The Moths of the British Isles/Chapter 3

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[ 56 ]

Prominents (Notodontidæ).

In the majority of our moths belonging to this family there is a tooth-like tuft of scales projecting from about the middle of the inner margin of the fore wings; these, when the moth is resting, are brought together and raised above the level of the closed wings (see Fig. 11, page 11). The antennæ of the male are bipectinated in most of the species, but those of Odontosia, Lophopteryx, and Phalera are dentated and each tooth has a little tuft of short hair.

The moths are not often seen in the day time, but a few species are sometimes met with at rest on tree trunks, palings, etc. All fly at night and are pretty rapid on the wing; possibly if it were not for the fact that a bright light has a powerful attraction for them, the perfect insects would be rarely captured. [ 57 ] Specimens, when caught, except females which it may be well to keep for eggs, should be killed and pinned at once, as many kinds become very restless when imprisoned in a box and soon damage themselves. Females usually deposit their eggs freely, and in most cases the caterpillars are not difficult to rear when once they begin to feed. Sometimes it is not easy to induce them to commence this very necessary business. The caterpillars, except those of Phalera and Pygæra, are without hairs on the body; those of the true Prominents generally have one, or more, hump on the back; in some kinds the anal prolegs or hind claspers, are small. When resting the hinder part of the caterpillar is more or less raised, several of them elevate the front portion also, and frequently the posture assumed is a most curious one.

The caterpillars of Cerura, Dicranura, and Stauropus have the hind claspers transformed into tail-like appendages, which in the case of the Puss and Kittens take the form of a pair of slender tubes furnished with flagellæ, or whips, which can be protruded or withdrawn as occasion may require. These organs are presumably for defensive purposes, but are not always effective in combating the attack of parasitical flies, as these evidently manage to deposit their egg on the caterpillars not infrequently.

The pupa, or chrysalis, of some kinds is enclosed in a hard cocoon on tree trunks, and others in a soft cocoon generally underground; sometimes, however, the cocoon is spun up between leaves; occasionally, as for example that of the Buff-tip, the chrysalis is found in the ground without any protecting covering, although the cell in which it was formed may have been flimsily lined with silk.

Nearly one hundred species are referred to this family in Staudinger's "Catalogue of Palæarctic Lepidoptera," and of these twenty-five occur, or have been taken, in the British Isles, nearly all of which are accepted as indigenous. Two of the [ 58 ] three species not generally regarded as true natives have been found in the caterpillar state, and the third was reared from an egg obtained with others of the same kind in Norfolk.

The Alder Kitten (Cerura bicuspis).

This moth (Plate 22, Fig. 3) differs from either of the two next following in being whiter, and in having both margins of the central band of the fore wings angled or bent inwards above the middle; this is markedly so on the outer side. The band itself is black, inclining to purplish rather than grey. Barrett mentions a specimen without central band or cloud towards tip.

Fig. 19. Cocoon of the Alder Kitten.

Fig. 19. Cocoon of the Alder Kitten.

According to Buckler, the caterpillar is yellow-green; head dark reddish-brown; at the back of the head commences a broad, reddish-brown blotch, which runs to a point on the back of the third segment, where is a slight elevation; on the fourth it recommences and becomes broader on each segment to the eighth, where it extends below and encloses the spiracles, thence it narrows to the tenth, continuing on the eleventh and twelfth as a broad stripe, and [ 59 ] widening on the thirteenth, where it again narrows to the tentacles; in the broad portion of this dorsal marking are faint indications of two or three orange spots; on each side it is broadly edged with pale yellow, and on the sixth, seventh, and eighth segments its margin is deeply indented. It feeds on alder and birch in July and August.

The cocoon is shown in its natural position on birch bark (Fig. 19). This was kindly lent to me for figuring by Mr. L. W. Newman, of Bexley, who also had another in which lichen as well as fragments of bark were worked into the surface, so that the cocoon was less in evidence than the one portrayed.

The moth emerges in May and June.

The first British specimen, a male, was found on alder near Preston, and was recorded by Doubleday in the Zoologist for 1847. A second example was noted from the same locality in 1849. This district in Lancashire, and Tilgate Forest in Sussex, are the chief homes in the north and the south of England respectively; but one or more specimens have occurred in Cheshire, Herefordshire, Oxfordshire, Norfolk, Suffolk, and Devonshire, and more frequently in Staffordshire, Derbyshire, and Yorkshire. It does not seem to inhabit Scotland or Ireland, neither has it been recorded from Wales, so far as I can find, more than once.

The species is found in Germany, Switzerland, Eastern France, Belgium, Southern Sweden, Central Russia, Livonia, Finland, Ussuri, and a local race occurs in Amurland.

The Poplar Kitten (Cerura bifida).

Fore wings grey, with a broad, dark grey central band, and a cloud of the same colour towards the tips of the wings; the band is inwardly margined by an almost straight black line, and outwardly by a curved line; the third line is double, and curved towards the costa, forming the inner edge of the grey cloud, the lower part is wavy. The first black line is inwardly, and [ 60 ] the second outwardly edged with ochreous, and preceding the first is a series of black dots.

The full-grown caterpillar, which is green, with a yellow-edged, purplish, irregular stripe on the back, is figured on Plate 23, together with a very young example, the purplish-black eggs as laid, and the red-brown chrysalis. The cocoon from which the chrysalis was extracted was spun up on a fairly stout twig of poplar, from which some of the bark had been torn; the cocoon was formed, as regards the upper part, on the bare twig, and this was covered with gnawed wood, instead of with bark fragments, as is the lower end. The moth is figured on Plate 22, and the early stages on Plate 23.

