Home > Moths > 22 July 2017 – Scarce Footman

23 July 2017

22 July 2017 – Scarce Footman

Scarce Footman (Eilema complana)

Before opening the moth trap we scanned the interior of the tent, looking for any moths hiding inside the crevices or folds of the fabric. Usually when the tent is set up, there will mostly be a population of Common Footman and Mottled Rustics to be found. This time was similar, but added to by Chinese Characters as well. As we flipped the tent to its side however, I spotted a skinnier than normal footman resting next to the zipper. We put it in a tube and decided to head back inside as the rain had started t come down harder. 

Identifying the few moths caught from the tent alone, things seemed hopeful as the footman turned out to be a Scarce Footman (Eilema complana). Its coloration is overall appearance is similar to the Common Footman, but unlike its cousin, the Scarce Footman’s wings are curled up around its body when at rest. Like its name suggests, the moth is uncommon and resides mainly in the south and east of England, preferring moorland and coastal areas. Recently, it has been gradually moving to the North and West. Charlie Fletcher tells us that our record extends its range by five miles! 

Eilema means ‘a veil’, which describes the wrapping of the wings around the abdomen. The second part complana means ‘to make level’.  This part of the binomial has a complicated derivation as it also refers to the position of the wings when the moth is at rest.

The larvae of the Scarce Footman, like many others of the family, feed on lichen which is plentiful here at Shandy Hall.

Water Veneer (Acentria ephemerella)

A Water Veneer (Acentria ephemerella) was also found fluttering around in the bottom of the tent. Moths are usually inactive in the morning so I had some doubt whether it was actually a moth or not. It has been recorded at Shandy Hall but not photographed before. I predicted it to be difficult to photograph as the moth was not keen on remaining still. To my surprise, the Water Veneer stayed motionless on the leaf I placed it on allowing me to get a detailed photograph of it.

The moth’s lifestyle is extraordinary compared to other moths as it lives around ponds and slow-moving water. The females can either have wings or not, the ones without living underwater. The males have wings and will mate with females on the surface of the water. The larvae are aquatic and feed on the several varieties of pondweed (Potomogeton sp.). We have a small pond located in our quarry right next to an oak tree. This pond, despite its size, holds a diverse ecosystem of newts, insects, and plants.

(Opostega salaciella)

Finding these species in the tent had me excited for the moth trap which remained unopened. The egg boxes turned out to be covered in species I have never seen before, one of which was the Opostega salaciella. Another uncommon moth, Opostega salaciella is the only moth in its family that is completely white. Its large eye caps, which can be seen in the photograph, open as it moves along. Unsurprisingly, Opostega means ‘face roof’, which derived from the large eye caps. The second half salaciella means ‘lustful’, which is thought to have come from its flight patterns around its foodplant being delightful.

Not much is known about the early stages of the moth but it is guessed that the larvae feed on Sheep’s Sorrel (Rumex acetosella). We do not have any Sheep’s Sorrel here in Shandy Hall but we do have a species of sorrel in a small pot.

Both the Scarce Footman and Opostega salaciella are new to Shandy Hall. Our count rises by 2 which means we have reached 420 species for the two acre plot.


Post : Walter Chen [UPenn intern]