The Biggest Week for Moths

The Biggest Week in American Birding is a festival organised each May by the Black Swamp Bird Observatory in Ohio to celebrate peak warbler migration. For Norwich garden moth-trappers the first week of July is the “Biggest Week” for  moths.  Who could forget the stunning Orache Moth that arrived in James Lowen’s trap in July 2018.  I was excited to know what  2019 might bring? But I was not ready for the outstanding week of midsummer week garden moth-trapping that transpired.

It begins

I managed only a modest catch on 28th June with six species that were new for the year (NFY).   There were also three species of micro-moth that were new to the garden.  The adventive Box-tree Moth was long overdue and did not hang around, but was acompanied by two pretty tortix moths.  Lozotaeniodes formosana  (Orange Pine Tortrix) is a big tent shaped micro with characteristic orange and fawn blotches. In contrast Archips xylosteana (Variegated Golden Tortrix) rests with flat wings that showcase its symetrical golden-brown patterns.

The Biggest Week for Moths, Lozotaeniodes formosana , Orange Pine Tortrix, June 28th 2019, Norfolk
Lozotaeniodes formosana  (Orange Pine Tortrix) – June 28th 2019
The Biggest Week for Moths, Archips xylosteana, Variegated Golden Tortrix, June 28th 2019, Norfolk
Archips xylosteana (Variegated Golden Tortrix) – June 29th 2019

The next day a mid-morning post from Will Soar alerted us to multiple  Red-belted Clearwings attending a lure in his garden.  Since Will lives just 1.5 miles down the road I put out a lure.  Within  10 minutes five Red-belted Clearwings were buzzing around it.  It felt like that I was on a roll.

The Biggest Week for Moths, Red-belted Clearwing, Synanthedon myopaeformis, June 29th 2019, Norfolk
Red-belted Clearwing (Synanthedon myopaeformis) – June 29th 2019
The dam breaks open..

The night of 29th June was very warm and still; just perfect for moths.  The flood gates opened and the following morning I found a dazzling array of moths in both traps. Several of these were new to the garden for example an absolutely pristine Alder Kitten.  

The Biggest Week for Moths, Alder Kitten, Furcula bicuspis, June 29th 2019
Alder Kitten (Furcula bicuspis) – June 29th 2019

Also new was a trio of green moths. Both species of Silver-lines (Green and Scarce) along with a slightly faded, but still stunning Green Arches.

The Biggest Week for Moths, Green Arches, Anaplectoides prasina, June 29th 2019, Norfolk
Green Arches (Anaplectoides prasina) – June 29th 2019

Other quality moths included two new for the year; a smart Blue-bordered Carpet and a cryptic Dusky Brocade.

The Biggest Week for Moths, Blue-bordered Carpet, Plemyria rubiginata, June 29th 2019, Norfolk
Blue-bordered Carpet (Plemyria rubiginata) – June 29th 2019
Dusky Brocade (Apamea remissa) -June 29th 2019

There were a lot of unfamilar micro-moths to sort through. The most glamorous of these was a chocolate and gold Pammene regiana (Regal Piercer).  Least common and new to TG20D was the strikingly black and white Parachronistis albiceps (Wood Groundling) with just 75 previous  Norfolk records.  Othe NFG micros included; Calamoptropha paludella (Bulrush Veneer),  Ancylis achatana (Triangle-marked Roller) and Phycitodes binaevella (Ermine Knothorn).

Pammene regiana (Regal Piercer) – June 29th 2019
Parachronistis albiceps (Wood Groundling) – June 29th 2019

To ensure a manageable catch before work I only ran the small actinic trap on the night of 2nd July.  This kept the numbers down, but there was a new micro-moth in the trap; Dichomeris marginella (Juniper Webber).  This species is quite localized in Norfolk and uses suburban garden junipers as a foodplant. However it must have been established in Eaton for some time as Dave Hipperson recorded it in the 1980s and 90s.

Dichomeris marginella (Juniper Webber) – July 2nd 2019
Tyger Tyger Burning Bright
Scarlet Tiger (Callimorpha dominula) – July 4th 2019

The final garden trap of the week was on the night of 4th July.  The week’s activities curtailed by a weekend away in NW Norfolk to celebrate our 30th Wedding Anniversary.  When I opened the trap the following morning I could not believe my eyes.  Sitting on top of the first egg box was a pristine Scarlet Tiger.  Just the sixth Norfolk record following three in the West of the County the previous weekend! 

Blackneck (Lygephila pastimum) – July 4th 2019

With the Tiger safely potted I started to sort the rest of the catch when my eye was drawn the wall.  A Blackneck.  Scarce rather than rare, but another teriffic addition to the TG20D list and just the fourth for TG20.  The macro haul was completed with four NFY species that included Tawny Barred Angle.

Argyresthia albistria (Purple Argent) – July 4th 2019

Apart from the expected seasonal spike in Chrysoteuchia culmella (Garden Grass Veneer) threre were fewer micro-moths than recent nights.  These did include Ostrinia nubialis (European Corn Borer) and Argyresthia albistria (Purple Argent) both new for the garden and TG20.

It had been an outstanding few days of moth-trapping. Once all the star turns were photographed and released I was happy to leave for our weekend away. Even so as we drove to North-west Norfolk I could not help but wonder what the Biggest Week for moths in 2020 will bring.

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