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.