The moth emerges in June, sometimes in July, and may occasionally be found at rest on the trunks of poplars, on which the caterpillar feeds from July to September; also on adjacent walls or palings. The cocoons are made up on the surface or in the chinks of the bark, and may be searched for, all through the winter and early spring. It is curious to note how readily these are detected after the moth has escaped, and how difficult they are to see before that event. Usually there is but one brood in the year, but in the hot summer of 1906 a male specimen emerged from a few chrysalids that I had reared from eggs laid at the end of June of that year. On the other hand, the moth has been known to remain in the chrysalis for two winters.

The species is not uncommon in some parts of the London district, and seems to occur throughout England wherever poplars abound. It does not appear to have been found in Scotland, and is scarce in Ireland. Abroad it is found in Central Europe with a northern range to Finland, southwards to Italy and Greece, and eastwards to the Altai.

Moths of the British Isles Plate022.jpg


Pl. 22.
1. Poplar Kitten-moth, male; 2 female.
3. Alder Kitten-moth, male.
4. Sallow Kitten-moth, male; 5 female.

Moths of the British Isles Plate023.jpg


Pl. 23.
1, 1a, 1b. Poplar Kitten: eggs, caterpillar and chrysalis.
2, 2a. Sallow Kitten: eggs and caterpillars.

[ 61 ]

The Sallow Kitten (Cerura furcula).

This moth differs from the last in its generally smaller size, but more especially in the shape of the black line forming the outer margin of the central band; this is always more or less angled or dentate towards the front margin of the wings, whereas, in the Poplar Kitten, this portion of the line forms a clean curve (Plate 22, Figs. 4, 5).

The eggs are black, rather glossy, and are generally deposited in pairs, but rarely more than three, and often only singly, on the upper surface of a leaf of sallow or willow. The caterpillar feeds from July to September, sometimes as early as the end of June, or as late as October. It is green, with a yellow tinge; the markings on the back are similar to these characters in the caterpillar of the preceding species, but, as will be seen by looking at the figures on Plate 23, they are not quite the same in outline. The figure of the young caterpillar on this plate was made soon after it left the egg, and the shell from which it emerged is also depicted. Sallow and willow are the usual food plants, but in August, 1906, I found a half-grown caterpillar of this species on aspen, but it died a few days afterwards. The reddish-brown chrysalis is enclosed in the usual hard cocoon of its kind, which is affixed to a branch or the trunk of the tree upon which the caterpillar fed. A depression is usually selected, and when the cocoon is finished off with its covering of bark fragments it is difficult to see.

The species is well distributed over England, Ireland, and Scotland; perhaps more frequently obtained on the mosses of Cheshire, Lancashire, and Yorkshire, than in other parts of England. It is found in Central and Northern Europe, and, according to Staudinger, in Amurland and North America. [ 62 ]

The Puss Moth (Dicranura vinula).

Portraits of both sexes of this rather common moth are given on Plate 24. The head, thorax, and body are very fluffy. The whitish fore wings are crossed by several wave-like lines; the main veins (nervures) are ochreous, and the branches (nervules) are blackish; beyond the more or less clear basal area there is often a broad but irregular blackish band, and the wavy markings on the outer area vary in intensity (sometimes the short streaks between the veins terminate on the outer margin in black dots). Hind wings whitish in the male, and suffused with blackish in the female, to a greater or lesser extent. In some examples of the female the fore wings and the body are also tinged with blackish. The antennæ are bipectinated in both sexes, but those of the female have the teeth much shorter than those of the male.

The eggs are usually laid in pairs on the upper surface of a leaf of sallow, willow, or poplar. In colour these are purplish or reddish brown, shining, and finely grained; a minute depression at the top is yellowish, with a black speck at the bottom of the hollow.

In its last stage the caterpillar is green, with a white or yellowish-edged purplish brown band on the back; the head is light brown margined with black and purplish behind, and the ring immediately following (first thoracic) is green margined with yellow and having two black spots on the upper part. When the creature assumes the position which Professor Poulton terms the terrifying attitude, the front part is elevated, the head is drawn back into the ring next to it, and the tails are raised and curved forward over the back (see Plate 25). Seen thus from the front the appearance of the caterpillar is certainly grotesque, and no doubt affords it some protection from its enemies. It feeds on poplars, sallows, and willows, usually in July and August, but sometimes as late as September. [ 63 ]

Fig. 20.Caterpillar of Puss Moth.

Fig. 20.Caterpillar of Puss Moth.

The reddish brown chrysalis is enclosed in a hard cocoon spun up and securely attached to the trunk or under a limb of the tree upon which the caterpillar was nourished, or upon some other adjacent thereto. I once found a cocoon on the lower rail of a garden fence. In constructing the cocoon fragments of bark and wood are worked on the exterior, but failing these the caterpillar will make use of any available material for the purpose. If enclosed in a tumbler covered with glass it will spin a transparent cocoon. Emergence from its strong pupal chamber would appear to be a difficult matter, but the caterpillar and the chrysalis both contribute something towards assisting the final efforts of the moth to escape. The caterpillar, in constructing the cocoon, is careful to make the exit end with a thinner layer than the other parts; then the chrysalis is provided with a cutting implement in the shape of a keel-like arrangement on the fore part, and with this it operates at the right time on the weak end until a breach is made; the moth breaks the head end of the chrysalis case and moistens [ 64 ] the ruptured material with a softening fluid so that the insect is able to force its way out of the cocoon; the chrysalis case remains in the cocoon.

The moth is on the wing in May and June, and sometimes July. Three specimens that I reared this year (1907) from eggs found on a leaf of poplar last year, emerged on June 4th, 10th, and July 12th. They all pupated about the same time, and side by side on cork bark.

I believe this species has not been recorded from the Orkneys or the Shetlands, but with these exceptions it seems to occur in more or less frequency throughout the United Kingdom. It is widely distributed in Europe, and its range extends to Siberia. In Lapland, Amurland, Japan, and North Africa it is represented by named forms.

