Llanelli Naturalists Newsletter - May 1995 - No 1
Ian Morgan

In last year's summary (Llanelli Nats. Newsl. 56: 37-40), it was announced that Barry Stewart, 'stalwart of moth recording' was leaving the area to start, as a mature student, in college at Plymouth. Well, he did leave but returned in time for much of the 1994 summer season, having transferred to University College Swansea, thereby regaining his status as the most knowledgable and active moth recorder in Carmarthenshire. Indeed, the greater bulk of 1994's interesting records were made by Barry assisted by Sandra Turner (with 248 spp. of macro-moth being recorded), so unless otherwise indicated, readers should assume that all the following records were made by Barry Stewart (BS) in conjunction with Sandra Turner (SJT).

BS's & SJT's main trapping was carried out at Erw-las, Llwynhendy (21/538992, their current residence), where the moths listed below were recorded. There is a discussion of the records in the paragraph following the list. ("Nationally notable" species are suffixed by the emboldened letter N; nationally notable moths are those which have been recorded in less than a hundred 10km squares, with Nb representing 31 to 100 10km square records and Na 16 to 30 10km square records).

Erw-las, Llwynhendy (21/538992), BS/SJT

oak hook tip Drepana binaria 8/8 (1).

vestal Rhodometra sacraria 8/8 (1).

phoenix Eulithis prunata 22/7 (1), 23/7 (1).

wood carpet Epirrhoe rivata 28/6 (1), 17/7.

bordered pug Eupithecia succenturiata 2J7 (1), 9/7 (1), 13/7 (1).

small seraphim Pterapherapteryx sexalata 2/7 (2), 4/7 (1).

lilac beauty Apeira syringaria 217 (2).

round-winged muslin Thumatha senex 17l7 (1), 22/7 (6).

rosy footman Miltochrista miniata 22/7 (2).

red-necked footman Atolmis rubricollis Nb 2/7 (1).

short-cloaked moth Nola cuculatella 8 in Aug.

heart & club Agrotis clavis 2/7 (2).

dog's tooth Lacanobia suasa 9/7 (1), 13/7 (1).

broad-barred white Hecatera bicolorata 2/7 (1), 9/7 (1).

striped wainscot Mythimna pudorina 2/7 (1).

southern wainscot M. straminea 4/7 (1), 9/7 (3).

obscure wainscot Mythimna obsoleta Nb (3).

Svensson's copper underwing Amphipyra berbera 8/8 (1).

double-lobed Apamea ophiogramma 22/7 (1).

bulrush wainscot Nonagria typhae 30/5 (1).

twin-spotted wainscot Archanaria gemnipuncata Nb 8/8 (2).

brown-veined wainscot A. dissoluta Nb 2217 (1).

small rufous Coenobia rufa 23/7 (3), 8/8 (3).

pale mottled willow Caradrina clavipalpis 4/7 (1), 6/7 (1), 9/7 (1).

 

bordered sallow Pyrrhia umbra 2/7 to 17/7 (several dates, singles). gold spangle Autographa bractea 17/7 (1).

silver hook Eustrotia uncula Nb 2/7 (1).

scarce burnished brass Diachrysia chryson Nb 2/7 (1), 13/7 (1). golden plusia Polychrysia moneta 17/7 (1).

The vestal is a migrant, in irregular numbers, to the county and was also recorded at Penrhyngwyn on 4th August. The bordered pug feeds (in its larval state) on mugwort Artemisia vulgaris, a plant which is common in the urban fringes of Llanelli. The round-winged muslins, silver hook, the striped, southern and obscure wainscots doubtless hail from Techon Marsh (21/540993), which is only a few hundred yards from the trapping site at Erw-las; the obscure wainscot is a rarity in Wales, whilst the southern wainscot is a reed-bed specialist, uncommonly recorded in the Principality. The double-lobed is a Phalaris or Glyceria (both wetland grasses) feeder and the small rufous, bulrush, twin-spotted and brown-veined wainscots are also thought to be visitors from the fen at Techon Marsh.

