Llanelli Naturalists Newsletter - November 2005 - No 72
Ian Morgan

As in the last report (Llanelli Nats. Newsl. 71, Jan 2005), this brief summary is not meant to replace the more comprehensive and knowledgeable review of the County’s moth recording by Jon Baker, but rather it highlights some moths noted in the immediate Llanelli area (although the on-going intensive work at Pembrey Burrows and Pembrey Forest by JB is left for his attention).  Barry Stewart also did some recording in Carmarthenshire with, yet again, some very interesting finds which Jon will doubtless include in his forthcoming review.

Actually, less trapping was done by IKM this year, with the sole trap site being at Tyrwaun, Pwll 22/469013, though some diurnal netting of moths or searching for larvae was carried out.  All records are Tyrwaun unless stated otherwise.

Sometimes, of course, a moth (or come to it, any wildlife) need not be rare to give pleasure.  Such was the perfect specimen of the yellow horned moth Achlya flavicornis (a birch feeder) on 26-27.3.05.  Also, the learning of new searching techniques from fellow lepidopterists is fun, such as the larvae of the micro-moth Endothecia gentianacea in the hollow section of teasel Dipsacus fullonum seed heads at Machynys 21/508985, 20.3.05.  A daytime trip to the RAF Bombing Range at Tywyn Burrows 22/369049 on 15.7.05, produced the rather dingy pyralid Pyrausta cespitalis, a very local species in the county. 

Lime Hawk-moth Mimas tiliae, Tyrwaun, Pwll © Richard PryceSitting outside my moth trap early one morning, a solitary lime hawk-moth Mimas tiliae was a new, but anticipated, county record on 21-22.6.05 (see photo); also inside the trap was the coastal pyralid Phycitodes maritima.  A broom moth Melanchra pisi on the same night, represented a pleasing record of an uncommon VC44 species.

Viv and Tony Lewis tipped me off last year regarding finding the colourful, yet camouflaged caterpillars of the chamomile shark Cucullia chamomillae on scentless mayweed Tripleuro-spermum inodorum, a still frequent weed of our now diminishing coastal brownfield sites in and around Llanelli.  Consequently, I was able to find well-grown larvae along the cycletrack south-east of Bryn Carnarfon 21/550981 on 6.7.05, and at Llangennech 22/563009 (9.7.05).  Again on the ‘not-rare-but-interesting’ theme, I was pleased to see the host-specific plume moth Marasmarcha lunaedactyla on the food plant, restharrow Ononis repens at the ‘WAM wasteground’ (Delta Lake) site, Machynys 21/509985 (soon to be obliterated by housing) and east of Burry Port 22/451003: both in early August.

Back in early July, on ‘National Moth Night’ (9-10.7.05) Kath and Richard Pryce were persuaded to run a trap at Station Road, Llangennech 22/563015 where, amongst their haul, they caught a silky wainscot Chilodes maritimus, a reedbed inhabitant (with carnivorous larvae), as well as several greater wax moths Galleria mellonella which was the first Carmarthenshire record (see Short Notes).  They also had the notable micro-moth Eudonia delunella.  Silky wainscots were amongst the catch at Tyrwaun on the same night, coming no doubt from the reedy areas of Pwll Lagoon LNR just a couple of hundred metres away; round-winged muslins Thumatha senex were their companions in the trap.  Also present were the scarce nutmeg Discestra trifolii and the plain pug Eupithecia simpliciata (a rarely-recorded species in VC44, otherwise only known from Pembrey) which are both goosefoot/orache feeders.

Larva of Vapourer moth Orgyia antiquua, Tywyn Burrows © Kath PryceBotanical Society members visited the RAF Range at Tywyn Burrows on 24.7.05 when the larva of a vapourer moth Orgyia antiquua (see photo) was discovered by Anne and Stephen Coker in an area being recolonised by dune vegetation which had been recently cleared of Sea Buckthorn: this was the first county record for nearly 100 years!

Simeon Jones had real ‘beginners luck’ on 10-11.8.05 at North Dock, Llanelli, with a waved black Parascotia fuliginaria as a new county record for this rare moth.  Other niceties in his trap were bordered pug Eupithecia succenturiata, toadflax pug E. linariata, and tawny-speckled pug E. icterata.

Perhaps the record that gave me the greatest personal pleasure was the finding of the superbly-camouflaged larvae of the wormwood Cucullia absinthii at the site proposed for the new Scarlets stadium on 25.8.05.  Full details of this are given in an article by Barry Stewart in the Glamorgan Moth Recording Newsletter which I have abridged below:-

“On 25 August I received an email from Ian Morgan who informed me that he had found several Wormwood Cucullia absinthii larvae on the species’ namesake plant Wormwood Artemisia absinthium at the proposed site for the new Scarlets rugby stadium site at Pemberton (SS529998). The following day I went to the site and within an hour recorded the following larvae on either Wormwood or Mugwort A. vulgare:

  • Wormwood Cucullia absinthii: 24 larvae, 23 on A. absinthium & 1 on A. vulgare (equal time was given to each species of Artemsisia, the results indicating that Wormwood larvae show a marked preference for A. absinthium)
  • Wormwood Pug Eupithecia absinthiata: 1 larva on A. absinthium
  • Bordered Pug Eupithecia succenturiata: 8 larvae on A. vulgare
  • Coleophora artemisicolella: 1 larva on A. vulgare

Also of significance, the pyralid Euzophera cinerosella was recorded by Sandra and myself on 18 Jul 2004 nearby at Penclacwydd (SS532987), and it is likely that this probably originated from the Pemberton site.

Wormwood Cucullia absinthii larva on Wormwood Artemisia absinthium at the site of the proposed stadium at Pemberton © Barry StewartThe Vice County Recorder for Carmarthenshire, Jon Baker, informed me that Wormwood, Euzophera cinerosella and Coleophora artemisicolella were all new species for VC44.

Ian informed me that until the late 1980`s an extensive area of horse-grazed waste-ground extended westwards from the proposed stadium site South of Cefncaeau to the SW edge of Trostre Retail Park. Here wormwood was common and highly visible due to its light grey foliage. Nowadays, one of the few sites for this plant in the Llanelli area is the former tip on which the new Scarlets rugby stadium will stand.

It is hoped that, as part of the mitigation proposals, transplanting of Wormwood can be undertaken with plants relocated to suitable localities within the Llanelli Millennium Coastal Park at Machynys and just east of Burry Port. This may just save the Wormwood  (both plant and moth) as Carmarthenshire species.”