Home > Moths > 3 September 2016 – Bittersweet and Strawberry Leaves

3 September 2016

3 September 2016 – Bittersweet and Strawberry Leaves

Square-spot Rustic (Xestia xanthographa)  

Wasps and more wasps.  There seem to be hardly any places in the gardens where wasps aren’t nesting and yesterday morning there were over 50 wandering aimlessly around the egg-boxes in the trap. Add half-a-dozen sexton beetles, crane flies (of five or six varieties) and caddis flies (ditto), then mix in 30 or so boisterous Large Yellow Underwings – the result is a restless mixture of wings and legs and stings that make careful identification very difficult.

The first moth of any note is in the photograph above.  The Square-spot Rustic (Xestia xanthographa) is not new to Shandy Hall but has not been photographed before.  One was identifed in Leamington Spa (see blog for 28/9/2015) and the difference between that one and this is marked.  I had to rely on Charlie Fletcher’s wisdom to be sure.

(Scrobipalpa costella)

This moth took up most of the morning.  It was in the bottom of the trap in the same egg-cell as a pair of mating crane flies.  It was not a familiar shape or colour and I couldn’t recall seeing its like before. The photograph was in focus and was backed up by a view from above. I decided that if I slowly and carefully went through the Field Guide to Micro moths, page by page, then it must be there somewhere.  After the third (unsuccessful) scrutiny I tried Manley’s photograph book. Again a blank.  It was there, in both books, but I couldn’t spot it. The diagnostic marks are the two triangular areas on each of the fore-wings and now that these have been pointed out (tip of hat to CF once again) I doubt I will mistake this moth in the future. 

The scientific name holds the clue as well : Scrobipalpa referring to a furrow (scrobis) near the palp (that part of the mouth of an insect responsible for touch and taste); costella from ‘rib’ (costa) – the part of the wing marked by the dark blotches that I had missed.

It lives on Bittersweet, also known as Woody Nightshade (Solanum dulcamara).It is a new species to the list, so I was right – number 401. 

Common Marbled Carpet (Chloroclysta truncata)

The photograph above shows the morning surprize.  Some weeks ago (30 June), the eggs that had been laid on the 7 June in one of the collecting tubes, hatched.  Since then I have been the most careful of foster parents yet despite my attentions the number of hatched caterpillars (12) dropped to five or six.  

I had read that the larvae of the Common Marbled Carpet overwinter but these in my care seemed intent on eating voraciously (during the night) and then, after nearly two months, wrapping themselves in tubes of strawberry leaves. Some died for no apparent reason – they just stopped eating, looked listless and flopped.  

I kept the pupae in a box but, with the last caterpillar fatality, I had decided to release the wrapped up pupae into the bottom of a hedge.  This morning’s porridge was spoiled as two flapping shapes attracted my attention – they had hatched!  

Just before releasing them into the densest shrubbery the above photograph was taken – to my huge satisfaction.