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Tuesday, September 28, 2010


On the AES BugClub email discussion list, Graeme Stroud posted these two extraordinary pictures, and this note:

Is anyone able to tell me what’s happening here? I found this wingless female moth with its eggs on my garden fence yesterday. I’m assuming this is a vapourer moth, although I understand there are several other wingless species. But there are two red velvet mites in the picture also. Are they eating the eggs?

Personally I have absolutely no idea. I have always been fascinated by the moths that have such severe sexual dimorphism that the females are flightless and only have tiny vestigial wings. There are actually quite a few of them in the UK, so I pinched the following list from here.

176 Dahlica triquetrella Only wingless females found in BI (how do they get around?). March & April.
177 Lesser Lichen Case-bearer Dahlica inconspicuella Local and indigenous to BI. March & April for adults.
179 Lichen Case-bearer Dahlica lichenella Wingless females only in March & April
181 Taleporia tubulosa : May & June. Females are like “little yellow grubs”
185 Luffia ferchaultella : Kimber has no information on flight times of males.
186 Psyche casta : Another case-bearing larva, with grub-like females. Males fly late Spring.
191 Acanthopsyche atra : heaths & moorland, mainly in N Britain. Flying in late Spring.
192 Pachythelia villosella : June & July. Rare heathland species in Dorset & Hants.
1331 Water Veneer Acentria ephemerella : An amazing little creature. Males fly June to August, but wingless feamles live underwater (like the larvae) in ponds and slow-moving streams.

1663 March Moth Alsophila aescularia : Common in E&W. March and April.
1799 Winter Moth Operophtera brumata . Adults throughout the winter. Common & Widespread. Larva important food for nesting birds (tits etc).
1925 Small Brindled Beauty Apocheima hispidaria : Common S England. February and March.
1926 Pale Brindled Beauty Apocheima pilosaria : Local in Hebrides, Ireland, N Wales & North-West England. Adults March & April.
1928 Belted Beauty Lycia zonaria : Males fly in March and April.
1929 Rannoch Brindled Beauty Lycia lapponaria. Scotland, in April.
1932 Spring Usher Agriopis leucophaearia. The adults emerge in February and March.
1933 Scarce Umber Agriopis aurantiaria Scotland & Ireland flying in October & November.
1935 Mottled Umber Erannis defoliaria. The flight period is late in the year.
1960 Early Moth Theria primaria : Females in January and February
2025 Scarce Vapourer Orgyia recens : Rare, only Yorks, Lincs & Norfolk. Males day-flying June & July.
2026 The Vapourer Orgyia antiqua . Adults emerge July through to September. Common & widespread.

I don't actually think that this female is a vapourer moth, but I wouldn't like to say what the correct identification is, and I have no idea whatsoever about the mites. Over to you guys...


cowani said...

Well according to my buddy at the Northants Moth Group,its certainly a female Vapourer moth, but he's no idea what those mites are up to.

Lars Thomas said...

Velvet mites are predatorial, so they might be looking for their next supper - the probably wont attack the adolt moth, but since their preferred prey are smaller mites and similar sized creatures, I don't se why they shoudn't have a go at the eggs. Whether they can actually get their proboscis through the egg-casin is another matter - of that I have no idea.

Lars Thooma