Category Archives: Butterflies and Moths

Olive Tree Pearl

Palpita vitrealis and other migrant moths

Martin Garner

At last. Living now at the and of Flamborough Head I expected some interesting moths. Catches in my first few weeks have been poor. However no rain and some south-easterlies overnight on 16th-17th October spurred me on together with visiting birders next door. Only a few moths but what a selection! Thanks to Burnley’s Graham Gavaghan for his ID’s.

Best of the moths was the beautiful white and delicate micro moth called Olive Tree Pearl. Billed as a migrant that normally only reaches southern coastal counties in Britain- it is therefore very rare as far north as Flamborough.

Check out this bit of info on the species from UK Moths

Two more migrants included the scarce Rusty-dot Pearl and a couple of Rush Veneers. I thought Goldcrests crossing the North Sea was pretty staggering. These things crossing such large bodies of water. Well I am into the incomprehensible zone. Just wow.

Olive Tree Pearl Palpita vitrealis 1408

Olive Tree Pearl  Palpita vitrealis. Flamborough 17th October 2014

Olive Tree Pearl Palpita vitrealis. Flamborough 17th October 2014


Olive Tree Pearl  Palpita vitrealis. Flamborough 17th October 2014

Olive Tree Pearl Palpita vitrealis. Flamborough 17th October 2014

This map below from the excellent Yorkshire Moths show the status of Olive Tree Pearl Palpita vitrealis in Yorkshire.


palpita vitrealis


Rusty-dot Pearl Udea ferrugalis 1395

Some info on the species form UK Moths.

Rusty-dot Pearl Flamborough 17th October 2014

Rusty-dot Pearl Flamborough 17th October 2014

rusty dot pearl

Rush Veneer Nomophila noctuella 1398

Rush Veneer, Flamborough 17th October 2014

Rush Veneer, Flamborough 17th October 2014

Better go switch the trap on…

Colour Forms

Comparisons between colour forms of bird, moth and butterfly

By Tony Davison

As I’ve said before, it never ceases to amaze me how often I see  many comparisons       between bird, moth and butterfly. The following analysis is in no way intended to be      scientific, it is simply my observations relating to to three examples of colour forms in bird, moth and butterfly, one in particular being dimorphism.

The Skuas are renowned for having dark, light and intermediate colour phases. In these plumages, identification can prove to be difficult. Glyn Sellors© has kindly supplied me with two images of Long-tailed Skua - Stercorarius longicaudus, to show a dark phase  (juvenile) and a pale phase (adult).

1279E-07 NORWAY-JUNE-2011901Z

In moths, one of the best examples of colour form is in the Peppered Moth – Biston betularia. These days the usual variety, especially in rural areas, is white “peppered” with black spots and speckling across the wings and body. The dark melanic colour form – carbonaria, is sooty black, with tiny white spots at the base of the forewing and was once very common being associated with industrial areas where there were high levels of pollution. With cleaner air controls in place and smokeless zones etc, the melanic form is now only present in small numbers throughout populations and is on the decline.

Peppered-Moth-June29th2008-004Peppered Moth melanic form carbonaria

The Map Butterfly – Araschnia levana, is well noted for its seasonal dimorphism. The spring brood is predominantly orange-brown (form levana), whilst the second brood, that emerges in the summer months, is black (form prorsa). To the untrained eye, they can appear to be two completely different species.These colour forms are determined by the length of day in the larva stage and it is not clear what, if any, advantages this holds for the species. My thanks go to Barrie Staley© for providing the photo of the spring colour form taken in Poland during May 2007. The summer colour form is one of my photographs, taken during my recent trip to Bulgaria in July 2014.

DSCN1070-MapMap 9892281

Spurge Hawk-moth


An old write-up, reposted  just in case I ever find one ;)

Oh wow oh wow oh wow

I know these were also reported as Steve Job’s dying words. I also use these kind of words with some unexpected encounters with nature. I did with these as correctly identified by some blog followers. Caterpillars of the Spurge Hawk-moth just look amazing. It’s very a rare as a flying moth in Britain and only one record of the caterpillar. For more see here.

I saw some on Linosa, thanks to Andrea Corso who was ‘grazing them’.



The Continental Swallowtail Butterfly ssp. gorganus

in Dorset and south British coast. Identifying individuals.

MG: Please excuse my ignorance. I thought there was one place you could see the beautiful Swallowtail Butterfly in Britain. Somewhere on the Norfolk Broads, associated with Milk Parsley plants. There. That’s the end of my knowledge on the British Swallowtail. Indeed I didn’t even know it was especially ‘British’. Well it is. Thanks to Steve Smith who got in touch I have learnt much more. The Norfolk Swallowtails really are British- the indigenous British subspecies Papilio machaon britannicus limited to… you guessed it, the Norfolk Broads. Lots more on the excellent UK Butterflies site.

However there is a continental form Papilio machaon gorganus which rarely crosses the channel into southern England. Last summer (2013) was an exceptional year with gorganus Swallowtails reported in Hampshire, Sussex, Kent and Bucks. And it seems they did the quite unexpected, breeding and overwintering successfully and appearing this summer.