The Lobster (Stauropus fagi).

The English name of this insect does not apply to the greyish brown or sometimes blackish moth (Plate 26), but to its remarkable caterpillar, the figures of which, on Plate 27, are reproduced from drawings by Mr. Alfred Sich. In colour this curious-shaped creature is always some shade of brown, the head is marked in front with reddish, the ring divisions of the body are darker brown, and the hind rings are reddish brown.

The late Mr. W. H. Tugwell, referring to the early history of these caterpillars, states that a female of the blackish form received from Reading in May was kept alive for seven days, during which time she laid a few eggs on oak leaves each night; "all told" she produced forty eggs. As she was then quite exhausted, a good many had probably been laid previously. The eggs when first laid are of a pale cream colour, hemispherical in shape and flattened beneath. About the seventh day a circular depression, and a dark spot, appear, and gradually the entire egg assumes a dull purplish colour. "On the tenth day the caterpillars hatch out. When they first leave the shell they appear extremely large, this is partly on account of the long legs and the caudal appendages which are ever nervously twisting about. The young caterpillars most carefully keep guard over their own egg-shell, which is to them an all-important item, as this provides them with their first meal—the first and only food they take for seven days, in fact, for a longer period, as it is not until after moulting their first skin that they eat any other food. This fact I proved over and over again, as, being an invalid, my time was quite free to watch them hour after hour and day after day. As soon as they have eaten their way out of the shell they stretch themselves, and then from time to time nibble portions of the white chitinous-looking egg-shell, and a tough morsel it seems to be for them; but they never leave it for more than an inch or so, and then rapidly come back. They keep nervously moving around and about this, and if perchance another caterpillar should approach within touch of it, a vigorous attack is made to drive off the intruder. All going well during the first hour or two, the whole of the shell, or sometimes not more than from half to two-thirds of it is consumed; and once the caterpillars really leave the egg-shell, that is, walk away from it, they do not touch it after. If by any chance a young caterpillar gets driven away from the egg-shell, death is certain to result, as I could never induce them to feed on portions of empty shells left by others; nor would they eat the leaves or the brown stipules of the beech, which it has been suggested they do eat. In no single instance did they eat other food in their first skin save and alone the one meal of their own egg-shells."

Moths of the British Isles Plate024.jpg


Pl. 24.
Puss Moth.

Moths of the British Isles Plate025.jpg


Pl. 25.
Puss Moth.
Egg, natural size and enlarged; caterpillars, chrysalis and cocoon.

[ 65 ] The caterpillars feed on beech, and also occasionally on birch, oak, hazel, and some fruit trees, and may be found from July to September.

The chrysalis, which is enclosed in a tightly woven cocoon [ 66 ] spun up between leaves, usually dead ones, is blackish brown with a violet bloom upon it.

The moths are on the wing in May and June in an early season, but not until June and July in a backward one. They may be sometimes found resting by day on the stems of small trees or even bushes. "In fact, anything," Mr. Holland says, "which stands upright in a beech wood will do, so that it is not too large." The blackish form of the moth is so like a knot on a stem that it is easily overlooked. There is sometimes a second emergence in August. Possibly those caterpillars found during the latter part of September in some favourable years are from eggs deposited by moths emerging in early August, and the offspring of May parents.

The species is widely distributed, but not often common, over the Midland, Southern, and Eastern Counties of England. It seems to flourish chiefly in beech woods, and is perhaps more frequent in parts of Berkshire, Bucks, and Oxfordshire, than elsewhere, but it is not uncommon in some seasons in the New Forest. It has been reported from Swansea in Wales, and once from Selby, Yorkshire. In Ireland it is exceedingly rare, and is not known to occur in Scotland. The range abroad extends through Central Europe, northward to Sweden, southward to Spain and Portugal, and eastward to Armenia, Ussuri, and Japan.

The Dusky Marbled Brown (Gluphisia crenata).

Only three authenticated British examples are known of this dingy grey-brown moth (Plate 28, Fig. 3). The earliest intimation we have of the occurrence of this species in England is the following record by the late Mr. Henry Doubleday in the Entomologist, vol. i. p. 156: "Chaonia crenata. The first British specimen of this insect was taken in Ongar Park Wood, in June, 1839; a second in the same place, in June of the present year. Both specimens were females." The locality mentioned in the foregoing notice which was penned July 10th, 1841, is in the County of Essex. At a meeting of the Entomological Society of London held in April, 1854, the Rev. Joseph Greene exhibited a specimen that he had reared from a caterpillar obtained from a poplar near Halton, in Bucks, August, 1853.

Moths of the British Isles Plate026.jpg


Pl. 26.
Lobster Moth.

Moths of the British Isles Plate027.jpg


Pl. 27.
Lobster Moth.
Egg, enlarged, caterpillars, chrysalis and cocoon.

[ 67 ] According to Buckler the caterpillar is pale green, with a thin whitish line down the middle of the back, a broader yellow line on each side, and some reddish spots on the front and hind rings of the body; the spiracles are black. It spins a somewhat oval-shaped cocoon between two poplar leaves, and therein turns to a glossy blackish brown chrysalis.

Abroad the species is found in Central Europe, North Italy, North-western Russia, Southern Norway, and also in Amurland and Ussuri. There are said to be two broods on the continent, one emergence of moths taking place in April and the other in June or July.

The Marbled Brown (Drymonia trimacula).

Somewhat similar to the next species, but the fore wings are generally whiter; the cross lines are not so straight, and there is no black crescent above the centre of the wings (Plate 28, Fig. 1).

