Llanelli Naturalists Newsletter - Winter 1992/1993
Ian Morgan

Due to domestic and other commitments, moth recording by the author was almost non-existent in 1992, with the exception of some exciting records of diurnal species. Barry Stewart (8S) continued to provide a stream of quality records and as compensation, there was an increase in recording carried out by Andrew Lucas (especially at Cors Goch LlanlLwch 22/362164 and Gelli Aur 22/592097) and Steve Lucas (at Dinefwr Castle Woods 22/622223 and Betws 22/642121).

One of the earlier records of note were the several oblique-striped moths Phibalapteryx virgata, disturbed from dune grassland at Pembrey Burrows 21/42¬99- on 23 April, the only other modern Welsh records being from Gower (though there are also some older ones, principally from the north Wales coast). On 1 July, B.5. light-trapped two noteworthy species at Pembrey - the heart and club Agrotis clavis {a noctuid whose larvae feeds on various sandhill plants) and the small purple-barred Phytometra viridaria, whose caterpillars utilise common milkwort Polygala vulgaris on dunes or heath milkwort P. serpyllifolia on more acidic pastures). On 9 July, B.S. captured a valerian pug Eupithecia valerianata at this site.

A species that the author would dearly like to see (and has unsuccessfully searched birch woods for on sunny, early spring days) is the orange underwing Archiearis parthenias. This April, R.A.D. Hughes was lucky to see this attractive day-flying geometrid at Allt Rhyd-y-Groes 22/773471 right in the NE of the vice-county. On 31 July, the writer and B.S. visited this superb, upland oak-birch wood and flushed a blue-bordered carpet Plemyria rubiginata - a distinctly local species - from herbage below some alders (its larval food plant) which line the footpath into this site. Barry also trapped this species at Cwm Clydach 22/444075 in July; it presumably breeding amongst the alders that fringe the nearby Afon Gwendraeth fawr. Another uncommonly-recorded woodland moth is the Svensson's copper underwing Amphipyra berbera svenssoni caught by Andrew Lucas at Talley 22/632388 on 9 August.

B.S. regularly trapped at his home in Water Street, Kidwelly 22/409073 and records of note include: a red-necked footman Atolmis rubricollis and a double-lobed Apamea ophiogramma on 8 July; an old lady Mormo maura on 9 August; large ranunculus Polymixis flavicincta (several dates in September) and a scarce migrant - the pearly underwing Peridroma saucia on 23 Sept. The first silver-Y's Plusia gamma were noted (with an influx of immigrant butterflies) on 14 May (at Taliaris 22/632286), but the county's few moth trappers were unable to put in sufficient effort to take advantage of the presumed influx of migrants (if the numbers of clouded yellows are a guide) that could well have occurred in 1992. However, a hummingbird hawk moth Macroglossum stellatarum was reported from Whitland 22/199166 in July (M. Holder) and a convolvulus hawk moth Agrius convolvuli was recorded by Steve Lucas on a garden post at Betws on 3 September.

B.S. put a substantial effort into recording the often difficult to identify pugs in 1992, with fourteen species now recorded by him in the county. Much earlier in the season on 19 April, the author noted numerous narrow-winged pugs E. nanata at Cors Goch Llanllwch 22/362186, a rather unsurprising find, as the larval food plant - heather - abounds on parts of this lowland bog. A mother shipton Callistege mi was spotted on the restricted extent of flower-rich grassland which borders the southerly edge of Llyn Llech Dwain 22/568152 on 28 May, and the CCW grassland survey team recorded scarlet tigers Callimorpha dominula at Llwyn-y-bedw 22/736259 (25/6, D. Gray 6 J. Bevan) and SW of Bryngwyn 22/654476 (25/6, G. Motley). Barry Stewart noted one near Cwm Clydach on 15 July, which - like the blue-bordered carpet probably emanated from the wet carr and herbaceous fen along the Gwendraeth below Pont-newydd. Ths author discovered a thriving breeding colony (with c.24 simultaneously in flight) of scarlet tigers SSE of the Trostre works 21/532989 on 21 June. Singletons had been seen nearby over the years so it is pleasing to locate the presumed origin of these individuals. South-west Wales holds an important concentration of breeding sites for this attractive moth as recent reviews have testified (eg Waring, 1992 see Fig.3). It is disappointing to record that, in 1992 British Steel embarked on the infilling of a substantial linear area of fen/carr to the south of the Works, despite the objections of many conservationists; such fens are at a premium for the range of uncommon wildlife that they support.

A visit to a venerable and almost-dead, solitary sweet chestnut in parkland SW of Stradey Castle (22/489014) on 8 June to check for "deadwood" hoverflies and beetles, provided perhaps the most exhilarating record of the year - a colony of the yellow-legged clearwing Synanthedon vespiformis. On that date, a female was caught about a metre up the trunk, and later another female was for a while watched as she oviposited under loose bark or in crevices, mostly between 0.5 and 2.5m off the ground. She would lay an egg, then move on rapidly to oviposit in other areas with the eggs being sometimes quite close to each other ie perhaps only 1cm apart. Six empty golden-brown pupal cases were also found at the base of the tree. Egg-laying females were frequently seen on subsequent dates to 22 June. This species is new to the vice-county of Carmarthenshire and only the 3rd Welsh record (with an old one from Glamorgan and 1992 record from Ceredigion).

