Wednesday, 4 May 2011
Two 'prominent' moths have arrived, one of them new to my trap and unexpected (above). When I first picked out its eggbox and saw something unfamiliar, I thought that it was a worn example of a Swallow or Lesser Swallow Prominent, both common visitors. But no; this is a Pebble Prominent, and according to my moth Bible, it shouldn't really be appearing in northern England until June. Traditionally it has only had one generation in the north whereas the south gets an earlier brood which starts hatching in May.
So here is another scrap of the increasingly widespread evidence that southern UK moths are moving north, for reasons which are the subject of much scientific discussion. I wonder what the miniature damselfly-like insect is? I didn't notice it when I took the photograph. Advice most welcome.
Just adding to this on 5 May (election and referendum day): I consulted Charlie Fletcher the Yorkshire county moth recorder about the above and he emails in his usual and prompt way to say that my bible, horrors, got quite a lot wrong about flight times in the first edition which has been amended in the second, current one. The errors or out-of-datednesses include limiting the double-brooded Prominents too tightly to the 'south', so this northwards process has been going on for quite a long time. Charlie likes my brown Lime Hawk, I'm flattered to say, and says it's quite rare round here. Yay!
The other visitor is an Iron Prominent, a moth which has the same generational difference between south and north, but in its case the two-brood variety has been familiar for quite a long time in the Midlands. Friends of mine in Newcastle-upon-Tyne never cease to tell me that Leeds is in the Midlands, so maybe that accounts for the fact that Irons have been here regularly in the past. But not, I think (and will check) as early as this.
The 'prominent' name comes from tufts on the adult moth and humps on the caterpillars of the species, which are also renowned for their fierce ways. All poisonous, their defences include rearing up at both ends and 'spitting' a stream of liquid several centimetres. Just like various children I have known. The glory of the group is the White Prominent, which may alas be extinct in the UK although there are scattered, unconfirmed records over the years.
Finally, sorry to plug, but the Guardian has kindly run a piece about moths linked to the BBC Radio 4 programme on Friday which I keep mentioning. Now I'll go away.