Robert Homan

Diamond-back Moth Migration

We are currently on the receiving end of a large-scale migration of Diamond-back Moths (Plutella xylostella) into the UK.  I thought I was doing well with a count of 16 caught at dusk in my Cheltenham garden on 2 June, but have just heard from a recorder in the Stroud area who gave up counting at 100 in his moth trap.  The migration has been mentioned on Springwatch and there is a short video clip of one observer’s experience in Norfolk here:

It would be interesting to record the full scale of the migration in the county, both numbers and locations, so please send in any records.  The web page noted above has a good range of ID photographs; in essence the Diamond-back Moth is small (about 15 mm wingspan), pale in colour and probably in a garden or field near you!

R Homan, VC 33 Moth Recorder

Will DEFRA pull the plug on Cleeve Common?

In a world where everything has to be the biggest, fastest, newest and best, any description of Cleeve Common can sound like another dose of all too familiar hype. However, at Cleeve, the superlatives do go on and on, at least for the present.

As well as being the highest point and largest area of common land in Gloucestershire, Cleeve includes significant areas of two of southern England’s most threatened types of habitat i.e lowland heath and unimproved limestone grassland. The presence of a wide-range of nationally rare species means that the Common is certainly the best site in the Cotswolds for moths and is of national importance for lepidoptera as it holds stable populations of scarce species such as Lace Border and Chalk Carpet as well as a range of Red Data Book micro-moths. The Common is large enough to support a large and healthy population of Adders, whereas at other smaller, isolated sites, in-breeding threatens the viability of the species. The flora includes the very rare Purple Milk-vetch and the orchids present include the rare frog and musk species. Among the breeding birds on the Common are Linnet and Yellowhammer and the area is a traditional stopping-off point for migratory Ring Ouzels. All three of these species are “red listed” in the UK, i.e. they have the highest conservation priority as they need urgent action

Management is the key to understanding the rich bio-diversity of the Common and that management depends on a carefully considered conservation plan, based on data from detailed survey work, and on a skilled and knowledgeable workforce who can implement the plan to produce the all-important mosaic of grassland, heather, gorse and woodland.

All of this essential work is under threat. Changes in DEFRA policies have resulted in a reduction of the vital income needed to finance conservation work on the Common. Cleeve Common does not have the financial backing of a major conservation charity, but has depended instead on the range of payments which I am sure we all thought were made available by DEFRA under it is environmental remit. Given the amount of money DEFRA has just written off for yet another failed IT system (for the EU’s Basic Payment Scheme), the funds required to maintain the quality of conservation management on the Common are minute. Whether an under-resourced, tunnel-visioned department can show some flexibility regarding the Common’s finances is anyone’s guess, but a little persuasion from interested naturalists would not go amiss. Finally a point worthy of any “strange but true” column; DEFRA’s the new approach means handing over money to grazing-rights holders, even if they don’t turn out any animals on to the Common!

Robert Homan

Gloucestershire Plant Gall Recorder and East Gloucestershire Moth Recorder

2013 East Gloucestershire (VC33) Moth Review

Moth recorders active in Vice County 33 contributed just over 29000 records to the database for 2013.  A review of many of their interesting records, including no less than 17 new species for East Gloucestershire, together with a number of examples of how the weather of 2013 influenced the region’s moths, can be found in this PDF document:

2013v2 Moth review 2013v2
(if it does not display correctly in your browser, download the file and view it using Adobe Reader.)

R. Homan, VC 33 County Moth Recorder

What are Gloucestershire’s top 10 plant galls?

Is not something I have ever been asked, but should it be on the tip of your tongue, here is the answer:

1 – Aceria macrochelus (155 records). A mite producing largish pimple galls on the upperside of Field Maple leaves.

2 – Aceria aceriscampestris (151 records). A mite producing small pimple galls on the upperside of Field Maple leaves.

3 – Neuroterus quercusbaccarum (57 records). A gall wasp producing common spangle galls on Oak leaves.

4 – Pontania proxima (54 records). A sawfly producing bean shaped galls on Crack Willow and White Willow leaves.

5 – Hartigiola annulipes (37 records). A fly producing “lighthouse” galls on Beech leaves.

6 – Aceria cephaloneus (36 records). A mite producing pimple galls on Sycamore leaves.

7 – Aceria eriobius (33 records) . A mite producing an erineum (a felt-like gall) on the leaves of Field Maple.

8 – Aceria pseudoplatani (28 records). A mite producing an erineum on the leaves of Sycamore.

9 – Phyllocoptes goniothorax (27 records). A mite producing narrow rolls on the edges of Hawthorn leaves.

10 – Iteomyia capreae (25 records). A fly producing pimple galls on the leaves of Sallows.

Maps of the 10 species, in alphabetical rather than rank order, are in this XPS file, which should open in most modern versions of Windows. The maps show records at 10km resolution for the two Glos. vice-counties.

Robert Homan, Plant Gall Recorder

The start of autumn? 1

When autumn starts depends on where your interests lie. If it birds then it could be when the first non-breeding waders return on their passage south; for me it when the first of the typically autumn moth species starts to fly. The picture shows one of the most common species – the Lunar Underwing. The name refers to a feature that is not usually visible – a small dark cresent on the underwing.

Lunar Underwing, Cheltenham, 16 September 2012

Another Hawthorn Gall

Following on from the recent post about Phyllocoptes goniothorax galls on the leaf edges of hawthorn, here is another gall on the plant.  Familiar enough to have a common name (Hawthorn Button-top Gall), the gall consists of a thickened terminal bud with a cluster of distorted leaves. Known more formally as Dasineura crataegi, the gall former is a midge and inside the gall are orange larvae.


Another side to Coombe Hill 2

The section of the canal between the Wharf and the Grundon Hide produced a good selection of invertebrates this morning, including several Orange-tip butterflies. Smaller species included leaf mines of Celypha woodiana on Mistletoe, galls of the mite Cecidophyes rouhollahi in Goosegrass and a number of Iris Flea Beetles (Aphthona nonstriata) .   Celypha woodiana is something of a Gloucestershire speciality  and is a BAP species.