44 Rare & Scarce Moth species recorded at Rough Bank
Since 2012, the year when Butterfly Conservation purchased Rough Bank reserve, a total of
620 moth species have been recorded on the site, plus
4 other species only recorded in earlier years.
The Rough Bank Moths page gives a full list of these species.
44 of the species recorded at Rough Bank have nationally rare or scarce status in the UK, and nearly
all of these are believed to be resident on the reserve because of the habitat and the presence on site of
their larval foodplants.
Many of these species have been found here at least 3 times since 2012 (the exceptions to this are
indicated in the text below).
Rough Bank was quickly recognised as one of the most important known sites in
Gloucestershire for scarce moths. Frequent daytime recording visits since 2012 produced many of
these records, and it seems likely that several other Cotswold grassland sites would be found to
support similar numbers of scarce species if subjected to similarly frequent daytime surveys.
The majority of the rare & scarce species recorded at Rough Bank are micro-moths. The identification and
recording of these, particularly as a daytime activity, is not as popular as the recording of the larger
macro-moths which is done mostly by the use of ultra-violet light traps at night.
All but one of the species have been recorded since 2012, and only a few of them had also been found
here in the past. Several of the species photographs below were taken at other Gloucestershire sites.
National status is from the 2012 review for micros. For the macros a status review is expected
to be published soon; it is likely that some macros formerly rated as Common or
Local will be raised to Scarce or Rare status, whilst increased recording and changes in distribution
could lead to some scarcities or rarities being downgraded. In earlier versions of this page (to 2016),
Narrow-bordered Bee Hawk was listed as Nationally Scarce A having been shown as that status in one
reference source I used, although it was shown as Nationally Scarce B in another source. Here it
is now listed as Nationally Scarce B for consistency with the latest Field Guide (Waring & Townsend, 2017).
3 nationally rare species have been found since 2012, all resident on the unimproved grassland. These species
are given provisional Red Data Book status in the 2012 review of the status of microlepidoptera in Britain.
- Trifurcula headleyella, pRDB2. New to Gloucestershire when found here in 2012,
there seems to be a strong colony of this tiny moth (photos below, wingspan approximately 5mm)
with specimens found quite easily during its flight period each year.
Its larvae mine the leaves of Self-heal (Prunella vulgaris).
The adults can be found during the daytime in late May and June.
- Coleophora niveicostella, pRDB3. When the first of two specimens was found
here in early August 2012 it was the first Glos. record for the species since 1916,
although a few days later the species was also found on Cleeve Common near Cheltenham.
The larva feeds on Thyme, and like other species in the genus it lives inside a tubular case
from which it mines into a leaf after cutting a circular hole in its surface. The case is made from a
mined-out foodplant leaf and silk. Wingspan approx. 12mm, the forewings are narrow and pale brown with
a white leading edge for part of their length. The species is quite similar to several others in the
genus, but it can be recognised from the combination of its wing markings and its plain white antennae
(see photos below). Also found here in 2013, 2014, 2015 & 2017.
- Epermenia profugella, pRDB2. A male of this species was found in mid August 2012,
the first Glos. record since 1983. It was taking nectar on a flowerhead of the umbellifer
Burnet-saxifrage (Pimpinella saxifraga), which grows abundantly on the grassland and is
one of the larval foodplants for this species. The moth is small (wingspan approx. 9mm) and
plain dark brown (photos below). Also found here in 2014 & 2015.
Scarce Species (Na)
3 species rated "Nationally Scarce A" (also known as "Nationally Notable a", abbreviated to "Na")
have been recorded at Rough Bank. These are species believed
to occur in from 16 to 30 10Km O.S. map grid squares in the UK.
- Trifurcula cryptella. Similar in size to T. headleyella above
and with only a slight pale mark on the dark forewing.
The larvae of this species mine the leaves of Bird's-foot Trefoil (Lotus corniculatus)
and the adults have been recorded in early & mid May.
The species has also been recorded at two other Cotswold sites in recent years.
- Digitivalva perlepidella. This species is quite widespread in the Cotswolds, usually being
recorded as larval mines in the leaves of Ploughman's Spikenard (Inula conyza), mostly in April.
The adults are easy to identify from their forewing markings, but are rarely seen.
Wingspan approx. 11mm. Larval mine and adult are shown below.