Indeed, Techon Marsh is already known to support a regionally outstanding assemblage of fenland moths, with silky wainscots Chilodes maritimus (Nb), and Webb's wainscots Archanara sparganii (Nb) additionally found at this reedbed. The pale mottled willow is, however, said to be associated (as a caterpillar) with cereals and straw; certainly there are some accumulations of old straw nearby in a horse-feeding area. The bordered sallow's caterpillars feed on rest harrow Ononis repens, whilst the aptly-named scarce burnished brass feeds on hemp agrimony Eupatorium cannabinum; the occurrence of the attractive golden plusia and the broad-barred whites in early July are both noteworthy. Two local geometrids light-trapped at Erw-las were the phoenix 22nd - 23rd July and three wood carpets on 28th June and 17th July. The former species' larvae feed on the leaves of currants and gooseberry, those of the latter feed on lady's bedstraw Galium verum and hedge bedstraw G. mollugo.

Three species of pug, possibly new to the county, were recorded. A marsh pug Eupithecia pygmaeata was netted during the day at Glynea Pond, Bynea (21/554990) on 25th May. The larvae of this northern species are said to feed on field mouse-ear Cerastium arvense. Three specimens of the satyr pug E. satyrata were recorded, at Pembrey Saltings (21/41-99-) on 28th and 31st May. Also recorded on the 28th May, nearby at Penybedd Wood (22/416017), was the ochreous pug E. indigata (Nb) whose larvae feed on pines Pinus spp which are plentiful at this location.

Two species associated with saltmarshes - the rosy wave Scopula emutaria (Nb) 6l7 (8) and the dog's tooth L. suasa 18/6 (2) were both recorded at the Wildfowl and Wetlands Trust Centre, Penclacwydd (21/533984) where, double lobed (31/7) and small rufous were additionally recorded. Also taken was the poplar/willow feeding olive lpimorpha subtusa on 31st July. The silky wainscot has only ever been recorded in two 10km squares in Wales, so its occurrence at Penclacwydd on 31st July was most welcome. The species was also recorded by IKM at the nearby Techon Marsh in July 1990.

At the shingle headland of Penrhyngwyn at the tip of the Machynys Peninsula (21/517974), a yellow belle Aspitates gilvaria was captured on 30th May, when four small yellow underwings Panemeria tenebrata were also spotted; the latter's larvae feed on Cerastium (a species of dry or wasteground). Yellow belles were additionally noted at Pembrey Burrows (21/41-99-) in late May, when up to 11 were observed. In Pembrey Forest (22/391026) and in the satellite plantation of Penybedd Wood (22/416017), grass rivulets Perizoma albulata were recorded in late May/early June, the larvae devour yellow rattle Rhinanthus minor, a common plant of dry grassland. Small purple-barreds Phytometra viridaria were netted near Tywyn Burrows (22/372033) in mid-late May.

Trapping at June & Doug Williams' garden at Ty Croes (22/609111) proved to be productive - with a lobster moth Stauropus fagi on 19th June, striped wainscot (also on 19th June), pale mottled willow on 26th June, burnet companions Euclidia glyphica on 9th June and a peatland species - the marbled white spot Lithacodia pygarga also on 9th June. However, the best species recorded was the very local alder kitten Furcula bicuspis (Nb), light trapped on 29th June. This is thought to constitute the first record of this species in Carmarthenshire. A wood carpet and a blackneck Lygephila pastinum were both also recorded there on 26th June, whilst an earlier record of a lunar thorn on 31st May was a bonus. Burnet companions were additionally noted at Machynys (21/513980, 30th May). Visitors at Penclacwydd WWT reported two sightings of the migratory hummingbird hawk-moths Macroglossum stellatarum on 3rd July and 31st July, and one was seen in a garden at Denham Avenue, Llanelli (22/495011) on 23rd July (J.R. Ellis). Apart from an earlier sighting of one feeding at Petunia flowers in a garden at Betws (22/642121) on 5th June (Steve Lucas), these provide the sole submitted records for 1994. BS/SJT also noted a caterpillar of the privet hawk-moth at Penyfai, Llanelli (22/497017) on 11th August, where it was feeding on garden privet Ligustrum ovalifolium.

At Carmel Bog (22/594157) two attractive species were seen after dark on 6th May - the red sword-grass Xylena vetusta and the emperor Pavonia pavonia. Adults of the former overwinter to mate in the spring, and the camouflage of this moth at rest is most  remarkable. The emperor moth on the other hand is much more striking in its appearance and always a pleasure to see.

