The moth trap yielded just three moths last week, all different species. Hebrew Character, Early Grey and a new species for the garden a Brindled Beauty, Lycia hirtaria. A new tick is always welcome, but the catches remain very low. Though it’s not just me that is bemoaning the poor catches so far this year, members of the Garden Moth Scheme are also experiencing low catches. This may be due to the low temperatures at night. The sun maybe warming the day with temperatures at about 14C, but they drop of quickly overnight and can be as low as 3C at the moment. I don’t have enough experience or years of recording to make any meaningful comparisons over the years, so there is no yardstick to measure against at the moment.
The Brindled Beauty is to my mind a stand out moth, not large with a forewing length of between 19-23mm (1), the markings are perfect for camouflage against a tree trunk. There is only one generation a year as in on the wing March through to May (1). It’s preferred habitat are woodlands and suburban areas, which provide the easiest findings for the larval food plants. This is a polyphagous moth, and the larvae feed on wide range of deciduous trees. The list includes Downey and Silver Birch, Hawthorn, limes, elms, alders allows and oaks. So plenty to choose from near the garden. The larva feeds from April through to early July, and pupates over winter underground (1).
So what does the latin name mean. According to Emmet (2) Lycia probably comes from the Greek ‘lukeios’ relating to a wolf. The specific ‘hirtaria’ comes from ‘hirtus’ – shaggy, hairy. The hairy abdomen is possibly similar in appearance to the shaggy mane of a wolf. This certainly seems to fit when you look at the photos of the abdomen from below.
It also has a Welsh name – Rhisgl Brith. A very descriptive name, ‘rhisgle’ is bark, and ‘brith’ is mottled. Think Bara Brith – the great welsh tea cake – now I’m hungry!
It well distributed in the south of the UK, with what seems to be an empty gap in North Wales and Northern England, and sparkly spread in Scotland. This may be due to some under reporting, but could also indicate that the uplands are not it’s preferred habitat.
- Waring,P. Townsend,M. And Lewington,R. (2011) Field Guide to the Moths of Great Britain and Ireland (2nd ed) British Wildlife Publishing.
- Emmet,A.M. (1991) The Scientific Names of British Lepidoptera: Their History and Meaning. Harley Books: Colchester.