Glasgow & SW Scotland Butterflies

Glasgow & SW Scotland Branch Website

February 7, 2010

Narrow-bordered Bee Hawk-moth Surveys in Argyll 2010

Filed under: Moths — Tags: , — Andrew Masterman @ 3:29 pm

Narrow-bordered Bee Hawk-moth  (Hemaris tityus) has 50 Argyll records relating to 24 sites mostly in north Argyll but there is one much further south for the southern tip of Bute in 1960.  It is also found in some other parts of Scotland including the Cairngorms, Moray, Easter Ross and Wester Ross. The map below shows all the records of Narrow-bordered Bee Hawk-moth (NBBHM) in Vice County 98 relating to the northern part of the Glasgow and SW Scotland branch of Butterfly Conservation area.

Distribution of NBBHM in VC98

Distribution of NBBHM in VC98

NBBHM is an amazing day-flying moth with a body length of about 2 cm and a total wing span of about 4-4.5 cm - so a large and spectacular moth!  It is on the wing from mid-May to early July in the same areas as the beautiful Marsh Fritillary. This is no co-incidence as they both have the same foodplant, Devil’s Bit Scabious and the same flight period so it is possible to see both these rare species of Lepidoptera at the same site on the same day!

Narrow-bordered Bee Hawk-moth   Credit: Phil Holt

Narrow-bordered Bee Hawk-moth Credit: Phil Holt

NBBHM is not the easiest of moths to identify in the field for two reasons.

  1. NBBHM does not look like a moth -  NBBHM has transparent wings and therefore looks like a large bumble bee (it is a very convincing bumble-bee mimic) but you can distinguish it from bumble bees because it does not fly like a bumble bee and it doesn’t buzz. Bumble-bees have an erratic zig-zag flight and are noisy too! NBBH tend to fly in straight lines and they have a large buff-coloured backside which is conspicuous and diagnostic. There are also insects known as bee-flies (Bombylius spp) but these are smaller than NBBHM and not as spectacular.
  2. NBBHM flies fast - this characteristic means you may only get a fleeting glimpse of an insect which looks like a bee but there is something un-bee-like about it. But this leaves you uncertain about whether or not you have indeed seen a NBBHM. As this is a UK BAP species, it is important that you are confident of your identication before you submit a record to the VC moth recorder. But NBBHM does like to nectar and this behaviour enables you to get a much better look at it to be sure of an identification. It nectars while hovering unlike bees which land to feed but in cooler cloudier conditions, you might see it at rest on nectaring plants.

The preferred nectaring plants of NBBHM are louseworts, bugle, viper’s bugloss, common bird’s foot trefoil, rhodedendron and red valerian. Apparently, you can lure it to a sprig of lilac which you could take with you into the field!

NBBHM only flies in warm sunshine so you do need good weather to see it. The habitat of NBBHM and Marsh Fritillary is low lying flat  damp grassland, sometimes a more heathy type habitat,  with abundant Devil’s Bit Scabious but the bottom of slopes which also tend to be damp may also provide good habitat. A couple of examples are shown below:

Grazed damp grassland

Grazed damp grassland

 

Marshy Heathy type habitat

Marshy Heathy type habitat

 

There are several areas in North Argyll where there are a number of historical records of NBBHM and branch members are encouraged to visit these areas to see this spectacular UK BAP moth, to recognise its habitat and to look for it in other nearby sites or other sites in Argyll.

One such area is Taynuilt where an open area known as the common grazings has patches of marshy habitat with abundant Devil’s Bit Scabious where NBBHM may be found and Marsh Fritillary can also be seen in low numbers. The red spot in the south-west of the map below (NM986307) which is just before the road goes into an area with houses (Balindore)  is a great spot to see NBBHM and Marsh Fitillary in a marshy area just to the east of the road (the red spot is on the wrong side of the road!).

NBBH Sites around Taynuilt

NBBH Sites around Taynuilt

 

Around Glen Creran is another good area with many NBBHM records with the Appin Peninsular being a hot spot and there may well be other sites to be discovered in the Appin peninsular.

NBBHM sites around Loch Creran

NBBHM sites around Loch Creran

 

There are also a number of NBBHM records for the Isle of Lismore just to the west of the Appin Peninsular. There is a passenger ferry from Port Appin which takes just 10 minutes enabling you to bring a bicycle if you wish and a car ferry from Oban taking 1 hour. See Lismore Ferry for more details.

NBBHM sites on Lismore

NBBHM sites on Lismore

 

There are a few scattered NBBHM records around Oban which suggests that it is under-recorded here so searching in the area between Oban and Loch Feochan may well result in the discovery of some new sites. There is also one record on the Isle of Kerrera  just to the west of Oban which is a short passenger ferry trip from south of Oban.

NBBHM sites around Oban

NBBHM sites around Oban

 

Any NBHHM records in Argyll VC 98 should be sent to andrewmasterman@hotmail.com. Records from other vice-counties should be sent to the appropriate recorder whose contact details can be found on the Mothscount website.

The above maps and the grid-references of the historical records can be found in this word document which you can print out.

