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ZEISS DTI thermal imaging cameras. For more discoveries at night, and during the day.

ID Tips for new moth'ers (1 Viewer)

brianhstone said:
Bloody hell, I wouldn't question an ID by Ian K.! And especially not on a distinctive and attractive little micro like C. quercana. ;)

I wasn't questioning an ID by Ian because I just couldn't remember who actually did ID it, after all this was two years ago and I'm lucky if I remember what happened last week never mind two years ago. lol

It is a cracking little moth though isn't it. I must admit that I can't recall seeing another one since.

I seem to get far more common than scarce footmen (surprisingly!) and have not had the rarer ones. But I thought that this comparison of common and scarce might give a few ID pointers.


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At this time of year when there are six or more species of yellow underwings about I wonder if anyone has a good series of photos to show the key differences?
Large yellow underwing is very variable. I'll attach a couple of examples.


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Good idea Ken. Of course the one thing that isn't very variable on Large Yellow Underwing (Noctua pronuba) is the size and shape. There isn't anything else that big and long and 'hard'.

I make it seven Noctua yellow underwing species but the common five can be separated on size and shape.

Large (pronuba): see above.
Lesser (comes): a size down but still a chunky moth. shorter and broader than pronuba. No pic at the moment.
Broad-bordered (fimbriata): always an impressive moth, as large as pronuba but a very distinctive blunt front end and softly coloured banding.
Lesser Broad-bordered (janthe): smaller than comes and with a distinctive greenish "headband". there isn't much variation in upper forewing markings.
Least (interjecta): the baby of the bunch with a fairly uniform rich, reddish upperside. Looks more like other noctuids but still flashes the bright yellow hindwings like the others. Again no pic yet.

I must admit I have stopped looking for Lunar YU (N. orbona) but I've noticed a few "lessers" with rather dark marks near the wingtip so perhaps I should be checking more thoroughly. Any tips for things to point me in the right direction would be very welcome as I get hundreds of Lesser YU (N. comes) once they get going.

As for Langmaid's (janthina), dream on!



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I've edited this to put in a more convincing pic of a lesser yellow underwing. Also attached is a Least yellow underwing.


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I do find it troubling having to examine all my Large Yellow Underwings just in case but it's good to know nothing matches them size wise, makes it easier now.
Surreybirder said:
I believe this is a lesser yellow underwing... please say if not!! and a least yellow underwing.

That first pic looks like a Large (pronuba). It's long, relatively narrow, has a pale strip along the leading edge and a bold dark mark near the apex.

I've attached another Least YU (interjecta) pic and another Broad-bordered (fimbriata) that's had a close encounter with a bat by the look of it.


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As we are entering the square-spot rustic season, which is an unusually variable moth, I wondered if anyone has some good photos showing its different forms. Here are a couple.


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Surreybirder said:
As we are entering the square-spot rustic season, which is an unusually variable moth, I wondered if anyone has some good photos showing its different forms. Here are a couple.

I will add my two penneth. lol


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It's been said before, but the tip about using a paintbrush to examine the hindwings of moths does seem to work! (Occasionally you don't even need a paintbrush, but I think this one had been injured by my attempts to pot it.)
Shoulder-striped wainscot, the only other one I've seen, is quite distinctive with the pale edges to the wings and the long black shoulder-stripe, with further black stripes reaching the trailing edge of the wing.


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Beginners (including me) might be confused by various "stripey" noctuids that are fairly frequent at this time of year:
feathered gothic
six-striped rustic
lunar underwing
and possibly others.
They are not really that similar but perhaps enough to throw someone with no previous experience?


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Nice one Ken. Lunar Underwing certainly had me scratching my head for ages on my first autumn trapping. Now if only I'd seen Feathered Gothic! ;)
I get loads of feathered gothics. But I've not seen anything else 'gothic'. This year, I want to try and see the 'lunar' underwing marking, if I can.
Perhaps you've got photos of some of the other gothics?
Carnation Tortrix Cacoecimorpha pronubana

I don't think I've seen anything 'gothic' unfortunately.

Meanwhile here's a smart little dayflying micro to look out for.

This little moth is now in its second generation here and it is far more numerous than earlier in the year. They fly around in small groups in the morning sunshine. The male is tiny (6mm long) but the female a bit bigger. The bright orange hindwings can be very obvious.


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One of my commoner autumn moths is brindled green. I often have to take a second look at them because they lose most of the green colour when they have been 'out' for a while. Also, some seem to have whitish and reddish elements more obvious than others.
The photos below show some of the variation. (I believe that this applies to other 'green' moths, too.)
PS What does 'brindled' mean?


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chestnuts--Conistra sp.

I had a very handsome chestnut last night (and another rather anonymous one). As far as I know I've never had a dark chestnut. Anyone got any photos that show the diagnostic differences? (The UKmoths site talks about the 's' shaped outer edge of the forewing on dark chestnut but I must admit that I don't feel that their photos show this very clearly.)


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Diurnea fagella, A common ID request in Spring. Look it up so you know!!

Diurnea fagella

I think I'm safe in saying that this species is top of list for ID requests at this time of year. Usually appears about mid March with me. It is a large micro, a litttle smaller than March Moth. Familiarise yourself with it. I mentioned this last year and still it came up as ID requests many times.
It'll turn up in most people's traps. Links to pics below.

NOTE: there are 2 colour forms and that the female is flightless.
Very basic

One of the things that is difficult in moth ID, in my opinion, is that when you start out with a guide book you don't know how much variability there is within a species. Also, Waring and Townsend, often say in their descriptions 'no similar species' but to a beginner at least there may be quite a few that are fairly similar.
When you identify birds, colour and shape are probably the two main criteria. With moths, the shape of the wing pattern is often more important that the exact colour. Also, moths seem to vary in size more than birds do. So all these things have to be learned through experience - which takes time.
This was illustrated for me on 8th June when I had two small square-spots which were very different in colour and where one was about 50% bigger than the other.


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I wonder if anyone has any thoughts on how to separate triple-spotted clay and double square-spot?
Skinner shows the hindwing of TSC as fairly pale, while that of DSS is much darker, almost the same as the background colour of the forewings. The forewing of TSC looks much darker than the forewing of DSS - is that a consistent character? I cannot tell much that's different in the wing patterns as such.
The two below have both been confirmed by my CR. The TSC was taken in the Highlands, the DSS in Surrey.


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Thanks for the detail Roger. If anyone is uncertain what labial palps are this should help.

Various ways to separate the two UK Copper Underwings (Amphipyra pyramidea and A. berbera) appear in the books but none are that easy or conclusive. I personally find upper forewing differences subtle and inconclusive. Examining the extent of orange on the underside of the forewing is tricky and subjective, and in any case is only a guide.

Mike Wall brought the following reliable feature to our attention last year and since then I have found it easy to check every specimen quickly. The reference for the relevant paper is BR. J. ENT. NAT. HIST, 1:1988 p97-98. An Additional Aid to the Identification of.......by P. Q. Winter. UKmoths members can read it at http://groups.yahoo.com/group/ukmoths/files/00_Misc/.

The labial palps are the two prongs than protrude from the mouth area of a moth's head. They are in fact modified mouth parts. In these two species the palps are large and turn sharply upwards to a point. These can be seen well enough with the naked eye given good eyesight and are very clear under a hand lens (or inverted binoculars held close).

On Svennson's Copper Underwing Amphipyra berbera the palps are largely black with a few pale scales mainly near the base. The very pale tips stand out clearly from the rest of the palps.

On Copper Underwing Amphipyra pyramidea the palps have pale scales densly coating the entire front surface right to the tip making the front of the palps look unformly pale. Consequently the pale tips do not stand out from the rest of the palps when viewed from the front.

Copper Underwing flies earlier in the year (from now on) but both are on the wing together during Aug and Sep at least and are common at light and sugar. I have found them particularly numerous at sugar with both species on the same food.

The attached photos are not brilliant (particularly the one of the pyramidea upperside taken with flash). They show the upperside and palps with pyramidea first in each case.

I read in Manley that the underside of pyramidea has 'minimal copper marking beside body' whereas berbera has 'copper marking extending full length of body'. Anyone know how reliable that feature is?

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