Old Ladies, Queens and Miners


The extraordinary moth riches of August have now passed into something more typical of previous years and other seasons. But today’s session in Claxton was not without highlights. This glorious large Noctuid species is called the Old Lady and it’s a completely new species for the parish and for me. There is something rather ancient and faded about the beast, like some stately grand dame with wings that seem a cross between ancient parchment and Victorian brocade. It is local and scarce and was a revelation when i lifted it from its resting place in an old egg box.

old lady 06


I’ve tried to show in this next image the ‘aged’ quality to the upper wings.

old lady 04


The extraordinary thing about mothing is the way the catch revolves with the season but then, with uncanny regularity, old familiars and beautiful favourites reappear according to date. There’s the 1 September and here, about on time, come the year’s first centre-barred sallow and orange swift respectively. However, if one is attuned  at all to insects then they also alert you to more momentous climatic and seasonal developments. The next two images (below the centre-barred sallow and orange swift) exemplify these larger changing patterns.


sallow centre-barred 06


Centre-barred sallow


swift, orange


Orange Swift (male)

The next two creatures are in our garden probably because of climate change. The first is a glorious fresh queen tree bumblebee who is probably looking for a nice niche to overwinter. I spotted her on the wall above the coal bunker and climbed to say hello when Her Majesty promptly landed on my chest pocket. To paraphrase Thoreau with his sparrow, I momentarily wore that bumblebee more proudly than any social insignia or badge I’ve ever known. At the tip of her abdomen you can see the white ‘bottom’ that is the diagnostic feature of this remarkable insect. Recall if you will that it has now reached Iceland. Yet the first British record was in Southampton (recorded by Dave Goulson) 2001. Tree bumblebees  are everywhere in the UK and have been especially abundant in Claxton this summer with a nest above my office.

tree bumblebee

Then today i had another new species for the parish among my moth catch. It is a tiny little creature and please bear in mind when you squint at the poor image that  the beast measures c4mm. It is called a Horse-chestnut Leaf Miner and while it is now common across England it too arrived in the UK only in 2002. So its own northward spread is more recent even than Tree Bumblebee. These are changing times ……IMG_3948




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