Mid-winter flying Moths 12 December 2020
It was raining last night and so I was surprised to find twenty moths in the light trap, all December Moths. December might not be the best month for moths but the HantsMoths website (https://www.hantsmoths.org.uk/) lists 76 species that have been recorded flying this week in the past 10 years.
Of these I have selected just ten species. All photographs have been taken in our garden.
The most common moth at the moment is the small, greyish and rather delicate Winter Moth (Operophtera brumata) image 1. A few came to the trap last night but a torchlit walk into the wooded end of our garden revealed perhaps a dozen of these moths flitting about the trees and occasionally landing on twigs or on the ground. The males fly can fly from November through to January in search of the wingless females. Winter Moths belong to the Geometridae family.
The next most common in the HantsMoths list is the December Moth image 2, a dark reddish-brown moth with pale markings and a tuft of yellow hair above its head, flying from November through to January. While I had 20 in the trap, another Hampshire enthusiast recorded 34 of them last night. These moths belong to the Lasiocampidae family.
The Mottled Umber (Erannis defoliaria) image 3, flies from late September through to early March and is a pretty little reddish moth with a brown cross line and a black dot on each wing. They belong to the family Geometridae.
Scarce Umber (Agriopis aurantiaria) image 4, males are beautiful orange-yellow or golden coloured moths flying through November into December. The female is wingless and so seldom seen. Another member of the Geometridae family.
The Feathered Thorn moth (Colotois pennaria) image 5, is a lovely russet colour with dark lines across the wings and a very distinctive spread of orange hairs behind its head.
The Chestnut moth (Conistra vaccinii) image 6, is reddish brown (chestnut-coloured) with darker lines and circular markings and with a dark spread of reddish brown hairs behind its head. It is a member of the Noctuidae, a large family of robust moths.
The Silver Y moth (Autographa gamma) image 7, has a distinctive silvery Y-shaped marking on its wings and two horn-shaped tufts rising from its body. While these moths are mainly a summer species, they can be found from May through to December. I have seen them flying by day on the village green, as well as in the moth trap. Many of these moths are immigrants from mainland Europe with vast numbers arriving on high airstreams from North Africa and many returning in the autumn. Some remain in the UK to be found in early winter. They are also a member of the Noctuidae family. See for more information: https://warwick.ac.uk/fac/sci/lifesci/wcc/research/pests/silvery/.
The November Moth (Epirrita dilutata) image 8, is of a pretty pale brownish grey colour with darker zig-zag lines across its wings. Another member of the Geometridae family and flying from October through to December.
The Sprawler (Asteroscopus sphinx) image 9, has a distinctive rather elongate shape, fawn in colour with darker streaks. Flying from October through to December it is another member of the Noctuidae family.
The Black Rustic (Aporophyla nigra) image 10, is a dark bluish and almost black moth with a white spot on each wing. While mainly an autumn moth, it does remain in small numbers in December. Another member of the Noctuidae family.