Compared to the massive contribution made by BS & SJT (all the above moth records), the author's effort was negligible, the few records of note being confined to the present paragraph. Additional small purple-barreds were frequent in the rides and trackways of the upland Crychan Forest (22/839405 etc) on 21st May; at this site the larvae are likely to feed on heath milkwort Polygala serpylifolia whilst down on the coastal burrows (ref. BS/SJT records already cited), this moth probably utilises common milkwort P. vulgaris. Six-spot burnets Zygaena filipendulae were abundant on the lower, floriferous rocky slopes of Ragwen Point (22/222073) on 15th June, but - best of all - was the presence of several thrift clearwings Bembecia muscaeformis (Na, a second VCR) fluttering above clumps of its food plant, thrift Armenia maritima. Burnet companions were noted on a rank, acidic pasture at Tir-lan, Llwyn-têg (22/555072) on 27th June, when almost the first of the summer's silver-Y's Plusia gamma was spotted; the species was to become ubiquitous and abundant in late summer (see later). A silver hook (Nb), a very local moth of acidic pastures) was also reported from Tirlan by Janet Crowden in mid-June, and four more were recorded in wet slacks at Laugharne/Pendine Burrows (MoD Pendine) on 21st July (BS, SJT). Yet another was seen on flushed, acidic pasture at the edge of the mostly long-infilled Cors Helyg, Cefn Bryn Brain (22/742135) in July. IKM's last record of interest concerns caterpillars rather than adult moths -the distinctive larvae of the beautiful yellow underwing Anarta myrtilli, found abundantly on heather at the superb Dyfed Wildlife Trust reserve at Cors Goch Llanllwch (22I364186) on 24th September. Although it is said to be quite frequent (if local) nationally, the species is regarded as markedly scarce in Ceredigion, VC46 (Fowles, 1988) with rather few records.

 

Although Andrew Lucas' output has necessarily diminished due to domestic commitments, he continues to provide quality records. His main effort in 1994 was some trapping done near Tirlan, just south-east of Llwyn-têg, Llannon (22/557073), the adjacent habitat comprising rushy pastures, heath and bog. The highlights are listed below:

clouded brindle Apamea crenata 3/6

map-winged swift Hepialus fusconebulosa 29/6

marbled white-spot Lythacodia pyrgarga 29/6 & 8/7

striped wainscot Mythimna straminea 29/6 & 8/7 dingy shears Enargia ypsillon 2/8

round-winged muslin Thumatha senex 8/7

dingy shell Euchoeca nebulata 14/7

Several of the above species are regarded as "local" in Ceredigion (Fowles, loc.cit.), the only county adjacent to Carmarthenshire for which a modern moth review exists. In particular, both the dingy shears and the dingy shell have only been recorded on a handful of occasions in Ceredigion. A couple of nights' trapping on the extensive Pendine¬Laugharne Burrows yielded some useful records, the trap being positioned to the SE of the Witchett Pool at 22l288073. Several round-winged muslins were caught and are likely to have originated from the adjacent wet, mossy dune slacks, whereas the lichen-feeding Brussels lace Clerodes lichenaria probably wandered from nearby scrub woodland which fringes the wetland areas. AL also recorded a lobster moth Stauropus fagi from "Stonefield", Llanedi 22/588085 on 29th June.

Scarlet Tager DistributionA useful record was that of a white-pinion spotted Lonographa bimaculata, seen in a lane north of Salem (22/620284) by Graham Motley (GSM) and Jackie Murphy on 14th May; it is a local species and suggested to be a recent colonist of SW Wales (Fowles, loc.cit). GSM with Jamie Bevan provided records of scarlet tigers, with one recorded at Caeau Dugoedydd (22/775416) on 12th July and 'seven in the air at same time, perhaps over 10 individuals seen' at Helfa Hall (22/421276) on 7th July.

Sarah Andrews and Richard Howorth also produced scarlet tiger records in 1994:

(i) NW of Bedwirion 22/453348 12th July (2) SA

(ii) Geilifelin 22/471344 18th July (1)

(iii) Pantycraff 22/519412 July

(iv) nr Bwlchmelyn 22/391383 22nd June (1) RH

Julian Friese also made his contribution to the year's scarlet tiger tally during his ornithological survey of coastal fens:

(i) Ffrwd Fen 22/421025 28th June (1) Ffrwd Fen 22/418025$ " " (4+)

(ii) East of Saltrock, Pinged 22/418032 27th July (3)

(iii) behind the Ashburnham Hotel 22/436010 30th June (1)

(iv) Banc-y-Lord 22/401046 " " (2)

(v) Kymer's Canal, Kidwelly 22/403058 " " (1)

(Tone was also seen near here on 18th June on a Llanelli Naturalists field meeting)

 

Finally, N.R. Thomas recorded a scarlet tiger at Llwyncelyn, Llansawel (22/626554) on 12th July, and AL also noted one at Nant-y-Garreg near Rhos 22/372364 on 1st July giving a total of twelve new stations in 1994. A map showing the known distribution of the scarlet tiger in Carmarthenshire is shown below.

