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23 August 2017

23 August 2017 – China and Gold

Small China-mark (Cataclysta lemnata)

A new species to Shandy Hall – but not to the blog.  How can this be?  

A moth trap was set in Luddington-in-the-Brook in 2015, in the garden where the artist Carry Akroyd* lives.  Even before I  had set up all the paraphernalia that seems to go with identifying and recording moths, and before night had fallen, I noticed two or three insects drifting gently over Carry’s lawn close to a small pond.  Small China-mark (Cataclysta lemnata) was the name that sprang to mind, and the reason they were there was the pond – the place where the moth’s larva spends some of its time.  Or so I had read.  There was the mothy proof.

I hoped that one might be seen at Shandy Hall one day and, two years later, it has arrived – species number 422.

The pond that we managed to dig in the quarry (a few years ago now and thanks to kind volunteer help) is now full of newts. It must also be a shelter for the Small China-mark’s cocoon – constructed using duckweed floating on the water.  The Small China-mark was a bonus for what turned out to be a rain-drenched night in North Yorkshire.


Triangle Plume Moth (Platyptilia orthodactyla)

The forecast hadn’t looked too bad, just a little rain at around 7pm and then cloudy and warm. It threw it down. When I went to switch off the mercury vapour light this morning, I could see immediately that the cloudiness and warmth had attracted over two hundred Underwing (of different species) and around a hundred Straw Dot (Rivula sericealis).  The underwing invasion is (thankfully for the planetary food-chain) predictable, but I haven’t seen so many Straw Dot moths before and I don’t know why there should be so many.  What else was to be found in this swirling mass of fluttering? 

A couple of Gold Spot (Plusia festucae), a Gold Triangle (Hypsopygia costalis), dozens of Flame Shoulder (Ochropleura plecta), a Double-Striped Tabby and a Plume. It is always cheering to see a Plume as they seem to represent everything that is magical about moths. But which species is this one? We have had a Brown Plume, a White Plume, an Emmelina monodactyla, and a Beautiful Plume.  Is this one new to the garden?  It seems larger than the Beautiful Plume and the others in the ‘family’ that could qualify are all far too scarce to turn up in Coxwold. If you click on the photograph it will show you the moth in a little more detail.  I sent a photograph to Charlie Fletcher in the hope that he would identify it and he confirmed that it was a Triangle Plume (Platyptsilia orthodactlya) – wide-winged and of the colour ochre (platus ptilon okhra).

According to the website Yorkshire Moths Flying Tonight (a helpful resource) this moth is ‘uncommon and thinly distributed’ in the county, so it is especially pleasing to have recorded it in Coxwold.  The moth has Coltsfoot (Tussilago farfara) as the food plant – a plant that I haven’t seen for years and one that we don’t have in the gardens.  The scientific name refers to its use as a cure for a cough (L. tussis).

The Triangle Plume is species number 423.

Gold Spot (Plusia festucae)

A regular visitor in the later days of August is the Gold Spot.  The wings are decorated with gold and silver flashes and it is very easy to identify.  There is a variant – Lempke’s Gold Spot – which we have recorded as well.

Gold Triangle (Hypsopygia costalis)

The little Gold Triangle (Hypsopygia costalis) is in its initial resting position in the photograph.  When fully at rest the fore-wings and hind-wings are spread out and the abdomen is slightly lifted : hupsos meaning ‘height’ and pugaios meaning ‘pertaining to the rump’.

What else?  An Angle Shades, Gothic, Dark Arches and sexton beetles, wasps, ichneumon flies, caddis flies, those little beetles that look like moving rabbit droppings, shield bugs, mosquitoes, lace wings, ground beetles and a variety of different crane flies.

*Carry has recently published a beautiful new book : Found in the Fields.  www.carryakroyd.co.uk