The caterpillar is green, with two yellow lines on the back, and a yellow one along the spiracles, the latter edged above with reddish. It feeds on oak, and may be found from July to September; stated to hide by day in the chinks of the bark. The reddish brown chrysalis is enclosed in a cocoon of earth held together with silk. It may be searched for at the roots of grass, etc., around the foot of oak trees growing in parks or in the more open parts of woods. The moth appears in May.

Although nowhere really common, it seems to occur pretty generally over the southern portion of England, and as far north [ 68 ] as Derbyshire and Staffordshire. Farther north, and in Wales and Scotland, it has been rarely met with. Recorded by Birchall to be not uncommon at Killarney; but Kane states that he has never seen an Irish specimen.

The species occurs locally throughout Central Europe, also in Transylvania, Northern and Central Italy, and Eastern Armenia. In Ussuri, and Japan, it is represented by the form dodonides, Staud.

The Lunar Marbled Brown (Drymonia chaonia).

The fore wings of this moth (Plate 28, Fig. 2) are dark fuscous, almost blackish, a short white line near the base; the central third is white clouded with the ground colour and limited by white edged black wavy lines; a black crescent just above the centre of the wing. Hind wings smoky grey with a pale curved line. The egg, which is bluish white in colour, is of the usual Notodont shape. Caterpillar green, merging into bluish-green on the back; the lines are pale yellow, or creamy white, that along the black margined spiracles is rather broad and is sometimes tinged with reddish on the three front rings. Head green, mouth marked with pale yellow. Feeds in June, July, and August on oak. From about a dozen eggs that I had in May, 1907, the caterpillars hatched on the 13th of the month. Only one got through safely to the chrysalis stage which it reached at the end of June. On June 26th some half-grown and smaller caterpillars were received from the New Forest, only one of these was seen on July 19th, but it was then nearly full grown and appeared to be quite healthy, and others had pupated or died.

The chrysalis is deep red brown, enclosed in a silken cocoon covered with particles of earth; generally found at the roots of isolated oak trees (Plate 29, Figs. 1, 1a).

Moths of the British Isles Plate028.jpg


Pl. 28.
1. Marbled Brown Moth. 2. Lunar Marbled Brown.
3. Dusky Marbled Brown. 4. Swallow Prominent, female; 5 male.
6. Lesser Swallow Prominent.

Moths of the British Isles Plate029.jpg


Pl. 29.
1, 1a. Lunar Marbled Brown: caterpillar and chrysalis.
2, 2a, 2b. Swallow Prominent: egg, caterpillar and chrysalis.
3, 3a, 3b. Lesser Swallow Prominent: egg, caterpillar and chrysalis.

[ 69 ] The moth emerges in May, sometimes at the end of April, generally in the afternoon; it sits on the tree trunk to expand and dry its wings, and then ascends higher up the tree. It is found in Berkshire, Buckinghamshire, and in most of the southern counties of England, and in the west, but it seems to be rarer eastward and northward, and also in Scotland. In Ireland it has been found, very sparingly, in Wicklow and Kerry, and "numbers were taken in a moth trap at Clonbrook."

The range abroad is very similar to that of the next species.

The Swallow Prominent (Pheosia tremula).

Normally whitish, with a brown shaded black stripe along the inner margin of the fore wings, and a brownish cloud, with black streaks in it, towards the tips of these wings; the outer extremities of the veins are white, there is a white wedge-shaped streak between veins 1 and 2, and from the apex of this an indented white line runs to the base of the wing. Sometimes the whole discal area is suffused with brownish. The moth is shown on Plate 28, Figs. 4, 5, and the early stages on Plate 29, Figs. 2, 2a, and 2b. The egg when laid is creamy white, and the newly hatched caterpillar is pale green. When full grown the caterpillar is green with rather darker, but not always clearly defined, lines along the back, and a yellow line along the region of the black spiracles; the underside is sometimes reddish. Another form is brownish in colour and the yellow line is then generally obscure. The green form is figured on Plate 29. The usual food is poplar, but sallow is also eaten. It may be found in late June and early July and again in September and October. The chrysalis is reddish brown and glossy except on the wing covers, which are granulated and appear darker. The cocoon is roughly constructed of silk and earth, and before spinning it the autumnal caterpillar sometimes burrows a good depth under the surface of the soil; the summer cocoons are said to be made up among leaves. The moth is on the wing in May and August. [ 70 ]

The species is perhaps most common in the southern and eastern counties of England, but seems to be pretty generally distributed throughout the country, and extends into Scotland as far as Moray. In Ireland it has a wide range but is only common near Londonderry. Abroad it is found in Central and Northern Europe, and as far east as Amurland and Ussuri. In America it is represented by P. dimidiata, H.-S., which does not seem to be really specifically distinct.

The Lesser Swallow Prominent (Pheosia dictæoides).

Very similar to the last species, but generally smaller, and the ground colour has usually less brown in it; the chief character, however, by which it may be distinguished, is the broader and clearer white wedge-shaped mark between veins one and two on the fore wings. Reference to the figures of each species on Plate 28 will show this at once.

The eggs are greenish white, and the full-grown caterpillar is purplish brown on the back merging into violet on the sides; there is a broad yellow stripe along the spiracle area; the head is violet, faintly marked with black. A noticeable feature of this caterpillar is its varnished appearance. It feeds on birch in June and July, and sometimes in September and October. The early stages are figured on Plate 29, Figs. 3, 3a, and 3b.

The species has a somewhat similar distribution to that mentioned for the preceding, but it seems to be commoner in the North of England and in Scotland than elsewhere in the British Isles.

The Pebble Prominent (Notodonta ziczac).