There is a Butterfly Conservation leaflet on NBBHM (PDF 540 kb) available which provides more information on the lifectcycle of this amazing moth.

Andrew Masterman
VC98 Moth Recorder

Moth Records for VC98 Argyll Main

Filed under: Moths — Tags: , , — Andrew Masterman @ 11:04 am

Vice County 98 covers Argyll south of Loch Leven and north of the Crinan Canal near Lochgilphead, the Cowal peninsular and Glencoe, most of Rannoch Moor and the islands of Lismore and Kerrera.

As of February 2010, there are 22958 Macro-moth records in the VC98 database relating to 331 species. Eighty-six per cent of these records relate to the Glencoe Rothamsted trap at the National Trust for Scotland visitor centre. The Rothamsted Light Trap at Glencoe is part of a UK wide network of 80 traps run by the Rothamsted Insect Survey since 1968.  The Glencoe trap has been in operation since 1996 and the addition of the data from this trap added many new species to the VC98 database. There were 62 new species which are classified as common species. There were a further 28 species which have much more local distributions and are interesting records.

As of February 2010, there are 191 Micro-moth records in the VC98 database relating to 62 species.

Six UK BAP Macro-moth species are present in the VC98 database.

Barred Tooth-striped  (Trichopteryx polycommata) has 27 records relating to five sites in north Argyll. This moth has very localised scattered distributions in Scotland and England with the majority of Scottish records in Argyll.  It flies early in the year in March April and comes to light traps. The larvae feed on Ash or Privet and it overwinters as a pupa. In Argyll, it has been recorded at Creagan Wood and Glasdrum NNR on the north side of Loch Creran, on the south side of Loch Creran at Barcaldine and also at Glen Nant NNR. There is also one record at the Glencoe RIS trap. These are all deciduous woodland sites but in southern England, it is associated with open scrub on chalk downs and with some limestone sites south of Cumbria.

Barred Toothed-striped

Barred Toothed-striped

Argent and Sable  (Rheumaptera hastata) has 16 records relating to 12 sites in north and central Argyll. This is a day-flying moth on the wing in May and June and the caterpillars feed on bog myrtle and birch and it overwinters as a pupa. There are three sub-species in the UK with hastata hastata occurring in England and southern Scotland as far north as southern Argyll, a smaller and darker form,  f. nigrescens found in the Hebrides and the far NW of Scotland and a third sub-spp hastata f. laxata which occurs in Argyll and other parts of the southern Highlands.

 

Argent & Sable   Credit: John Knowler

Argent & Sable Credit: John Knowler

Square-spotted Clay  (Xestia rhomboidea) is an ex-UK BAP species and has 15 records relating to 4 sites in north and west Argyll. This is a rare species in Scotland with most records from Argyll although it is much more common in southern England. If flies in late July and August and comes to light. There is some uncertainty about which plants the caterpillars feed on but birch and bramble are likely examples of a range of plants which can be used. It overwinters as a small caterpillar. The habitat is deciduous woodland and in Argyll, it has been recorded at Glasdrum Wood and Glasdrum NNR, Glen Nant NNR and Taynish NNR all of which have mature decidious woodland and also around the Loch Melfort area.

Square-spotted Clay

Square-spotted Clay

 

Forester (Adscita statices) has 22 records relating to 8 sites on the west coast of Argyll. It is a day-flying moth which is a joy to see with its bright emerald shiny wings. Its caterpillars feed on Common Sorrel and Sheep’s Sorrel and its habitat in Scotland is sunny sheltered  areas with some bracken in coastal parts of Argyll.

Forester

Forester

 

Narrow-bordered Bee Hawk-moth  (Hemaris tityus) has 50 records relating to 24 sites mostly in north Argyll but there is one for the southern tip of Bute in the south of Argyll. This is an amazing day-flying moth found during late May and June in the same areas as Marsh Fritillary. This is no co-incidence as they both have the same foodplant, Devil’s Bit Scabious and the same flight period so it is possible to see both these rare species of Lepidoptera at the same site on the same day! The habitat of both these species is low lying flat  damp grassland, sometimes a more heathy type habitat,  with abundant Devil’s Bit Scabious but the bottom of slopes which also tend to be damp may also provide good habitat.

Narrow-bordered Bee Hawk-moth     Credit: Phil Holt

Narrow-bordered Bee Hawk-moth Credit: Phil Holt

 

Transparent Burnet (Zygaena purpuralis) has 25 records relating to six sites near Oban. The strongholds of this amazing moth are the Hebridean islands of Mull, Skye, Ulva, Eigg, Canna, and Rhum and the only records on the mainland are around Oban and also in parts of Kintyre. It was seen on the islands of Kerrera and Lismore in 1960 but there are no recent records. The adults are day-flying in warm sunshine from early June to July and the caterpillars feed on wild thyme. It overwinters as a caterpillar. Its habitat is steep, heathy and grassy south and south-west facing slopes and under-cliffs near the coast.

 

Transparent Burnet    Credit:  Neil Gregory

Transparent Burnet Credit: Neil Gregory

Andrew Masterman
VC98 Moth Recorder

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