- Aphelia unitana. Very similar in appearance to the common species A. paleana
(Timothy Tortrix), A. unitana escaped notice in the county until 2013 but it has since been found on
at least 10 Cotswold sites during late May to mid July. Its larvae feed on a variety of herbaceous plants.
(1 record of the adult below, reared from a larva found on knapweed)
Scarce Species (Nb)
38 species rated "Nationally Scarce B" (also known as "Nationally Notable b", abbreviated to "Nb")
have been recorded at Rough Bank. These are species believed
to occur in from 31 to 100 10Km O.S. map grid squares in the UK.
- Stigmella paradoxa. Found as larval leaf-mines at the tips of Hawthorn leaf-lobes,
there are recent records of this tiny species from a few other Cotswold sites. The forewings are plain
bronzy brown, purplish at their tips. Wingspan approx. 5mm. The photos below show a mine in September
viewed from the leaf upperside (left), and underside (right) with the remains of the egg by the left edge
of the leaf, below the tip of the lobe. (1 leaf-mine record)
- Stigmella aeneofasciella. Found as larval leaf-mines on Agrimony in autumn, there are
recent records of this tiny species from three other sites within a few miles of Rough Bank.
Very similar in appearance to many other Stigmella species,
the forewings are very dark purple-brown, brassy near the base and crossed by a pale metallic stripe
beyond the middle. Wingspan approx. 5mm. Photos below of vacated mines found in November.
- Nemophora metallica. One of the "longhorn" moths with very long antennae relative to the
body size (particularly the males). Found on many unimproved Cotswold grassland sites, its larval foodplants
are Field and Small Scabiouses.
Adults (wingspan approx. 18mm, photo of male below left) are mostly found in July and August.
- Nemophora cupriacella. Smaller than N. metallica, slightly larger than N. minimella
(see below) and quite similar in appearance to that species, this species is parthenogenetic.
Only females are found, and these lay fertile eggs without mating. In the photo of the female (above right)
the antennae thicken more noticeably towards the base than those of N. minimella (below right).
New to Vice-county 33 (East Gloucestershire) when found at Rough Bank in 2012,
it has since been found at a few other Cotswold sites. The adults are usually found in late June or July.
Larval foodplants are Field, Small and Devil's-bit Scabiouses.
- Nemophora minimella. Larvae of this species feed on Small Scabious or Devil's-bit Scabious.
Adults (wingspan approx. 12mm) are found in July and August.
Recorded from three other Cotswold sites since 2000. Photos below of male (left) and female (right).
- Nemapogon koenigi. Recorded from several sites around the county, the larvae of this
species feed in rotten wood and bracket fungi. The forewings are dark brown with white spots and streaks,
mostly around the wing edges. The wingspan is quite variable, up to 14mm.
Adults are mostly found from June to August. (1 record)
- Parectopa ononidis. Recorded from a few other sites in or near the Cotswolds. The larvae of this
small species (wingspan approx. 8mm) mine the leaves of Restharrows or Clovers. The narrow forewings are
dark brown with several silvery streaks inwards from the leading and trailing edges.
First generation adults have been recorded in May or June,
and second generation in late July or August.
- Phyllonorycter dubitella. Found as larval leaf-mines on Goat Willow, this small moth
(wingspan approx. 7mm) is similar in appearance to many others in the same genus, with golden-brown forewings marked
with black-edged white streaks (photo below left). There are two generations each year, with adults in May/June and August.
Recorded from several other sites in the county. (2 records of leaf-mines, adults reared from these)
- Ochsenheimeria taurella. Recorded in only a few sites in the county, adults of this species
have their antennae noticeably thickened by scales for more than half of their length (photo above right).
Larvae feed on various grasses, and adults have been recorded in July and August.
Wingspan approx. 12mm, some forewing scales are loosely attached and give the
mottled brown wings a rough appearance.
- Agonopterix nanatella. First found at Rough Bank in 2012 but not previously in the county
since 1937, this moth has buff forewings with a thick scattering of darker scales, wingspan approx. 16mm.
The larval foodplant is Carline Thistle - the photos below show a leaf-tube formed by the larva using its
silk, and a tube opened to show the larva. Adults fly at dusk and come to light;
recorded in early and mid August. In recent years also found on several other Cotswold grasslands.
- Eulamprotes unicolorella. This is a small, plain dark glossy moth
(wingspan approx. 12mm) for which the larval foodplant is uncertain, but
Perforate St John's-wort is thought to be a possibility.