Steve Lucas (SL) has joined Barry Stewart and Sandra Turner as one of the main contributors to moth recording in 1994. Steve made a significant number of noteworthy records and also provided an useful summary report and lists of his year's trapping activities, with the main effort being made at his home at Betws near Ammanford (22/642121). Here he noted a minimum of 175 species of "macro-moths". Of special note were the following:

oak hook-tip Drepana binaria 6/8 & 20/8.

the spinach Eulithis mellinata 10/7, 16/7, 22/7, & 6/8.

small yellow wave Hydrelia flammeolaria 10/7. the v-moth Semiothisa wanaria 22/7.

the double line Mythimna turca Nb 10/7. dusky-lemon sallow Xanthia gilvago 16/7. large ear Amphipoea lucens 20/8.

scarce silver-lines Bena prasinana 6/8. the blackneck Lygephila pastinum 10/7. the olive Ipimorpha subtusa 6/8.

According to the literature, the spinach is associated with cultivated currants; the small yellow wave with broom, and the dusky-lemon sallow with elms. The latter is a second record for Carmarthenshire (it is already known from the Kidwelly area), and it also should be sought in the Tywi valley where hybrid elms Ulmus x hollandica and some wych elms U. glabra are frequent; if the species also utilises English elm U. procera, then the coastal belt SE of Llanelli should additionally support this species. The double line is a 'nationally notable' species but is likely to be reasonably frequent in Carmarthenshire. Of SL's records listed above, the scarce silver-lines is also mention-worthy, for it is a scarce moth of oakwoods; the record of the olive in early August is believed to constitute a third or fourth county record. Steve also recorded a red-necked footman and a white-pinion spotted at Betws. At Dinefwr Castle Woods, Llandeilo (22/623222), checking of the copper underwings by Steve showed that both the copper underwing Amphipyra pyramidea and Svensson's copper underwing A. berbera subsp. svenssoni were present in late August.

As well as the record of a hummingbird hawk-moth already cited, SL captured a migratory bordered straw Heliothis peltigra at Betws (the 3rd vc record) on 25th June. Additionally, he provided records of the pearly underwing Peridroma saucia (near Talley, 22/660336) on 26th September, and - at Betws - a dark sword-grass Agrotis ipsilon (4th Nov.) and the gem Orthonoma obstipata (16th July). All three species are migrants. Interestingly, IKM and Mark Pavett also had a bordered straw this summer, but not - alas - in Carmarthenshire. It was seen on the coastal cliffs at Horton, Gower (21/480855, VC41), on 6th August.

Many useful records of unimproved pasture moths were made by the CCW grassland surveyors, including most of the following numerous sightings of five-spot burnets Zygaena trifolii subsp. decreta.

(i) NW of Bedwirion 22/453348 12/7 (30+) S.Andrews

(ii) S. of Llanybydder 22/528423 25/7 (1) S.Andrews

(iii) Bryn-coch back 22/572116 28/6 (several) GSM & JB

(iv) nr. Thornhill Mansion 22/577115 30/6 (many) GSM & JB

(v) Caeau Lotwen 22/582113 1/7 (many) GSM & JB

(vi) Bwlch Bychan 22/406277 7/7 (many) GSM & JB

(vii) Helfa Hall 22/421276 7/7 (many) GSM & JB

(viii) Blaen-dyffryn 22/603444 13/7 (several) GSM & JB

(ix) Caeglas 22/560300 15/7 (many) GSM & JB

(x) nr. Telpyn Farm 22/181075 22/7 (few) IKM

(xi) WWT Penclacwydd 21/533984 13/7 (6) BS/SJT

(xii) Laugharne Burrows 22/24-07- -/7 (several) BS

(xiii) Pant lfor 22/383388 27/6 (1) RH

(xiv) Camnant 22/378388 27/6 (1) RH

(xv) Wthan 22/369374 28/6 (2) RH

(xvi) Ty Hen, Cwmpengraig 22/350362 6/7 (1) RH

(xvii) Capel farm 22/552156 -/7 (1+) ML

GSM & JB also noted two forester moths Adscita statices (typically on damp acidic pasture), near Caeau Ffos-fach SSSI, Capel Hendre (22/574124) on 28th June, whilst a bumet companion was observed flying over swards of bird's-foot trefoil (its larval food plant) in the disused limestone quarry SW of Carmel (22/577161) on 13th June (IKM).

