Concolorous moth (Photedes extrema)

A single rare Concolorous moth was found at Top Lodge, Fineshade on 11th June 2017.  
 
The insect is one of the threatened species that the Back from the Brink (Rockingham Forest) project is seeking to help. We are grateful to county moth recorder, Mark Hammond, for providing the following account.

Although admittedly not the most gaudy of moths, The Concolorous (meaning "of uniform colour") is a rare species in the UK, being a Biodiversity Action Plan priority species.  Northamptonshire (VC32) and Huntingdonshire (VC31) are the moth’s heartland, and moth-ers come to these parts from all over the UK just to see it.

 

Fineshade used to be “well-worked” for moths, with lots of records of this species secured mostly by local recorders.  Interestingly the last Fineshade record prior to its capture in June 2017, was on 11 July 2003, by Mark Hammond.  Prior to that there are records from the Rothamsted Invertebrate Survey trap, which sadly ended in 2000.

Distribution map and record summary for VC32 (Northants and P'boro) correct up to 31 Dec 2016

Picture of the recent Fineshade individual showing the moth's small size - it is just over 1cm long

Recently the species has been fairly regularly recorded from the woodlands to the North-east of the county including Bedford Purlieus, Castor Hanglands, Easton Hornstocks & Collyweston Wood, Fermyn Wood and Ring Haw/Sulehay. 

 

The moth has also turned up in various gardens in the north-east of the county, namely at Woodnewton and Barnack.

 

There are also records of the moth from the woodland in the south-west of the county, namely Yardley Chase and Salcey Forest.  Again, these woods have been less well worked in recent years and hopefully proposed surveys in these areas will once again record the insect.

 

Originally it is likely that the species colonised damp woodland in the nineteenth century following the draining of the fens. Early records suggest that the influx was from the north-east, Rockingham Forest woodlands first becoming involved followed by those of Salcey and Yardley. After the advent of m.v. light traps in the 1950’s the moth was increasingly found to be locally widespread in these woodlands.  It was prized by collectors of the day and sometimes could be found commonly on the stems of its food plant. The larvae feed internally on the stems of small-reed [Calamagrostis spp.] at dusk without the need to resort to light trapping.

In the mid 1990’s it became less common and was not seen in some former strongholds despite specific searches.  Although the position was unclear, it seemed that roughly a reversal of the original colonization had taken place in that the species was contracting its range and abundance from the north-east and that climatic factors may have been involved.  The moth was noticeably more plentiful by the mid 2000’s and this has continued in subsequent years.  Currently it seems to be back to its former levels of abundance in its best sites.

Amazing!

 

277 individuals were caught, identified and released during a structured survey across Westhay Wood, the southern part of Fineshade.  Volunteer Ron Follows carried out 9 overnight trapping sessions for the Back from the Brink project in the early summer of 2018

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