Bath Natural History Society Field Trip to Elm Farm, Burnett
Thursday 15 May 2014
Paget, Elisabeth Allen and Paul Wilkins
Fifteen Members made an early start at Elm Farm to open a
moth trap put out the night before by Philippa and John Paget.
Despite being what should have been a pretty good night the
moth numbers were unusually low for the time of year, with just thirty two individuals
of nine species, although twenty-one male Muslin moths did make
quite a spectacle when all placed on one egg carton before being released.
We were, however, rewarded with the beautiful and unusual
little moth known as the Chinese Character, a very fresh and
wonderfully marked Brindled Beauty as well as the aptly named Spectacle
which sports what looks like a pair of spectacles or goggles on its thorax when
viewed from the front. Also in the trap were Common Swift,Pale
Pinion, Rustic Shoulder-knot, Flame ShoulderandShuttle-shaped
Dart. There were no micro moths in the trap but Philippa did produce an
old peanut feeder which was 'infested' with pupal remains together with two
adult micro moths which were later confirmed to the Cork Moth (Nemapogon
cloacella) a very small moth belonging to the Tineidae
The original plan for the rest of the field trip was to
search for Leaf Miners, but it was considered too early in the year for this to
be very successful, although later in the morning we did find a couple of leaf
mines on Hogweed growing in the woodland area which was later
identified as a Diptera (fly) species called Phytomyza
spondylii.. To compensate for
this I brought along some photographs, both of adult leaf miners and the leaves
they came from showing their typical 'mine' patterns. Also included were a
couple of live specimens of Phyllonorycter harrisella and P.
messaniella to illustrate their minute size of just 3 or 4mm long.
Next, we set off in glorious sunshine to search along the
hedgerows and track verges further away from the farmyard for whatever
'wildlife' we might find. Armed with a stout stick and an upturned white
umbrella a couple of us 'beat' the branches of overhanging trees and shrubs in
search of caterpillars and any other invertebrates, whilst others either
searched the lower vegetation or just enjoyed the Butterflies and Damselflies
flitting up and down the hedgerow, stopping now and again to bask in the warm
sunshine. These beautiful insects
included both male and female butterflies of the Orange-tip, Brimstone,
Green-veined White, Peacock, Comma and Speckled Wood along
with the Common Blue Damselfly, Large Red Damselfly and the Beautiful
Demoiselle. Later on a single Small Copper butterfly was
seen in a recently cultivated field stopping now and then to bask momentarily
on the warm stones that littered the surface.
It wasn't long before we had a number of caterpillars
belonging to the Geometridae family of moths often referred to as
'loopers' or 'inchworms' after their mode of movement. After ‘beating’ a Silver
Birch I was very excited to find what I first thought were two ‘Bagworms’
the larvae of a particular micro moth that creates a portable ‘case’ out of
living or dead plant material to provide it with protection and camaflauge.
However, after further research they proved to be another form of
‘case’-bearing moth larvae belonging to the Coleophoridae family
called Coleophora serratella which also uses plant material
to make a portable case.Also found by 'beating' were quite a few species of
spiders including to or three different species of Crab Spider, a
number of small bright green Weevils, Click Beetles, Scarlet Lily Beetle,
Hawthorn Shield Bugs, Black and Red Frog-hoppers (Cercopis vulnerata)
and numerous other invertebrates we were unable to identify beyond their
A number of accidentally disturbed or true day flying moths
were also seen. Silver Ground Carpet, Burnet Companion, Mother Shipton,
Angle Shades and micro moths such as the Nettle-tap, the
tiny Cocksfoot Moth (Glyphipterix simpliciella), Elachista argentella
and much to my delight, Phyllonorycter lantanella. Other
invertebrates encountered on the walk included a number of species of
hoverflies such as the Drone Fly and the Leucozona
species, blue and green Lacewings, Harvestmen, Scorpion flies, Ichneumon
flies and Parasitic Wasps.
Invertebrates were not the only wildlife to enjoy. Numerous
native plants were in flower such as Wild Rose, Hawthorn, Guelder Rose,
Spindle, Red Valerian, Common Mouse-ear, Cow Parsley, Herb Robert, Herb Bennet and
Woodruff to name just a few. Raven, Barn Owl, Buzzard, RoeDeer, a number of Hares as well as a variety of
farmland birds were also spotted.
493 Coleophora serratella
493 Coleophora serratella
The larva feeds by inserting its head into small mines it
creates on the leaves of birch (Betula), elm (Ulmus), alder (Alnus), or hazel
(Corylus). Occasionally it is found feeding on other trees, or on herbaceous
plants onto which it has accidentally fallen.
Pupation, June - early July, is in the larval case fixed to
the upper surface of a leaf in a sunny situation. Sometimes pupation is on
plants other than those fed on.