Hairy Caterpillar

This hairy little guy had crawled in under the sill of the front door, presumably looking for a warm dry place to pass the winter. I reckon it’s a the caterpillar of Ruby Tiger Moth (Phragmatobia fuliginosa) rather than that of an Ermine Moth, based on the lack of visible pale stripes and the dark colouration with tufts of paler hairs. I relocated him to a safer spot, so hopefully he makes it through the winter.

#546 Ruby Tiger Moth (Phragmatobia fuliginosa) caterpillar

#546 Ruby Tiger Moth (Phragmatobia fuliginosa) caterpillar

#222 Beautiful Plume Moth (Amblyptilia acanthadactyla)

I disturbed this plume moth while pulling out some past-their-best plants from the chaos of my overgrown flower bed. It’s a Beautiful Plume Moth (Amblyptilia acanthadactyla), a species which has a second generation flying from September onwards, and is one species bucking the overall trend by becoming more common in gardens.

Aside from this, while not being a VisMig hot spot, there’s some signs of birds migrating overhead. Skylarks and a first Meadow Pipit yesterday morning, and some mistle thrushes around the village; the first redwings and fieldfares cannot be far behind.

#222 Beautiful Plume Moth (Amblyptilia acanthadactyla)

#222 Beautiful Plume Moth (Amblyptilia acanthadactyla)

French Butterflies

Rather “off-patch”, but here are some of many butterflies I saw during our August road-trip around France.

Fritillaries were very plentiful, especially Silver-washed Fritillaries, which were present in numbers right through the Auvergne. I took nice pictures of these Knapweed Fritillaries in the Gorges du Tarn in Southern France; also the Scotch Argus and Jersey Tiger Moths there in the riverside vegetation.

In the French Alps I was very happy to find this Apollo butterfly, seen above Courchevel in the Vanoise National Park. The flower-rich Alpine meadows were full of butterflies and moths, including also Mountain Fritillary.


The Yellow Shell Moth (Camptogramma bilineata) is one of the commoner ones in the garden, but it’s very prettily marked so why not post a photo. The larvae feed on chickweed and sorrel, that latter of which I have plenty in the garden.

Probably I overlooked it before, as it’s not rare, but this week I found two Lesser Yellow Underwing (Noctua comes). The first of them must have come into the bedroom overnight and was hiding out under one of the pictures. It’s smaller than the very common Large Yellow Underwing, of which there have been many during July, and the pattern of spots on the wings is a little different.

Too fast to photograph, I saw my first Hummingbird Hawkmoth of the summer last week, stopping briefly on the lavender, before zooming off next door. These are migrants from continental Europe. There also start to be a few grass moths around, including the Satin Grass Veneer (Crambus perlella), but at this point last summer I had seen many more.

The Vapourer (Orgyia antiqua, #516)

I found this funky-looking caterpillar yesterday morning. It is from The Vapourer aka the Rusty Tussock Moth (Orgyia antiqua). The caterpillar looks a bit scary with its long hairs and red & yellow spots, but actually the hairs on this species are not irritating (to people at least). They are usually in birch or hazel trees, or other deciduous shrubs, but this one was in one of the flower beds. The moth is fairly dull,;chocolate brown with a white spot on each wing, but interesting in that, like the Winter Moth, the female is flightless.

New Moths

Here’s a couple of new moths in the garden over the weekend. The Yellow-faced Bell (Notocelia cynosbatella) is a common micro-moth in UK, its caterpillars feeding on rose leaves. It’s thought that the moth is coloured to be camouflaged like bird poo.

Brown and bit nondescript, the other moth is a female Bee Moth (Aphomia sociella), a parasite of bees and wasps. Between all the bee flies, nomad bees, parasitic wasps and now the bee moth, it seems that bee’s nests attract a lot of unwelcome attention! The Bee Moth usually lays its eggs in an above-ground bumble bee’s nest, where on hatching its larvae live in the nest. They have some beneficial effect eating waste and debris around the nest, but also consume eggs and larvae of the host.

Cutworm - Moth larva

After last week’s Vine Weevil, here’s another one from the rogues gallery of horrendous garden pests; a cutworm, so-called because of the way they nip off seedlings at ground level. These are moth caterpillars that live in the ground, coming out at night to voraciously munch their way around the garden. There are several species of noctuid moth that have ground-living larvae. This one might be from the Turnip Moth (Agrotis segetum), which has a particular reputation as an vegetable-growers nightmare; however due to the lack of features it’s hard to say. Not a very pretty thing either, but certainly looking well fed.

Moth larva.jpg

#401 Winter Moth

Found this Winter Moth (Operophtera brumata) in the house today. It’s not rare, but as a moth that flies from November through January, it is unusual. The males fly up to the top of trees to find the flightless females, who lay their eggs in leaf buds. The moths are native to Europe, but introduced and becoming a pest in North America, where they lack natural predators.

The other new species is a moss I photographed on the roof the other day; Grey-cushioned Grimmia (Grimmia pulvinata). It’s a pretty common moss in fact, growing alongside Redshank Moss in silver fluffy clumps on the tiles.

Australian Immigrant

My first new moth for a while, a Light Brown Apple Moth (#317), is originally a native of Australia.  First found in UK in the 1930s it's now spread across much of England making a pest of itself in orchards and gardens.  Similarly, it's been accidentally introduced to New Zealand, New Caledonia, Hawaii and California.  In Australia the population is kept under control naturally by insect predators, especially parasitic wasps and flies, that eat the larvae.  However in other countries these predators are not present, so the moths can become a significant pest in orchards.  It's an interesting reversal of all the non-native plants and animals introduced (often deliberately) to Australia and New Zealand by European colonists, which now have to be controlled at great cost by local farmers and conservationists.  

#317 Light Brown Apple Moth

#317 Light Brown Apple Moth