In addition adults on the wing were discovered earlier this month in Dorset. Steve tells the full story on his blog, so with these photos to whet the appetite please visit Steve’s site. Read about his discoveries and how he is exploring to see if individual butterflies can be specifically identified by their discrete wing markings.

all photos below by Steve Smith. Read all about the gorganus Swallowtails in Dorset:

               post on the discovery                     post on further explorations

worn swallow


swallowtail one

Swallowtail B: Left forewing (2 July 14) – Yellow patch A is almost square (Swallowtail A – it a longer & flattened oval) & black band C has 3 distinct triangular edges on left hand side (Swallowtail A – it’s smooth)

swall tail



Rare Moth in me Trap

New for Flamborough, 6th for Yorkshire

Martin Garner

First off thanks so much to Mark Pearson and Keith and Clare Clarkson for the loan of moth trapping kit and great encouragement to ‘do something’ when I was a lot less mobile, and straight from hospital. Nick Carter too spurred me on. Ian Marshall has tirelessly answered my questions and is happy with the ID (and congrats on being new VC61 Moth recorder). What is it?

Pine Bud Moth 1207. Pseudococcyx turionella

Pine Bud Moth, 21st May 2014. Martin Garner

Pine Bud Moth, 21st May 2014. Martin Garner

Status in UK from UK Moths

Fairly common in southern parts of England, and in Scotland, but scarcer in between, one of several related species that feed on coniferous trees.

The adults are on the wing during May and June. They are quite distinctive with their combination of chestnut and grey forewings, and orange head and labial palps. Another useful pointer is the pale or whitish hindwing, when visible.

The larvae feed inside the buds and shoots of Scots pine (Pinus sylvestris) and occasionally other pine species.

Status in Yorkshire

5 previous records, first in 1904. Last record in Vice County 61 in 1997. 1st for Flamborough (and East Yorkshire coast). From Yorkshire Moths

Grade 4. Rarities where there are very few Yorkshire records.  A good quality photograph or a voucher specimen is mandatory unless the observer is very familiar with the species.

pine bud moth in yorks

Tony Davison – Top Team Moments 2012


In early June this year I wandered of to the Rhodope Mountains in Bulgaria on a Butterfly Trip with three other companions. My aim was to see an Apollo, one of the most spectacular species of Butterfly in Europe and a Red Data Species.

I still have the 1960’s Brooke Bond Tea Card Album by the late Sir Peter Scott and can remember the Apollo being my favourite card in the series. I thought at the time, as a young lad, one day I hope to see one. Well some 50 years later, sure enough I did and my first sighting took my breath away.

All the best


Parallels in the Art of Identification

Guide-lines to the Identification of the two British Copper Underwings.

There are occasions when it is seemingly impossible to identify a moth from a physical appearance. When faced with this situation, the scientific decision-making processes “kick-in” and a choice has to be made:-

1) Record the specimen as e.g. Common Rustic aug or Copper Underwing aug

2) Check out the Genitalia of the insect (that is the examination of its bits!!)

Option two is not everyone’s cup of tea! nor skill factor, nor inclination to undertake the processes involved. I for one have no real desire to do this, although it must be very interesting. Don’t get me wrong, I completely understand the science behind the processes but I am sure that there must be features on difficult moth species that are there, waiting to be discovered, we just simply haven’t found them YET,  now that’s a thought!!

There has been much debate over the identification of the two British Copper Underwings and even to-day, much work is being carried out on these two species. However there are a number of reliable theories and features that together should help to separate the two with reasonable accuracy. Certainly a combination of all the features together would achieve a reliable result. The latest moth identification guides all seem to make consistent reference to the features listed below. Some are well known and some are fairly new discoveries. So let’s take a look then at these two well known species that can be difficult to identify:-

Copper Underwing – Amphipyra pyramidea                                                                             The underside of the hindwing’s discal area is a pale straw yellow and this contrasts with both the orange-copper terminal area and the blackish-brown curved streak along the leading edge.                                                                                                                        Svensson’s Copper Underwing – Amphipyra berbera svenssoni                                   The underside of the hindwing’s discal area is suffered orange-copper with a lack of any contrast to the discal and terminal area.

                                                       Photos – Simon Roddis

Copper Underwing – Amphipyra pyramidea   (below left)                                                               The cross-line just before the middle of the forewing has four projections along it which are all typically the same length.

Svensson’s Copper Underwing – Amphipyra berbera svenssoni (below right)

The projections are similar to Copper but the two nearest to the trailing edge of the forewing protrude further out and are more pointed. 

                                                          Photos -Tony Davison & Simon Roddis.

Copper Underwing – Amphipyra pyramidea  (below left)                                                                     The upward pointing palps are completely pale

Svensson’s Copper Underwing – Amphipyra berbera svenssoni (below right)                                   The palps are dark with a pale tip

                                                           Photos – Tony Davison & Simon Roddis.

Copper Underwing – Amphipyra pyramidea  (below left)                                                                     The upper parts are brighter and more sharply defined. There is a contrasting broken post median line but a duller and darker brown cross-band towards the trailing edge of the forewing.                                                                                                                               Svensson’s Copper Underwing – Amphipyra berbera svenssoni  (below right)                                 The upper-parts are duller by comparison with Copper. There is a less contrasting post median line and a pale creamy cross-band.

                                                             Photos – Tony Davison & Simon Roddis.

Copper Underwing – Amphipyra pyramidea (below left)                                                                      The copper marking is minimal on the under hind-wing and the black & white colouring of the abdomen sides seems to be more intense                                                         Svensson’s Copper Underwing – Amphipyra berbera svenssoni  (below right)                                 The copper markings on the under hind-wing run the full length of the wing and the black & white markings on the abdomen sides are dull and less intense.

                                                           Photos – Simon Roddis.

Acknowledgements – Montgomery Moths. Simon Roddis for his superb collection of photographs.

References – British Moths and Butterflies – Chris Manley; Moths of Great Britain & Ireland – Sean Clancy, Morten Top-Jensen,Michael Fibiger; Field Guide to the Moths of Great Britain & Ireland – Waring, Townsend & Lewington. Herts & Essex Moths.