Six-spot bumets Zygaena filipendulae, which in Carmarthenshire tend to be found in much drier situations than the 5-spot burnet, were noted at Dolwen Point, Pendine (22/233077, 8th July, IKM); Penrhyngwyn (21/517974, BS); and abundantly on the small area of dunes at St Ishmael (22/36-07-, IKM & BS/SJT). Richard Howorth discovered three sites for the small, all black chimney sweeper Odezia atrata: two at Penclawdd-isaf (22/368357, 20th June); another two NW of Wthan (22/369374, on 28th June) and about five individuals near Ty-hên, Cwmpengraig (22/350362) on 6th July. One was also noted by AL on rough grassland at the NW corner of the Dyfed Wildlife Trust reserve at Cors Pum Heol (22/486047) near Five Roads on 20th June. This dainty diurnal moth is sometimes confused for a butterfly by the novice lepidopterist. It is a very local species of neutral grassland in Carmarthenshire.

 

Reference was made earlier to "almost the first" silver-Y of this summer's influx, at Tirlan, Llwyn-têg on 27th June. Actually, there was a sighting a day earlier at WWT Penclacwydd (BS) and a considerably earlier record on the Dinefwr Estate, Llandeilo (22/61-22-) on 13th May (SL). Many observers commented on the abundance of this species throughout the county in July-Sept., with numbers expectedly highest on the coast, where Barry Stewart commented that, "at Penclacwydd on 2nd September 260+ were feeding on dense patches of the rayless variety of Aster tripolium (sea aster) on the saltmarsh". Some 300+ were noted along the coastal path near Pendine on 17th Sept. (GSM & JM). BS also observed that during fine weather on 21st Sept., at 1400 hrs on Cefn Sidan, silver Y's were noted coming in off the sea at c.200 per 20mins (=600/hr), just on one short stretch (c.200m) of beach. In similar weather on 23rd Sept., c.200 were watched over a 4hr period (ie c.50/hr). The total immigration of this insect must have been enormous.

Acknowledgements

I am indebted to the following for submitting records: Sarah Andrews, Melanie Bagley, Jamie Bevan, John Ellis, Richard Ellis, Julian Friese, Jonathan Graham, Peter Hack, Richard Howorth, George Hutchinson, Morfydd Lloyd, Andrew Lucas, Steve Lucas, Andrew Mitchell, Graham Motley, Jackie Murphy, Mark Pavett, Richard Pryce, Mat Ridley, John Steer, Barry Stewart, Nick Thomas and Sandra Turner. Particular thanks are due to Barry Stewart and Richard Pryce for making suggestions to improve the first draft of this report. Richard also kindly prepared the maps from data held on his Biorecs database using Dr Alan Morton 's "D Map" distribution mapping software.

Special gratitude is offered to Steve Lucas, Graham Motley & Jackie Murphy and Barry Stewart & Sandra Turner for their neatly presented records and summaries, sent punctually without the need for persistent reminders. They serve as an example to others! A very few observers still do not provide grid references, and any supplementary information is always appreciated (eg numbers, habitat, which flowers are utilised etc).

References

Bagley, M. (1994). 1994 Marsh Fritillary (Eurodryas aurinia): Adult Flight Survey of Dinefwr. Unpublished CCW internal report, Dyfed & Mid Wales Region.

Fowles, A.P. (1988). The Moths of Ceredigion. Research & Survey in Nature Conservation No8. NCC Peterborough.

Lucas, S. (1994). Moth Report 1994 - Macrolepidoptera. (unpublished report on moth recording in 1994).

Warren, M.S. (1994). The UK status and suspected metapopulation structure of a threatened European butterfly, the marsh fritillary Eurodryas aurinia. Biological Conservation . 67: 239-249.

Erratum

In last year's report (Llanelli Nats. News!. 56: 37-40), it was erroneously stated that the record of a golden plusia at Betws was a new county record, whereas in fact it has already been noted. My apologies for this error.