As of March 2015, an official website for Surrey Moths has been set-up here. There you'll find information on everything to do with the Surrey Branch of Butterfly Conservation, including the updated events calender for 2015. Hope to see you there!

Thursday, 8 November 2012

Leps of Down Under

I've just got back from two weeks in New Zealand, but I wasn't going to make a post about this trip, as its about as far from Surrey as your likely to get!  But, as Bill has requested it, I'll do a quick review.

In terms of the wildlife, of course the main interest was the birds.  They were indeed amazing, and see here for a trip report: http://www.birdforum.net/showthread.php?t=244125 I didn't spend too much time looking for lepidoptera, and remember that the time of year was thier equivalent of late April/early May, so there were not a great number of species on the wing.  I ended up identifying two moths, and three butterflies. 

The aptly named New Zealand Red Admiral was very common, but the Common Tussock (which I didn't get a photo of) was only seen at one site.  The Boulder Copper is apparently NZ's commonest butterfly, but it's also thier smallest so its easily overlooked (about the size of Small Blue).  The Helastia cinerearia was a day-flying moth, but the ID is rather tentative, as the number of similar Geometrids is more overwhelming than here!  The Wiseana umbraculata was an easier ID, as its clearly one of the Swifts.  It came to a lighted window at night.

New Zealand Red Admiral
Boulder Copper (female)

Boulder Copper (male)
Wiseana umbraculata

Helastia cinerearia

As an aside (and on an insect theme at least) I made this interesting discovery.  I found this on a wall in a garden.  Its the empty egg-case of a New Zealand Praying Mantis (NZ has two species).  Unfortunately, I never saw any of the real thing.


Wednesday, 7 November 2012

Pluming Marvelous

I've just got back from a mothing session at Sheepleas with Bob Arnfield, Steve Spooner, and Andy Culshaw, where we ran an MV and an actinic trap.  We were there in order to target the Plumed Prominent, which was last found at the site in 2005.  The weather started off cloudy, but things were not looking good as it suddenly cleared, and we had had only three moths.  For no apparent reason, around 7pm, there was a flurry of activity that included the arrival of my first December Moths.  Then, I noticed an odd looking moth sitting on the MV trap.  It was it!  I was surprised at how small and un-prominent-like it looked.  This came shortly after both Bob and myself noticed a promising-looking moth flying around in a nearby mature Field Maple.  We ended with 18 moths of 6 species.  Not bad for November!

7th November, Sheepleas:
4 December Moth*
4 Red-green Carpet
3 Common Marbled Carpet
3 Brick
3 Chestnut
1 Plumed Prominent*

December Moth

Plumed Prominent

This is will probably be my last post this year.  Thanks everyone for supporting the blog, and have a great Christmas!

Sunday, 4 November 2012


If you order the book from

all profits go to future atlases.

Saturday, 3 November 2012

New book

It would be remiss of me not to give a plug to the latest book on Surrey's moths - Smaller moths of Surrey by Bob Palmer, Jim Porter and Graham Collins. I have had the pleasure of doing some fieldwork with Jim and Graham, and they really know their stuff. Searching for near invisible 'micro-moths' may not be everyone's cup of t, but they bring a great deal of skill, knowledge, enthusiasm and persistence to the task. In fact they have been urging Surrey's mothing community to get out into the field during the season (roughly March till November) to collect as many 'dots' as possible for the atlas.

I am still a novice at identifying micro-moths but the new book by Sterling and Parsons (illustrated by Richard Lewington) is a big step in the right direction. It is called Field Guide to the Micro-moths of Great Britain and Ireland. Armed with these two tomes (and some £50 the poorer!) almost anybody should be able to start finding and identifying at least some of the micros. 

The Field Guide is published by British Wildlife Press and the Surrey atlas by the Surrey Wildlife Trust (order from their website).

The Atlas covers all of the 1,100 plus species that have been recorded in Surrey, out of a UK total of around 1,600. There is a map for most species, which gives a quick visual picture of the distribution. The text explains the scarcity or otherwise of each species and gives some basic information about the food-plants and how most of the records have been obtained.

I was pleased to discover that there are two species for which I have obtained the only modern records - in fact Argyresthia cupressella has only ever been recorded in my garden. (How much am I bid for tickets to search for this little moth which is about 6mm long?).

The book is hardback, and printed on better quality paper than Graham's earlier books in the series (butterflies and larger moths). There are some good photographs of a representative range of species, including one of my favourites, Alabonia geoffrella

Moths and the weather

Moths, I have concluded, don't mind torrential rain and howling winds.  However, drop the temperature a bit and you don't see them for dust!

During the dreadful weather on Wednesday night last week I trapped five Red-Green Carpets, five Yellow-line Quaker, a Feathered Thorn and a December Moth.  Thursday was a glorious day and relatively warm so I had high hopes but the temperature dropped dramatically in the evening and only one brave December Moth showed itself.

I have also now changed trap.  I was using a Skinner but a couple of months ago my partner and I had a go at making our own Robinson-type trap which I am now using - works a treat!

Robinson Trap