This moth varies in the colour of the fore wings from pale ochreous brown to a darker brown tinged with reddish; the usual pale greyish patch in the middle of the costal area is [ 71 ] sometimes obliterated by a suffusion of the darker colour; the dark-brown first and second lines are often only visible towards the front edge of the wings; a blackish lunule or crescent forms, in conjunction with the strongly curved outer line, the outline of the characteristic pebble-like mark on the apical area of the wings; a pale saw-edged line, which is inwardly shaded with dusky and intersected by black streaks on the veins, traverses the pebble mark, but in the lighter coloured specimens this line is not traceable. The female has browner hind wings than the male. The moth is depicted on Plate 31, Fig. 2; and the early stages on Plate 30, Figs. 1, 1a, and 1b.

The caterpillar, when full grown, is pale ochreous grey, sometimes tinged with pink or purplish brown, or with yellowish, and especially on the hind rings; a yellow stripe along the back is edged here and there with brownish; the diffuse dusky line along the area of the black margined spiracles is edged with yellowish. It is occasionally found on poplar, but sallows and willow are the more usual food plants, and it feeds upon these in June and July and again in August and September. The reddish brown chrysalis is enclosed in an earthen cocoon just under the surface of the ground at the roots of tree or bush upon which the caterpillar fed. The moth emerges in May and June from chrysalides of the previous year, and in August as a second generation. Three broods in the year have been obtained in confinement, but this is probably exceptional.

Widely distributed throughout the British Isles, but seems to have a preference for fens and marshy ground. It occurs all over Central and Northern Europe, its range extends through France to Spain, Italy, and Corsica, and it has been recorded from Armenia and Amurland. [ 72 ]

The Iron Prominent (Notodonta dromedarius).

The specimen shown on Plate 31 is from Surrey, and represents the form most frequently obtained in the south of England. Northwards the species becomes darker in colour, and the reddish and yellow marking much reduced. The form perfusca, as figured by Stephens, has the fore wings dark purplish grey, streaked with dark brown; a pale patch at the base is russet marked, the line before the middle of the wing is russet, and a dash of the same colour lies at the lower extremity of the line beyond the middle; the hind wings are brownish grey with a broad whitish cross line. The specimen, which is of the female sex, was from Dublin, and the form was not then supposed to occur in any other part of the British Isles. It is now, however, well known in Scotland and the North of England, and also in Ireland. Some examples that I have seen from Scotland are much larger and darker than the figure referred to. In his description of this form Stephens states that the fore wings are fuscous mixed with chestnut, with darker clouds. The caterpillar, which is figured on Plate 30, is green, becoming yellowish on the back; a rather broad stripe on the back of the front rings and the markings on the humps and on other parts of the body are purplish brown. It feeds on birch, alder, and sometimes hazel, usually on the former, in June, July, and August. In some seasons, and localities, the moth appears twice in the year: the caterpillar may then be found in September and October. The chrysalis is blackish-brown and rather glossy, enclosed in a cocoon composed of silk and sand or other soil, and may be obtained by lightly digging up the earth and sods at the roots of trees.

The Three Humped (Notodonta phœbe = tritophus).

Very little is known in Britain of this Central European moth (Plate 31, Fig. 3). The first specimen of which we have any [ 73 ] knowledge was reared on August 10, 1842 from a caterpillar found in Essex on aspen. This example was included, with two others, one of which was captured in Suffolk, in the collection of the late Dr. Mason, which was dispersed at Stevens' Auction Rooms in March, 1905.

Besides the specimens mentioned above, a caterpillar, which subsequently died, was beaten from alder in the Exeter district in 1870; another was obtained from hazel in Gloucestershire, but this was "ichneumoned." Then there is a record of a moth or caterpillar, presumably the former, occurring in the neighbourhood of Paisley; and there is a report that a caterpillar was once found at the base of an aspen growing on Clapham Common. A specimen was taken at electric light at Bedford, May, 1907.

The caterpillar is green, with three reddish humps on the back, and an interrupted reddish line along the sides. It feeds on poplar in July and August.

The Large Dark Prominent (Notodonta tritophus = torva).

Another Central European species, of which only one specimen is known to have occurred in Britain. This was reared from an egg, or from a caterpillar, obtained in Norfolk in the latter part of the summer of 1882. The moth might be mistaken for a small dark coloured specimen of the next species (N. trepida), but the dark hindwings readily distinguish it (Plate 31, Fig. 4).

The caterpillar, although darker, bears considerable resemblance to that of the Pebble Prominent; it feeds in June and July, and also in September, on aspen.

According to Staudinger this species is the tritophus of Esper, an earlier name than torva, Hübn.; whilst the preceding species, that has so long been referred to tritophus, Fabricius (or trilophus), is found to be phœbe, Siebert, which name has seventeen years' priority. [ 74 ]

The Great Prominent (Notodonta trepida).

Fore wings greyish, or ochreous grey, with dark cross lines; a blackish tuft from middle of inner margin, and a series of dark, or sometimes reddish, spots on a pale cross line before the inner margin. Hind wings whitish, sometimes ochreous tinged; clouded with greyish on costal area (Plate 31, Fig. 5). When full grown the caterpillar is rather larger than the one figured on Plate 30. In colour it is green, with yellow lines along the back, seven reddish-edged yellow oblique streaks on the sides, and a reddish tinged stripe on the two rings nearest the head. It is stated to assume a purplish tint when quite mature. May be found from end of June to early August on oak. The dark reddish brown chrysalis, which is enclosed in an earth-covered cocoon, may be found at the roots of oak trees in the autumn or winter.

The moth emerges between late April and early June, sometimes remaining in the chrysalis for two winters. Light attracts it freely, and it is frequently seen in the illuminated moth trap, and may be occasionally noted on the iron frame of a gas lamp in suitable places. Sometimes the moth is met with in the daytime, resting on the trunks or branches of oak trees in woods, or on palings adjacent thereto. When such specimens happen to be females, they should be kept for eggs, which they lay freely.