Recorded in June and July at a few Cotswold sites and one west of the Severn. (1 record)
- Coleophora lixella. Found in June and July at several sites across the Cotswolds.
Larvae of this species feed initially on Thyme and later in their development on grasses.
Photos below of a larval case made from part of a grass leaf, and an adult (wingspan approx. 18mm).
- Coleophora therinella. New to Gloucestershire when an adult came to light here in July 2012,
this is the only species listed here whose larval foodplant is not thought to grow on the site:
it uses Black-bindweed (Fallopia convolvulus) which is often found on arable land.
Wingspan approx. 14mm, like several other species of the genus its narrow forewings are
dull pale greyish or brownish with a pattern of whitish streaks,
showing much less contrast than C. lixella above. (1 record)
- Stephensia brunnichella. A small brown moth with silvery markings
(wingspan approx. 8mm, photo below). Larvae of this species mine the leaf-tips of Wild Basil.
It has been recorded at numerous Cotswold sites either as adults or as larval mines.
First generation adults fly in May and June, second generation in August and September.
species. The species listed below from this genus are all small, with wingspans
in the range 7 - 10mm. Their larvae feed on sedges &/or grasses.
- Elachista subocellea. Forewings with three broad yellow-brown stripes (faint in some specimens,
particularly worn ones) across pale wings with scattered dark scales.
Photos below of a well-marked specimen and a worn one.
Recorded from sites across the Cotswolds, mostly in June and July. The two photos above show a fully-fed
larva leaving its mine in a blade of Tor Grass, and on its way down the grass stem
(it later pupated near ground level).
- Elachista bedellella. Forewings with three greyish areas separated by a pale stripe
and a pair of pale spots (one on the leading edge, the other on the trailing edge)
which can form a second stripe. Photos below of a male (left) and female (right).
Recorded from a few Cotswold sites in two generations during the period from mid May to early August.
- Elachista biatomella. Forewings pale with scattered dark scales giving a greyish appearance,
with two prominent dark spots (photo below left). Worn specimens lose some of the greyish effect, as in the photo below right.
Very worn specimens can resemble E. triatomea.
Recorded from sites across the Cotswolds, seen from April through to mid September, with most in May and June.
- Elachista subnigrella. Male forewings greyish with faint paler markings, the females
showing more contrast with a darker background, a pale stripe across the middle of the wing
and two pale spots beyond this (one on the leading edge, the other on the trailing edge).
Recorded from several Cotswold sites, records from April through to August.
- Elachista cinereopunctella. Forewings dark with a white stripe across the middle of the wing,
usually not reaching the trailing edge, and two white spots beyond this (one on the leading edge,
the other on the trailing edge). The female wings show more contrast, with darker background and larger
white markings than the males.
Recent records in Glos. from 3 Cotswold sites and the Wye valley, in late May and June. (1 record)
- Elachista consortella. Male forewings with mixed white and darker scales giving a greyish
appearance with obscure paler markings, the females show more contrast with a dark background, a white stripe
across the wing and two white spots beyond this (one on the leading edge, the other on the trailing edge).
Only three recent Glos. records, two from Rough Bank and one from the southern edge of Cheltenham,
in April, May and September. (2 records)
- Blastodacna atra. Recorded at a few sites in the county, mostly from June to August. The
larvae of this small moth mine inside twigs of apple trees. Wingspan approx. 11mm, forewings mostly dark brown
with two small raised tufts of dark scales near the trailing edge,
and some pale or white markings mostly near the outer tuft. (2 records)
- Mompha terminella. Recorded in Cotswold woodlands and the Forest of Dean, this species
is usually found as the distinctive larval leaf-mines on Enchanter's Nightshade (photo below),
mostly in September, rather than as adults in July or August.
Wingspan approx. 8mm, forewings dark orange with various white, grey and darker markings.
- Scythris picaepennis. This is a small, very dark moth (wingspan approx. 10mm).
It is often unmarked and very similar in appearance to S. crassiuscula below, but it sometimes has a
scattering of paler scales on the forewings. This species uses Thyme and
Bird's-foot Trefoil as its larval foodplants. It is found on many Cotswold grassland sites, in a
single generation mostly from late May to mid July.
- Scythris crassiuscula. Also found on many Cotswold grassland sites, this small, plain dark
bronzy moth uses Common Rock-rose as its larval foodplant. Wingspan approx. 10mm. Described in some books as
univoltine, it has two generations here: adults are mostly recorded from late May to July or early August,
and again from late August through September.
