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Mothing at Tolhurst Organic – 19/20 August 2023

Norman Hall and Paul Black ran moth traps overnight in two fields of Tolhurst Organics on the night of 19 – 20 August 2023. The farm produces stock-free organic vegetables in two fields of the Hardwick Estate, to the east of Whitchurch-on-Thames. It was the first farm in the world to be classified as stock-free organic by the Vegan Organic Network. This means that there are no inputs from animal manures or slaughterhouse by-products. The farm uses rotations with fertility-building crops to maintain soil fertility. This was our second visit to the farm for moth trapping, following an outstanding night there on 1 June 2019. This time, the skies were clear and even though the temperature only dropped to about 14C overnight, conditions were not quite as good as before. In total, 719 moths of 103 species were recorded. Norman ran two traps and a light over a sheet above a pile of egg boxes at the top of the field called Lower Bec, which is on the north side of the road from Whitchurch to Hardwick. To the north of his traps was a field of steep Chalk grassland, while across the lane to the east was broad-leaved woodland. Clay Triple-lines was a Beech feeder which turned up in one of Norman’s traps. Pretty Chalk Carpet, whose larvae feed on Traveller’s-joy, also came to light there. Other moths in Norman’s traps included Buff Footman, Swallow Prominent, Black Arches and Hedge Rustic.

Paul ran two traps and a light over a sheet in Upper Knight, the field on the south side of the Whitchurch to Hardwick road. One of his traps was deep in a weedy vegetable plot and Paul was delighted to take a specimen of his target species there, the Dark Spinach. This is a moth of disturbed weedy places, and according to the Rothamsted Insect Survey, declined by 96% between 1968 and 2007. Its caterpillars feed on the seeds of goosefoots and oraches and its decline is attributed to ‘over tidiness’ in the countryside. Tolhurst Organics takes a relaxed attitude to weeds. With year-round ground cover, predators have time to get into balance with pest species, and vegetables with strong root systems can compete favourably with weeds. Another of Paul’s traps was in the shelter of a block of willows and close to a Field Maple tree in the hedge. This trap had 5 specimens of the Nationally Scarce Mocha, whose second generation was on the wing. This is a very attractively marked moth. Paul’s light over a sheet was run close to a group of 300-year old oak trees but this produced a rather disappointing catch. Good news was that there were no Oak Processionary moths, a pest species which has been turning up in increasing numbers in our area. Ripe blackberries in the hedge had attracted a number of species, including White-point, Yellow Shell and Tawny Speckled Pug. Norman and Paul stayed overnight. They reported that for a time around 2am, nothing new came in. Then late in the night, Clouded Border, the migrant Vestal, September Thorn, Dark Spinach, Poplar Hawkmoth and Chinese Character flew in. One specimen of each species was kept, and these were shown to members who came to view the catch at 9am next morning. The moths came in a great variety of colours, shapes and sizes. The Thorns are the most butterfly-like of moths, resting with their wings part raised. They were represented by Purple, Canary-shouldered, Dusky and September Thorn. The largest moths were Poplar Hawk-moths and an Old Lady, the latter in one of Paul’s traps in the damp area by the planted willows. The Magpie was another largeish moth, white with striking yellow and black markings. Jersey Tiger, a relatively recent arrival in this country, was well represented, with 25 moths in Norman’s traps and 14 in Paul’s. A night-time search of the hedges by torchlight also revealed Green-veined White and Meadow Brown butterflies.