It occurs in most of the southern counties of England, is somewhat rare in the Midlands, and scarce in the northern counties and in Scotland. Recorded by Birchall as "not uncommon in Co. Wicklow," but Kane ("Cat. Lep. Ireland") states that he has no information concerning its occurrence in the sister island. Distributed throughout Central Europe, extending into Spain, Italy, and Corsica; also to South-east Russia, Armenia, and possibly Ussuri. [ 75 ]

The White Prominent (Leucodonta bicoloria).

The glossy white moth, prettily marked with orange and black, shown on Plate 33, was not known to inhabit the British Isles until 1858 when Bonchard obtained one specimen in a large birch wood in the Killarney district, Ireland; in the following year he took a second specimen. Both captures were made in the month of June. In June, 1861, one example of the moth was found in Burnt Wood, Staffordshire; and in the same wood, June, 1865, no fewer than six specimens were secured, and eggs obtained from one of the females. The caterpillars duly hatched out, but most of them were lost, only seven attaining the moth state. Kane states that in 1866 a specimen was taken in Mucross demesne, and caterpillars "were said also to have been beaten." Miss Vernon of Clontarf showed him her collection of insects from Kerry, and he found therein two rather poor specimens of the White Prominent from a new locality in Kerry. Barrett mentions the capture, in 1880, of a specimen near Exeter, Devonshire. From the foregoing, which comprises all that appears to be definitely known about British L. bicoloria, it will be gathered that the species is not only very local, but exceedingly rare.

The caterpillar, figured on Plate 32, from a coloured drawing by Mr. A. Sich, is pale yellowish green, rather whiter on the upper surface; the lines are green, the central one darkest; the stripe along the spiracles is yellow edged with green. It feeds on birch in July; and changes in due course to a dark reddish brown chrysalis, which is enclosed in a compact silken cocoon spun up between leaves. The moth emerges in May or June. Abroad the species seems to be generally distributed in Central Europe, and is also found in the Ural, Amurland, Ussuri, and Japan. [ 76 ]

The Maple Prominent (Lophopteryx cuculla).

To Donovan and the entomologists of his time this moth (Plate 33, Fig. 4) was known by the English name still in use, Stephens considered it a rare insect, and remarks that he once caught a specimen at Darenth Wood, by "mothing," in June, 1820; several other examples had been taken in the same place, and in the neighbouring woods. Although many more localities are now known for the moth, it still continues to be rather a scarce species. It appears to inhabit woods on a chalky soil almost exclusively, and is found less uncommonly in the woods of Buckinghamshire than in its other haunts in Berkshire, Oxfordshire, Kent, Sussex, Devonshire, Essex, Cambridgeshire, Suffolk, and Norfolk. The bulk of the specimens in collections were probably reared from the egg, or from caterpillars obtained by beating or searching the maple bushes growing in the woods frequented by the moth.

The caterpillar is whitish green, rather glossy, with a dark green line along the middle of the back, which is broadest on the front rings, and a pale yellow stripe on the sides, the latter edged above with pale green; spiracles pinkish edged with black; a hump on the eleventh ring is purplish tinted. Head pale ochreous brown marked with reddish brown. Sometimes the general colour is yellowish or pinkish ochreous. May be found in June and July on maple (Acer campestris) and in confinement will feed very well on sycamore (A. pseudoplatanus). The moth usually emerges in May or June, but in 1901 Mr. Adkin reared ten moths, July 24 to 31, from eggs deposited in the spring of that year. The species does not seem to be a common one even abroad; its range extends through Central Europe to Italy and Sicily, and it is also found in Ussuri.

Moths of the British Isles Plate030.jpg


Pl. 30.
1, 1a, 1b. Pebble Prominent: egg, caterpillar and chrysalis.
2, 2a, 2b, 2c. Iron Prominent: eggs, caterpillar, chrysalis and cocoon.
3, 3a. Great Prominent: caterpillar and chrysalis.

Moths of the British Isles Plate031.jpg


Pl. 31.
1. Iron Prominent. 2. Pebble Prominent.
3. Three Humped Moth. 4. Large Dark Prominent.
5. Great Prominent.

[ 77 ]

The Coxcomb Prominent (Lophopteryx camelina).

Probably the commonest of the true Prominents, and certainly the most variable. The early stages are figured on Plate 32, and two forms of the moth on Plate 33. In its typical and southern form the fore wings are more or less pale reddish brown with a darker cloud on the inner marginal area; there are three dusky, or blackish, cross lines, but two of these are generally very indistinct, the third runs from the blackish "tooth" on the inner margin to the front edge of the wing, and is followed by a pale wavy band often outwardly bordered with dusky. Sometimes the fore wings are clouded with dark brown, and in the North of England a dark reddish form occurs. In Scotland the fore wings vary in colour from dusky brown through reddish to pale yellowish brown; sometimes the "tooth" is reddish in chestnut coloured specimens. The whitish eggs are laid on the undersides of the leaves of various trees and bushes upon which the caterpillar feeds; these are chiefly birch, oak, hazel, sallow, and beech.

The caterpillar, which appears in July to October, and sometimes even later, is green, with a darker line on the back, and a yellow one on the sides; two reddish tipped wart-like projections on the back of ring eleven. Occasionally the general colour is ochreous with a pinkish tinge, or it may be even purplish. There are two broods in the south of England, but only one in the north. The moths of the first brood fly in May and June, and those of the second in July and August, sometimes rather later. Pretty generally distributed throughout England and Wales, Ireland and Scotland. Abroad its range extends over Northern and Central Europe to Northern Spain, Northern and Central Italy, Dalmatia, Turkey, Armenia, Siberia, Amurland, Corea, and Japan. [ 78 ]

The Scarce Prominent (Odontosia carmelita).

In 1828, when Stephens figured this moth, he only knew of two British specimens, both of which had been reared about sixteen years previously from caterpillars found at Darenth Wood. The wings, which are not thickly scaled, are purplish grey, becoming reddish brown on the front margins of the fore wings; the outer transverse line of the fore wings starts from a conspicuous creamy patch on the front margin, and the line on the hind wings is most distinct above the anal angle, where it runs through a purplish cloud (Plate 33, Fig. 5).

In April and May the pale blue eggs are laid on the underside of birch leaves. The caterpillar in June feeds on the foliage of the birch, and when full grown is green freckled with yellowish above; a darker line runs along the middle of the back, and a reddish spotted, or tinted, yellow stripe along the sides; the small head, also green, is marked with yellowish. When the chrysalids are kept indoors the moths emerge earlier than in the open, and it therefore sometimes happens that eggs are laid and the caterpillars hatch before the birch leaves are ready for them. In such cases I have got over the difficulty in a measure by removing a portion of the outer covering of one or two of the most forward buds to give the caterpillars a chance of getting at the unexposed leaves. The moth emerges in April or May, and, as pointed out by Mr. R. Adkin, it sometimes remains in the chrysalis for two winters. Possibly this species may be found in most districts where birch abounds; but, so far as its distribution in our islands is known, it certainly appears to be distinctly local. Besides Darenth, it also occurs in West Wickham Wood, and at Wateringbury, in Kent; the Weybridge district, Dorking, and Haslemere, in Surrey; Ashdown Forest, Blackdown Woods, Haywards Heath, and Tilgate Forest, in Sussex; New Forest, Hampshire, and Berkshire. There seems to be no record of the moth having been found in any other part of England, except Keswick and Windermere. In Scotland it has been reported from Galashiels, Clydesdale, the Tay district, Argyleshire, and Moray.

Moths of the British Isles Plate032.jpg


Pl. 32.
1, 1a, 1b. Pale Prominent: egg, caterpillar and chrysalis.
2, 2a. White Prominent: caterpillar and chrysalis.
3, 3a, 3b. Coxcomb Prominent: egg, caterpillar and chrysalis.
4. Maple Prominent: chrysalis. 5, 5a. Scarce Prominent: chrysalis and cocoon.

Moths of the British Isles Plate033.jpg


Pl. 33.
1. White Prominent. 2, 3. Coxcomb Prominent.
4. Maple Prominent. 5. Scarce Prominent.
6. Pale Prominent. 7. Plumed Prominent, male; 8, female.

[ 79 ]

The Plumed Prominent (Ptilophora plumigera).

The thinly scaled fore wings are ochreous brown in the male, and purplish brown in the female, and the markings, which are most in evidence in the male, are yellowish. Hind wings, more sparsely scaled than the fore wings, are pale ochreous brown in the male and darker in the female. It varies in the tint of general colour and in the intensity of the yellowish markings. In the female the antennæ are simple, but in the male they are very plume-like, hence the English name. Buckler describes the caterpillar as whitish blue-green, with a broad deep green stripe down the middle of the back, and a narrow yellow line on each side of it; spiracular line slender, white, and wavy; head rather small, glossy, yellowish green. When quite full grown and mature it changes to a uniform semi-transparent green, like the underside of a leaf of maple, upon which, and also sycamore, the caterpillar feeds in May and early June. Maple bushes growing in hedgerows are usually selected by the female moths when laying their eggs. These are placed on the twigs near a bud, and may be searched for at any time from November until April. The moth is shown on Plate 33.

This species was figured by Stephens (1828) as Ptilophora variegata and the only locality then known to him was Darenth Wood, where, he states, the caterpillar was obtained almost every year. It still occurs in Kent and possibly in its old haunt; it is also recorded from Watergate, Sussex; South Devon (Torquay district); and Gloucestershire. In Bucks, Berks, and Oxfordshire it is more frequent than in either of the counties previously mentioned, and in all it seems to be found chiefly in chalky localities. The moth, which is on the wing in November [ 80 ] or sometimes in late October, has rarely been taken when flying at night or resting by day. Light has an attraction for the male, but apparently not for the female.

Distributed through Central Europe, its range extends to Southern Scandinavia, Northern Italy, Livonia, Bulgaria, S.E. Russia, and Japan.

The Pale Prominent (Pterostoma palpina).

This blackish streaked, pale brownish grey moth has been known as the Pale Prominent since 1775, when Moses Harris gave it this name. Beyond the black scaled tooth-like projection the inner margin is notched. The antennæ of the female are pectinated, but the teeth are shorter than those of the male; and the blackish streak on the wings are usually less defined. Except that some specimens are more strongly marked than others there is little to note in the way of aberration. Mr. Harwood of Colchester has, however, recorded an almost black variety, and this may be referable to the form from Russian Lapland, known as var. lapponica, Teich. The moth is figured on Plate 33, and the early stages on Plate 32.

The caterpillar is bluish green, with white lines along the back and sides, and a black edged yellow stripe along the spiracles; the stripe is marked with reddish on the three rings nearest the head. It feeds chiefly on poplar, but has been found on willow and sallow. Usually to be obtained full grown early in July or late in June; in the south and south-east of England, it is found also in September and October. The chrysalis is purplish, or reddish, brown and rather shining. It may be found, in a cocoon formed of silk mixed with particles of earth, among the roots of grass, etc., at the foot of poplar or willow trees. Moths are on the wing in May and June, and again in July and August. Coming to electric and gas lamps, as well as entering lighted rooms, and illuminated moth traps, they are often secured; otherwise they are rarely seen in a state of nature. The species is most frequent, perhaps, in the southern countries, but seems to occur throughout England; it becomes scarcer from the Midlands northwards to Durham and Cumberland. It occurs in Southern Scotland, and has been recorded from Moray. In Ireland it is widely distributed, but is not noted as common in any locality. The range abroad extends through temperate Europe into Asia Minor, and as far east as China and Japan.

