Diamond-back moth

Plutella xylostella

This is a very variable species both in colour, as the images indicate, and in size. The upper moth was 10mm long (head plus wing length) while the lower one was only 8mm long.

Despite their small size, the species is noted for migrating over huge distances and it is not unusual for thousands from continental Europe to appear on southern UK coasts. The two pictured moths both appeared on the same night after several days of southerly winds. But, given mild winters it is entirely possible that resident populations will over-winter.

The larvae feed on all manner of wild and cultivated cruciferae (cabbage family) plants and although small (up to 11 or 12mm), large numbers can give rise to pest proportion infestations. The development cycle from egg to adult moth can be as little as 30 days, so several generations are possible each year. Moths may be seen flying from May to September.

02.06.2003 Found during day in open meadow.
15.05.2009 2 attracted to a lighted window.
26.06.2012 2 attracted to garden MV moth trap.
29.05.2013 1 found flying at dusk in open meadow.

Catoptria falsella

no common name

Catoptria falsella

This is an attractive moth, quite localised in its UK distribution but rather more common on the south.

A side view would have shown its low, slim profile, characteristic of the Pyralidae family.

The larvae feed on mosses and although this one was found on grass, a low mossy wall was only 4m away.

Normally flying in July and August, this one was seen at the end of June so may have been a recently hatched specimen.

29.06.2006 On lawn in daylight at 19.00hrs.

Thistle Ermine,
 Myelois circumvoluta

Thistle Ermine

Myelois circumvoluta

There are several micromoths of a similar appearance to the Thistle Ermine (white, tightly folded wings with small black spots) but fortunately, this one is significantly larger than the other species that are part of the 'Yponomeutidae' family.

As its common name suggests, the larvae feed on various species of thistle, which suggests that it is more likely to be found in rural areas or close to waste ground.

It is predominately a southern UK species, flying in early summer, June or July and, as was the pictured specimen, can be attracted to light.

17.07.2007 Attracted to lighted window.

Ephestia species Ephestia species

Ephestia species

..... E. elutella or,
........E. parasitella

This is another of those cases where, because of the similarity of shape and common variation in colour/markings it is not possible to suggest a positive ID without recourse to surgical intervention.

That being the case, there are no definitive distribution maps for the two species although some evidence suggests that, within the UK, E. parasitella might be more prevalent in the south of England. What can be said is that E. elutella has been positively identified in Lincolshire whereas E. parasitella has not.

What is known is that the larvae of E. elutella are considered a pest of stored dried foods and therefore the adults might be more likely to be found indoors, whereas the larvae of E. parasitella are associated with dry plant material and birdseed and consequently their adults are more likely to be seen around barns and outdoors and are the more frequently seen day flying species.

Both species fly during June and July - although some references suggest that the flight period might extend into September.

12.07.2007 Was found day flying in the garden.

 Mompha subbistrigella

No common name

Mompha subbistrigella

This Micro moth is classed as common in England and Wales but is less well distributed in Scotland and Ireland. It flies from August through to May but, is probably very seldom noticed. It is tiny, only 6mm long, and with its wings tightly folded can easily be overlooked or mistaken for a bit of dead grass or a splinter of wood .... until the sun shines. Then it glistens of gold and silver.

There are 14 species within the Mompha genus and the larvae of most are leaf miners. This one, however, feeds inside the seedpods of Willowherbs, causing the pods to thicken and swell.

10.04.2008 Found on an indoors windowsill.

male Bee Moth female Bee Moth

Bee Moth

Aphomia sociella

This is a sexually dimorphic species, that is, the male and female look significantly different and could be mistaken for two different species.

The upper image of the more brightly coloured male illustrates the two common positions adopted when at rest. The narrow 'arrow' shape on the left is taken up when landing from flight. While the image on the right, with the wings rolled tightly against the body is representative of the moth about to rest up in the cracks of tree bark.

The lower image is of the much plainer female. The prominent black spots on the otherwise plain grey wings look like a good identification feature but, it is the faint suggestion of the dark jagged line that crosses the male's wings that helps to separate this female from other similar grey moths.

Obviously, this moth does not look like a bee. It gets its common name from it's habit of laying clusters of eggs in the entrances to bee and wasp nests. On hatching the larvae burrow into the honey combs and the subsequent leakage of honey can damage the saleability of honey from commercial hives. It is therefore regarded as a pest in some quarters.

The adult moths fly from June to August and are to be found throughout the UK.

26.07.2008 Female found
06.07.2009 Male attracted to light.

Trachycera advenella Trachycera advenella

No Common Name

Trachycera advenella

This is a small moth, only about 12mm long and, when seen in poor light, appears to be a fairly nondescript grey colour. But, in bright conditions, a whole range of colourful markings can be seen. In particular, the curved line midway across it's back can appear pink or red and the wing scales appear irredescent.

It is quite common throughout much of the UK although becoming less so in the north. It is a single generation species, flying in July and August and is often attracted to light.

The larvae feed on Hawthorn and, in the north, on Rowan - and they seem to prefer old, mature hedges and trees. In their early stages of development, the caterpillars are a creamy fawn colour which becomes bright apple green as they mature. In all stages they have two longitudinal brown stripes running the full length of the body.

07.08.2008 Attracted to light.
05.08.2010 Attracted to light.

Euzophera pinguis

No common name

Euzophera pinguis

While there is no generally accepted 'common name' for this moth it is sometimes referred to as the 'Tabby Knot-grass' or the 'Olive Pyralid'. The latter name is likely to have southern European connections where the larvae can be pests of olive plantations. In the UK the moth is more commonly found in the south where the larvae is known to burrow into and feed on the bark of Ash trees (Fraxinus).

If the larvae are present in sufficient numbers, significant damage to the tree bark will eventually cause the tree to die which would justify it's reputation as a pest in olive groves.

The moth is about 14mm long, flies in the months of July and August and is attracted to light at night. With its distinctive contrasting bands of colour it is one of the easier micro moths to identify.

29.07.2008 Attracted to light.

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