Recording the ‘difficult’ macro-moth species in VC10/11/12 (Hampshire & Isle of Wight)
Below are details of the species that require dissection or other close examination for certain identification, sometimes referred to as ‘critical species’. If you are not able to do so yourself, it should always be possible find someone willing to check a specimen out for you: if you choose not to keep a specimen at all, the moth can still be recorded as an ‘aggregate’ species, although this is of less value scientifically.
The latter is probably the most commonly misidentified micro possibly not helped by the fact that there is only one picture of each in Barry Goater’s British Pyralid Moths. There is however great variation and P. purpuralis is much scarcer than P. aurata in Hampshire. Note the difference in the hindwing pattern. See also the various websites that contain an increasing number of photographs though more good photos of purpuralis are certainly required.
The red form of Dark-barred Twin-spot Carpet is exceedingly rare in Hampshire, if it occurs at all. No claims of this form should be made unless backed up by a specimen. Large, dark (blackish) specimens with a paler, cleaner area outside the central band can be safely recorded as Dark-barred, and obviously red individuals are safe to be recorded as Red Twin-spot. Intermediate forms need to be retained. Please note that published identification characters from wing markings are unreliable – if in doubt. record as 'Xanthorhoe spadicearia/ferrugata (Red/Dark-barred Twin-spot Carpet)' unless identified from genitalia (but could add a comment e.g. “wing markings suggested Red Twin-spot”)
With the kind permission of Jon Baker (Carmarthenshire moth recorder), click here to see a paper on the separation of these two species (published in the Moths of Ireland Newsletter No. 3) (Acrobat Reader will be required to open the file, available from the Adobe website www.adobe.com)
Record as 'Epirrita dilutata agg. (November Moth agg.)'
unless identified from genitalia.
These can be done with care, and for males, the shape of the tip of the abdomen is diagnostic: use the text and sketches on pages 125 and 126 of Waring, Townsend & Lewington.
Both species are quite variable and determination can be difficult. Dark Chestnut in Hampshire tends to be an oily, dark brown (nearly black), and shows a distinctly concave termen with a falcate ('hooked') apex (wing-tip). Records of the latter should be supported by photographs.
Record as 'Acronicta tridens/psi (Dark / Grey Dagger)' unless identified from genitalia (note that dissection of males isn’t required to do this, it is possible on an anaesthetised moth with care – details are in Waring et al).
Use 'Amphipyra pyramidea agg. (Copper Underwings)' unless the exact species has been identified; the best characters for identification seem to be the markings on the palps, and the colours of the underside of the hindwing (need to have the hindwing held open to see this). Click here to see the paper by Winter on the diagnostic features of these two species. Note also that picture 3 in Plate 36 of Skinner is incorrectly labelled. It is in fact a Svensson’s.
Wing markings are unreliable and cannot be used to determine
this group down to species - record as 'Oligia strigilis agg. (Marbled
Minor agg.)' unless identified from genitalia. Rufous Minor is by far the
scarcer of the three.
Record as 'Mesapamea secalis agg. (Common Rustic agg.)'
unless identified from genitalia.
Record as 'Amphipoea oculea agg. (Ear Moth agg.)' unless
identified from genitalia – A. oculea is the only “Ear Moth” that
is known to occur in the two counties regularly, but the others can turn
up as vagrants, so it is safest to record the aggregate unless certain.
Below are a list of species that are known to cause confusion, either through identification errors or through simply getting entered under the wrong name where there are species with similar names:
Often recorded in error for Narrow-bordered Five-spot Burnet - there are few recent records in Hampshire and Isle of Wight of true Five-spot Burnet, and a voucher specimen or other supporting evidence is required.
Easily confused with Riband Wave, photograph or specimen required unless the recorder has experience of the species.
Scarce in the two counties and easily confused with Common Carpet – photograph or specimen required unless the recorder has experience of the species.
Resident in the New Forest but otherwise a scarce migrant, sometimes recorded as a data entry error for the fairly common resident Cybosia mesomella (Four-dotted Footman).
This species is quite variable, and increasingly rare. Some forms of the much commoner Turnip Agrotis segetum can closely resemble it. All records should be backed up with specimens or good quality photographs.
Very rare and possibly extinct in the two counties, and easily confused with Lesser Yellow Underwing or Large Yellow Underwing – a voucher specimen or good quality photograph showing hindwings is required.
Sometimes recorded as a data entry error for White-pinion Spotted - there are no recent records for White-spotted Pinion, and a photo or other supporting evidence is required
Please compare carefully with Hoplodrina blanda (Rustic).
Please compare carefully with Hoplodrina alsines (Uncertain).
A rare species which is sometimes recorded as a data entry error for The Fanfoot - voucher specimen or other supporting evidence required.
Remember that if you have found something unusual it is always best to get as much supporting evidence as you can to confirm the record. Such evidence might include: