Beautiful Plume at Duart

December 14th 2018

This unusual-looking moth was photographed by Michael Pink at The Sheiling, Duart, Nedd (NC1332) on 7th September 2018, having flown into the house about midday.  It was about 24mm across the outspread forewings, which almost completely hid the hindwings. It stood high on its legs, of which the third one was missing on the left side.

Its general appearance suggested a member of the family Pterophoridae or Plume Moths. Some 44 species of Plume Moths occur in the British Isles, and the precise pattern narrowed this one down to one of two species.  I sent the image off for expert opinion and after some discussion and comparison with excellent images found on-line, it was identified as a Beautiful Plume Amblyptilia acanthadactyla.  Graham Crittenden, the Moth Recorder for West Sutherland, has just two previous records for this large area (which stretches from Inverkirkaig to the Caithness boundary), one at Lochinver in 2016 and the other much further to the east, so a nice find.  It occurs in a variety of habitats, the larvae feed on the flowers and unripe seeds of a variety of herbaceous plants (possibly hedge woundwort at this site) and it overwinters as an adult.

Plume moths are just one family of the so-called Micro-moths, with some 1627 species on the British list, as against about 875 Macro-moths. They can be quite challenging to identify, so their distribution is not as well-known as that of their larger relatives.  However, publication of the Field Guide to the Micro Moths of Great Britain and Ireland by Phil Sterling and Mark Parsons (2012), with magnificent illustrations by Richard Lewington, has made them much more accessible.

Ian M. Evans

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