Saturday, 21 April 2012

Luffia species

The status of Luffia species in Britain has been confused for some time. The checklist and most books list two species; L. lapidella which has a wingless female but fully winged male and is only known from Cornwall, and L. ferchaultella for which only the wingless parthenogenetic female is known.

My understanding is that recent genetic research has shown that these are in fact a single species and the name lapidella has precedence but until this is published in the forthcoming new checklist or elsewhere, I guess we should stick with calling the form found away from Cornwall L. ferchaultella. 

Whatever its taxanomic status, Luffia cases can be found on tree trunks and occasionally other wood or rock. It seems to be particularly common on oak. The cases are only around 5mm long and are covered in algae so are quite hard to see.

Wednesday, 18 April 2012

Mompha miscella

The larvae of Mompha miscella can currently be found mining the leaves of rock-roses Helianthemum spp. The mine starts as a gallery but is then expanded to a blotch and can fill the whole leaf. The larva can change leaves. As it matures, the larva develops a strong pink tinge which can be seen when the larva is viewed against strong light.

Monday, 16 April 2012

Oak bark miners

Strange as it may seem, there are species which mine the bark of young oak trees. They are found mining the smooth bark of young saplings, usually ones that are about 3 - 5 inches across at chest height. Apparently they can also mine branches of larger oaks but I have never seen this myself.

Until a couple of years ago, identification was easy; it was Ectoedemia atrifrontella. However E. longicaudella has now been found in Britain and the mines are inseparable. The only way to resolve identification then is to coppice the oak and breed through the adult. As most records in the past have been of mines and therefore can now only be referred to one or the other, we have very little knowledge of the distribution of either species and obtaining definitive records is very worthwhile.

Many of the mines I have seen have been on scrubby oaks on heathland so site managers may be happy for you to contribute some scrub clearance!

Saturday, 14 April 2012

Argyresthia glabratella

This species is undoubtedly under recorded but the larval feeding signs can currently be found on Norway Spruce Picea abies. Look for twigs that have lost the needles from the end (some dead needles may be retained at the tip). Then look for a small circular hole in the twig, usually on the underside. The larva pupates within the twig so if you keep it, you should get an adult in June.

Thursday, 12 April 2012

Elachista nobilella

This species was only discovered in the UK a few years ago; by Graham Collins in Surrey. It has subsequently been found in most other counties in the south-east but as all the records have been made by a small number of people who are aware of its existence and know how to find it, the true distribution could be much wider.

The larvae mine the leaves of Wavy Hair-grass Deschampsia flexuosa. Surely it isn't possible to fit a larva inside a Wavy Hair-grass leaf? Well it is! Two occupied mines are shown below.

The moth seems to like plants that are in woodland, at least partially shaded and often on a bank or ridge. They also seem to like scattered plants, rather than the extensive 'lawns' that Wavy Hair-grass often forms, although it may just be that it is easier to see the mines when there isn't too much potential habitat! I found a number of vacated mines today so if you want to look for this species, you had better do it soon. A picture of the habitat where one of the occupied mines was found is shown below.