Pictures by Rob Stallard

Agassiz Taxon English Name TOTAL
03.001 Triodia sylvina Orange Swift 23
16.002x Yponomeuta padella agg. Apple Ermine agg 2
41.002 Blastobasis adustella   8
45.044 Emmelina monodactyla Common Plume 0
49.024 Pandemis corylana Chequered Fruit-tree Tortrix 2
49.039 Epiphyas postvittana Light Brown Apple Moth 1
49.062 Acleris forsskaleana   1
49.077 Acleris variegana Garden Rose Tortrix 1
49.109 Agapeta hamana   1
49.139 Cochylis atricapitana   1
49.161 Celypha striana   2
49.224 Spilonota ocellana Bud Moth 1
49.341 Cydia splendana   1
62.021 Oncocera semirubella   4
62.035 Acrobasis advenella   4
62.048 Euzophera pinguis   2
63.007 Pyrausta purpuralis   1
63.038 Pleuroptya ruralis Mother of Pearl 4
63.057 Evergestis forficalis Garden Pebble 1
63.088 Crambus perlella   4
63.089 Agriphila tristella   2
63.093 Agriphila straminella   2
63.115 Acentria ephemerella Water Veneer 20
63.117 Parapoynx stratiotata Ringed China-mark 4
65.005 Drepana falcataria Pebble Hook-tip 3
65.007 Cilix glaucata Chinese Character 1
65.008 Thyatira batis Peach Blossom 1
69.003 Laothoe populi Poplar Hawk-moth 3
70.011 Idaea dimidiata Single-dotted Wave 1
70.016 Idaea aversata Riband Wave 2
70.029 Timandra comae Blood-vein 2
70.031 Cyclophora annularia Mocha 6
70.037 Cyclophora linearia Clay Triple-lines 1
70.038 Rhodometra sacraria Vestal 2
70.049 Xanthorhoe fluctuata Garden Carpet 1
70.059 Camptogramma bilineata Yellow Shell 5
70.061 Epirrhoe alternata Common Carpet 4
70.069 Pelurga comitata Dark Spinach 1
70.100 Colostygia pectinataria Green Carpet 5
70.128 Melanthia procellata Pretty Chalk Carpet 1
70.141 Gymnoscelis rufifasciata Double-striped Pug 2
70.173 Eupithecia centaureata Lime-speck Pug 3
70.187 Eupithecia icterata Tawny Speckled Pug 1
70.200 Acasis viretata Yellow-barred Brindle 8
70.205 Abraxas grossulariata Magpie 3
70.207 Lomaspilis marginata Clouded Border 1
70.208 Ligdia adustata Scorched Carpet 1
70.226 Opisthograptis luteolata Brimstone Moth 16
70.227 Epione repandaria Bordered Beauty 1
70.234 Ennomos alniaria Canary-shouldered Thorn 3
70.235 Ennomos fuscantaria Dusky Thorn 7
70.236 Ennomos erosaria September Thorn 3
70.239 Selenia tetralunaria Purple Thorn 1
70.258 Peribatodes rhomboidaria Willow Beauty 18
70.277 Cabera pusaria Common White Wave 2
70.278 Cabera exanthemata Common Wave 6
70.283 Campaea margaritaria Light Emerald 2
71.005 Furcula furcula Sallow Kitten 1
71.012 Notodonta dromedarius Iron Prominent 2
71.013 Notodonta ziczac Pebble Prominent 1
71.017 Pheosia tremula Swallow Prominent 1
72.002 Rivula sericealis Straw Dot 21
72.003 Hypena proboscidalis Snout 9
72.010 Lymantria monacha Black Arches 2
72.011 Lymantria dispar Gypsy Moth 15
72.017 Orgyia antiqua Vapourer 1
72.024 Phragmatobia fuliginosa Ruby Tiger 5
72.030 Euplagia quadripunctaria Jersey Tiger 39
72.043 Eilema depressa Buff Footman 3
72.044 Eilema griseola Dingy Footman 9
73.001 Abrostola tripartita Spectacle 9
73.002 Abrostola triplasia Dark Spectacle 1
73.012 Diachrysia chrysitis Burnished Brass 4
73.015 Autographa gamma Silver Y 3
73.032 Colocasia coryli Nut-tree Tussock 5
73.045 Acronicta rumicis Knot Grass 3
73.047 Craniophora ligustri Coronet 4
73.062x Amphipyra pyramidea agg. Copper Underwing agg 2
73.099 Hoplodrina ambigua Vine’s Rustic 27
73.107 Mormo maura Old Lady 1
73.109 Thalpophila matura Straw Underwing 18
73.113 Phlogophora meticulosa Angle-shades 2
73.123 Hydraecia micacea Rosy Rustic 3
73.131 Luperina testacea Flounced Rustic 4
73.169x Mesapamea secalis agg. Common Rustic agg 5
73.172 Mesoligia furuncula Cloaked Minor 5
73.188 Agrochola helvola Flounced Chestnut 4
73.216 Cosmia trapezina Dun-bar 1
73.252 Tholera cespitis Hedge Rustic 1
73.267 Lacanobia oleracea Bright-line Brown-eye 1
73.291 Mythimna pallens Common Wainscot 60
73.297 Mythimna albipuncta White-point 44
73.319 Agrotis segetum Turnip Moth 6
73.325 Agrotis puta Shuttle-shaped Dart 9
73.329 Ochropleura plecta Flame Shoulder 23
73.334 Diarsia rubi Small Square-spot 10
73.342 Noctua pronuba Large Yellow Underwing 20
73.343 Noctua fimbriata Broad-bordered Yellow Underwing 3
73.345 Noctua comes Lesser Yellow Underwing 1
73.348 Noctua janthe Lesser Broad-bordered Yellow Underwing 64
73.357 Xestia xanthographa Square-spot Rustic 15
73.358 Xestia sexstrigata Six-striped Rustic 6
73.359 Xestia c-nigrum Setaceous Hebrew Character 37