|Painted Lady (Vanessa cardui)|
|Red Admiral (Vanessa atalanta)|
|Vagrant Twitcher (Tebenna micalis)|
|Rusty-dot Pearl (Udea ferrugalis)|
Looking at the table, the species in first place is the Diamond-back Moth (Plutella xylostella). Immediately we see the point proved about wild fluctuations from one year to the next. Last year (2016) was an exceptional year which saw a colossal immigration of probably billions of these moths. It feeds as a larva on crucifers (cabbages), so the immigration was not welcomed by farmers or gardeners. Bearing in mind that the moth is tiny (about 7mm long), it amazes me that it is able to fly any distance at all, but it is carried in large air masses long distances from its continental homeland.
There are a number of species which are regular migrants each year, including the Clouded Yellow (Colias croceus), Red Admiral (Vanessa atalanta) and Painted Lady (Vanessa cardui) butterflies and the moths Rusty-dot Pearl (Udea ferrugalis), Rush Veneer (Nomophila noctuella), Silver Y (Autographa gamma), White-point (Mythimna albipuncta), L-album Wainscot (Mythimna l-album), and Dark Sword-grass (Agrotis ipsilon). Of these, most had an average year in 2016, but Rusty-dot Pearl, Rush Veneer and Silver Y had a significantly above average year. The Silver Y famously made the news when one landed on the footballer Ronaldo’s face during the European Cup Final in July. It became an internet sensation (#mothonface). It should be noted that some of these species are also considered to be transitory residents (i.e. they gain a temporary foothold in the UK and breed successfully for a year or more before colonies succumb to environmental shocks). For these species (White-point, L-album Wainscot and Dark Sword-grass) the southern UK is at the very north of their range and they might form resident coastal populations in the future as a result of climate change. The L-album Wainscot has been breeding along the coast in Newhaven for some years.
|Silver Y (Autographa gamma)|
The species which cause excitement in varying degrees when they appear include the Oleander Hawk-moth (Daphnis nerii), Blair’s Mocha (Cyclophora puppiliaria), Vestal (Rhodometra sacraria), Ni Moth (Trichoplusia ni), Bordered Straw (Heliothis peltigera), Small Mottled Willow (Spodoptera exigua), Clancy’s Rustic (Platyperigea kadenii), Oak Rustic (Dryobota labecula) – which is actually colonising eastwards along the south coast, Flame Brocade (Trigonophora flammea), and White-speck (Mythimna unipuncta). Most of these have appeared as singleton
sightings on very few occasions. The Vestal (Southern Europe and North Africa) and Small Mottled Willow (Europe) have behaved similarly by not being seen at all in three of the five years, but with a spike in numbers in 2015.
|Convolvulus Hawk-moth (Agrius convolvuli)|
|Oleander Hawk-moth (Daphnis nerii)|
The star of the show is the Oleander Hawk-moth which made its first appearance in Sussex for about 25 years when it appeared at Newhaven Fort in 2014. At least three were seen in Sussex in 2016 (including one mentioned below), but this is a moth of North Africa and Mediterranean islands, so do not expect it to become resident in the UK any time soon! It is a truly stunning moth and one of the best examples of how the beauty of moths can surpass that of butterflies.
|Clancy's Rustic (Platyperigea kadenii)|
|Oak Rustic (Dryobota labecula)|
Two other hawk-moth species were seen during the period, the Convolvulus (Agrius convolvuli) and Hummingbird Hawk-moth. The latter, an impressive day-flyer and favourite of many people, has been seen in disappointingly small numbers each year, but one of the brace seen in 2015 was fascinatingly an overwintering adult which I saw in a vacant house away from the coast in Lewes. The Convolvulus Hawk had never been recorded at home before 2015, but it has been seen during the past two years.
Numbers will continue to surprise and delight each year and this is one of the pleasures and privileges of recording moths by the coast.
|Vestal (Rhodometra sacraria)|