Photos of nectaring groups of second generation adults below,
taken at other Cotswold sites on 18 September 2012 and 22 September 2013.
- Small Plume (Oxyptilus parvidactyla). Found on many Cotswold grassland sites mostly
southwards from Cheltenham. Larvae of this species feed on Mouse-ear Hawkweed. Adults have been
recorded from late May to mid July. Photo below left, wingspan approx. 14mm.
- Aethes hartmanniana. This tortrix moth has almost identical markings to A. piercei
below, but is smaller on average. Its wingspan is usually in the range 11-17mm, compared to 15-24mm for
A. piercei. Its larvae are thought to feed in the roots of Field or Small Scabious; those of
A. piercei feed in the roots of Devil's-bit Scabious. Each species has been recorded at very few sites
in the county, from May to July. Photo above right.
- Aethes piercei. See A. hartmanniana above. (1 record)
- Cochylis flaviciliana. The forewings of this tortrix moth are creamy yellow close to the body,
bright pink towrds their tips, with a reddish-brown stripe across the middle (wingspan 11-16mm).
The larvae feed on Field Scabious. There are recent records from 3 other Cotswold sites; adults are found
from late June to early August. (1 record)
- Rhopobota stagnana. Found on several Cotswold grassland sites. The larvae of this species
feed on Small and Devil's-bit Scabiouses. There are two generations: adults are mostly recorded from early
April to early June and from mid July to mid August. The males (photo below left) are obscurely marked,
the females (photo below right) have much stronger contrast between the paler and darker areas. Wingspan quite variable,
averaging approx. 15mm in the male and 12mm in the female.
- Orange-tailed Clearwing (Synanthedon andrenaeformis). As with most of the Clearwing moths,
adults are usually recorded using pheromone lures to attract the males.
Larval foodplant is usually Wayfaring-tree, sometimes Guelder-rose.
Known in Glos. from several Cotswold sites and the Wye valley.
Recorded in June and July (photo below left). (1 record)
- Red-belted Clearwing (Synanthedon myopaeformis). With larvae feeding on apple trees
this species has been recorded in several areas of the county, mostly in June and July
(photo above right, on a bag containing a lure). (1 record)
- Six-belted Clearwing (Bembecia ichneumoniformis). Common enough at Rough Bank to be found
quite easily without using its pheromone lure, this species is widespread in the Cotswolds and is also found elsewhere in
the county. Larval foodplants are Bird's-foot Trefoil, Kidney and Horseshoe Vetches. Mostly recorded from
mid June to mid August. Photos of male (left) and egg-laying female below.
- Cistus Forester (Adscita geryon). Found on many unimproved Cotswold grassland sites,
its larval foodplant is Common Rock-rose. Adults (photos below, male on left) are mostly found in May and June.
Their forewing colour varies from dark green to yellowish green.
- Hypochalcia ahenella. Found on several Cotswold grassland sites. The larval food is
uncertain, Rock-rose is thought to be a possibility. Recorded from late May to early July, adults are very
variable in both size (wingspan 22 - 32mm) and shade of brown, with some specimens much darker
than the two shown below.
- Narrow-bordered Bee Hawk-moth (Hemaris tityus). Of all the species listed here,
this is the only one which has only been recorded on the site in the past,
back in 1993 when a larva was found on its foodplant, Devil's-bit Scabious (Succisa pratensis).
Despite several attempts to re-find the species as adult or larva, this remains its only record
from Rough Bank. (0 records since 2012)
- Mocha (Cyclophora annularia). Found mostly in woodland in southern and western parts
of the county. The larval food is Field Maple.
Recorded in two generations, mostly in May & June, and again from late July to the end of August.
- Blomer's Rivulet (Discoloxia blomeri). This species has been recorded in many places in
the county, mostly in the Forest of Dean area and the Cotswolds from Cheltenham southwards. The larvae feed
on Wych Elm. Adults are mostly recorded from late May to early August, sometimes found at rest in the daytime
(as in the photo below left) but often recorded using UV light traps.
- Drab Looper (Minoa murinata). Recorded in many woodland areas in the county. The larval
foodplant is Wood Spurge. Adults fly in the daytime, with most records from mid May to early July but some
from a partial second generation until late August. Photo above right.