Sunday, 22 November 2015

November Moths fly in November

The November Moth

The November Moth (Epirrita dilutata), as its name aptly suggests, flies in November, although it can also be found earlier on in September and October. It is a species in the Geometrid moth family, the family that gets its name because of the "looper" caterpillars that are also known as "inch-worms" because of their habit of extending their bodies in a loop as if they are measuring a short distance.

November Moth (Epirrita dilutata) Photo: ©entomart

The November Moth is still flying in the dark and colder days of late autumn when many other species of butterfly or moth have disappeared into hibernation or a stage that gets them through the winter. The forewings of the November Moth are mottled in dark and light grey. as well as brownish shades and this variable colouration pattern blends in well with the background afforded by tree bark or an old stone wall making the insects well camouflaged. 

The Pale November Moth (E. christyi) and the Autumnal Moth (E. autumnata) are in the same genus and so similar in appearance to the November Moth that it can be hard to tell one from the other.  The last-named species is the most common and widely distributed of the three moths though, and it occurs in a wide range of habitats, including our gardens where it can be a pest. 

Pale November Moth Epirrita christyi, Davos-Sertig, Switzerland Photo: Dumi

The November Moth has a green and red caterpillar that feeds on a variety of trees and shrubs, including apple, hawthorn, hazel, ash, birch and oak. The eggs overwinter and hatch in the next spring. 

The November Moth is found throughout the UK and in Europe from Scandinavia down to the Mediterranean. 

Actually there are a good number of moth species that can still be seen flying in November, moths that can withstand the colder temperatures. Many of these insects will feed from the last flowers growing in our gardens and also from the blooms of the ivy. Look out too for the attractive and rather aptly named Angle Shades (Phlogophora meticulosa) moth  and the Silver Y (Autographa gamma).

Angle Shades Photo: ©entomart

The Angle Shades is a migratory species that is very common in some years with a green or brown caterpillar that feeds on many garden plants and weeds. 

Silver Y (Autographa gamma) Photo: Olaf Leillinger)

The Silver Y has a Y-shaped letter on its wings and is another migrant that has a larva that accepts a wide variety of food-plants. This latter species feeds by day as an adult too and can be seen flying in the late autumn sunshine. Both the Angle Shades and Silver Y are Noctuid moths and are not related to the November Moths in any way, apart from still flying at this time!  

But why not get a great book about British moths and find out what species you can find in any season, and yes, there is a December Moth and a Winter Moth?

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