{rokbox caption=|Click to enlarge| title=|The known distribution of the scarlet tiger Callimorpha dominula in Carmarthenshire|}images/stories/newsletters/1992_11/12.jpg{/rokbox}{rokbox caption=|Click to enlarge| title=|The British distribution of the scarlet tiger|}images/stories/newsletters/1992_11/13.jpg{/rokbox}

Open circles denote a pre-1980 record, small black circles a single adult and larger black circles several adults. From: Waring (1992)

Another species of clearwing, the six-belted Bembecia scopigera was noted in 1992 - a discrete colony based on the bird's-foot trefoil which grows on a disused length of railway (22/573023) near the old Morlais Colliery, Llangennech; this record (on 21 July) comprising the 2nd VC record, the other being at Machynys in 1985. Again the species is hardly known in Wales. It is worth mentioning that a possible site for the rare Welsh clearwing synanthedon scoliaeformis may have been found on 9 September - in an upland birch wood at Allt Rhyd-y-Groes, where (at 22/771472) in a senescent, part-decayed and substantial birch, emergence holes (of c.5mm diameter) were noted. Repeat visits during the adults' emergence period (ie June-early July) may lead to a definite record of this fugitive moth. There are two old (earlier this century) records for the Neath and Taff valleys in Glamorgan (Norton in Hallet, 1936) so the ultimate discovery of this clearwing in the higher-altitude birchwoods of Carmarthenshire is not all that implausible.

For a few nights in June, Robin Howard sampled the moth fauna of Carmel Woods SSSI (22/598163) utilising a more powerful Robinson trap, which as well as attracting moths from the diverse ash-hazel woods and grassland of the Carmel limestone ridge, drew individuals from a wider catchment area including the bogs and acidic pastures of the quartzite/gritstone outcrop to the immediate south. Among the 110 species noted were several that are local or infrequently recorded in the county: scalloped shell Rheumaptera undulata - a rather local species whose caterpillars feed on sallow, aspen and bilberry, heath rivulet Perizoma minorata - markedly local in Wales, its laryae utilising the seeds of eyebrights, bleached pug Eupithecia expallidata - feeds on golden rod, presumably a wanderer from the quartzite ridge, slender pug E. tenuiata - species of damp situations, larvae feed on willow blossom.

Blomer's rivulet Discoloxia blomeri - an attractive species whose laryae subsist on wych elm foliage, clouded magpie Abraxas sylvata - as above, white pinion-spotted Lomographa bimaculata - a woodlander which feeds on hawthorn and blackthorn, lobster Stauropus fagi - rather Local woodland species with distinctiye caterpillars, least black arches Nola confusalis - feeds on lichens on various trees, green arches Anaplectoides prasinana - local species of deciduous woodland, silyery arches Polia hepatica - another uncommonly recorded species (in Carms.) of woods and heathy situations, coronet Craniophora liqustri - a local species whose caterpillars eat ash and privet foliage, scarce burnished brass Diachrysia chryson - a yery local moth whose larvae feed on hemp agrimony gold spangle Autographs bractea - locally common nationally, but irregularly recorded in VC44.

Steve Lucas enthusiastically light-trapped at the Dyfed Wildlife Trust reserve at Dinefwr Castle Woods and, amongst a good range of woodland species, he recorded a Brussels lace Cleorodes lichenaria on 16 June (an arboreal lichen feeder); a double line Mythimna turca (24 June & 8 July) - a woodland noctuid which has declined in recent years and - best of all - a leopard moth Zeuzera pyrina on 30 June, a very scarce species indeed in west Wales. Its larvae develop in the stems or branches of a wide variety of deciduous trees and shrubs. At his home in Betws 22/642121 in the &man valley, Steve trapped (on 6 Aug) a marble beauty Cryphia domestica (which feeds on lichens on buildings or rock outcrops); the currant feeding (as larvae) V-moth Semiothisa wauaria in June and also in that month, two local inhabitants of blackthorn scrub - the short-cloaked moth Nola cucullatella and the phoenix Eulithis prunata.

The smoky wave Scapula ternata is a rather rare (or rarely recorded) small, undistinguished moth of upland situations, which B.S. recorded in the Caeo Forest 22/69-41- whilst searching for nightjars on 14 June. Two coastal records are worthy of mention - the striped wainscot Mythimna pudorina (a local noctuid whose caterpillars feed on reeds and reed canary grass) at Penclacwydd 21/533983 (24 July) B.S.), and Andrew Lucas' capture of a crescent dart Agrotis trux on the Old Red Sandstone cliffs at Wharley Point near Llansteffan 22/326100 on 17 September; it is essentially a scarce species of the western seaboard.

Unattributed records above are those of the author. NB: with the grid references, 22=SN, 21-SS.

Acknowledgements

Thanks are due to the following (listed alphabetically) for their records: J.M.S. Bevan, A. Cox, J. Friese, D. Gray, R. Howard, G. Hall, H. Holder, R.A.D. Hughes, G. Hutchinson, A. Lucas, S. Lucas, G. Motley, R.D. Pryce, B. Stewart and P. Whitton. Andrew Lucas also kindly provided a brief summary of marsh fritillary survey work, and Richard Pryce produced the Carmarthenshire distribution maps for the grayling and scarlet tiger.

References

Hallet, H.M. (1936). Insects of Glamorgan in Glamorgan County History Vol. 1: Natural History: 317-321.

Lucas, A. (1992) Marsh Fritillary Survey in Carmarthen District and Llanelli Borough, 1992. (unpublished CCW survey report).

Thomas, N.R. (1991) 1991 Marsh Fritillary larval web survey of Carmarthen, Ceredigion, Dinefwr and Llanelli. (unpublished CCW survey report).

Waring, P. (1992) Moth Conservation Project: News Bulletin No4, April 1991-June 1992. Joint Nature Conservation Committee.