Sunday, 11 December 2016

Winter Fare

On 26th November, I disturbed a Winter Moth (Operophtera brumata) from the woodland floor, as I was coppicing. As its name suggests, it is on the wing from November until January. The female is flightless and relies on being found by the male as she sits and waits on a tree trunk.
Winter Moth (Operophtera brumata) (male)

As I have said before on this site, the Red Admiral (Vanessa atalanta) is increasingly able to overwinter in southern England as a result of our changing climate. It does not enter true hibernation but will roost during inclement weather and come out to feed on mild and sunny days. Ashdown Forest offers plenty of insulating layers of dead bracken for roosting and gorse is always in flower as a source of nectar. The photograph is of one that I saw on the forest on 30th November.
Red Admiral (Vanessa atalanta)

Following a few frosty nights at the start of December, this last week has been mild and has provided a good opportunity to put the moth trap out on a couple of occasions. The appropriately named December Moth (Poecilocampa populi) is on the wing from November until January. Along with other members of the Lasiocampidae family, this species does not have any feeding mouthparts and their bodies contain enough stored energy for breeding. I suppose the main advantage to breeding at this time of year is probably a reduced risk of predation. Bats are a major predator of moths and they hibernate over winter.
December Moth (Poecilocampa populi) (male)  (7th December)
Male (photographed in 2011)

Female (photographed in 2013)

Sprawler (Asteroscopus sphinx) (7th December)

The Mottled Umber (Erannis defoliaria) is another species that is on the wing from October to January. Like the Winter Moth (O.brumata), Mottled Umber females are flightless.
Mottled Umber (Erannis defoliaria) (male) (10th December)

All of the following photographs are of Mottled Umber males that I have taken over the last few years. They show just how variable the markings of this species can be.

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