Moths of the British Isles Plate034.jpg


Pl. 34.
1, 1a, 1b, 1c. Chocolate Tip: egg, caterpillar, chrysalis and cocoon.
2, 2a, 2b. Small Chocolate Tip: caterpillar, chrysalis, cocoon and larval retreat.

Moths of the British Isles Plate035.jpg


Pl. 35.
1, 2. Chocolate-tip Moth. 3. Buff-tip Moth.
4. Scarce Chocolate-tip, male; 5 female. 6. Small Chocolate-tip, male; 7 female.

[ 81 ]

The Buff-tip (Phalera bucephala).


Fig. 21.Eggs of Buff-tip Moth.

Fig. 21.Eggs of Buff-tip Moth.

This species (Plate 35, Fig. 3) is easily recognized by its violet-grey fore wings, and the more or less round, pale, ochreous blotch on the outer third. The blotch is clouded, to a greater or lesser extent, with pale brown, and the inner area of the wings is flecked with silvery grey; the cross lines are edged with reddish brown.

The rather downy caterpillar is yellow, with several interrupted blackish lines, and of these the one along the middle of the back is the broadest and blackest; head black. It feeds, during August and September, in companies, until nearly full grown, and the foliage of almost any kind of tree or bush appears to be suitable food, although that of elm, lime, and hazel is often selected by the female moth when depositing her whitish eggs, which [ 82 ] she lays in neatly arranged batches on the undersides of the leaves. If undisturbed, a company of these caterpillars quickly clear a fair-sized branch of all leafage. The chrysalis is purplish brown (the early stages are shown on Plate 37).

The moth flies in June and July, but is rarely seen in the daytime. The wings in repose are closely folded down to the body and the insect has then a very stick-like appearance, and may thus easily escape detection.

Occurs throughout England and Wales, Ireland, and Scotland. It is most common, and the caterpillar often abundant, in London and its suburbs, as well as other southern parts of the country. Its range extends through Europe to Northern Asia Minor, Armenia, and Siberia.

The Chocolate-tip (Pygæra curtula).

Two examples of this moth are shown on Plate 35. Fig. 2 represents the spring (April and May) form, and Fig. 1 the summer (July and August) form. Sometimes there is a third brood, in September or October, and Barrett describes the individuals of this as "pale drab, dusted with darker atoms, and with the chocolate blotch paler towards the apex." Hybrids have been obtained from a pairing between curtula female and anachoreta male, and these were most like the female parent. The early stages are figured on Plate 34, Figs. 1-1c.

The verdigris-green eggs are laid in batches on the leaves of poplar and aspen, upon which the caterpillars feed in May and June, and, as a second brood, in August and September. In colour the caterpillar, which is rather hairy, is grey, with a pinkish tinge, sprinkled with black, and with orange spots on the sides; there is a raised black spot on the fourth ring, and another on the eleventh; head blackish. The chrysalis is reddish-brown, spun up in a packet of leaves. This species appears to be less common in England than formerly. It is, [ 83 ] perhaps, more often observed in Kent and Sussex than in the other counties it inhabits, which, according to Barrett, are Berks, Essex, Suffolk, Norfolk, Cambridge, in all of which it is local; also, but more rarely, in Gloucestershire, Worcestershire, Herefordshire, Leicestershire, Yorkshire, and Cumberland, the latter county being its northern limit. To the above may be added Hertfordshire and Middlesex. Although caterpillars are reported to have been found in Ireland, the moth has not been reared in that country.

This species is distributed through Northern and Central Europe, extending to South France, Corsica, North Italy, Bulgaria, Armenia, and Mongolia.

The Scarce Chocolate-tip (Pygæra anachoreta).

This moth is distinguished from that last referred to by the black spots in and just below the blotch at the tip of the fore wings; the blotch itself is dull reddish, merging outwardly into greyish, and is intersected by a white line. There is some variation in the tint of the general colour, ranging from dusky to reddish grey, but otherwise the species is constant (Plate 35, Figs. 4, 5).

The caterpillar, which feeds on poplar and sallow from May to August, or even later, is rather hairy, dark grey or blackish in colour; there are four ochreous or whitish lines on the back, and a row of black spots followed by a series of orange ones on the sides; below the spiracles are some yellowish markings; the raised spots on rings four and eleven are reddish brown; the former has a white spot on each side, and the back of the latter is edged with white; head black and rather glossy. Chrysalis blackish in hue, spun up among leaves. The moths emerge in May, and again in July; in confinement there is sometimes a third brood in September. Except that two [ 84 ] specimens were reported as found in a street at Deal, the moth does not seem to have been noticed at large.

This species was known to Haworth, but, as a British insect, was exceedingly rare until 1859, when Dr. Knaggs found some caterpillars upon poplar in the neighbourhood of Folkestone. From the stock then obtained the moths were reared in numbers for some time. Batches of eggs were also put down in various localities, and the species seems to have flourished in some of them for a while, but failed eventually to establish itself in any of them. Then the species disappeared from the Folkestone locality, although a caterpillar or two were found there in 1861, and on to 1912 in other places on the Kentish coast. In 1893 eggs were obtained at St. Leonard's, in Sussex, and thus originated a new stock.

The species has a wide range in Central and Northern Europe, extending to some of the southern parts; it also occurs in Siberia, Amurland, China, and Japan.

The Small Chocolate-tip (Pygæra pigra).

This species will be recognized by its smaller size and less distinct chocolate blotch on the tips of the fore wings. The ground colour varies from whitish grey to pale brownish grey; the pale cross lines are usually well defined; the first is bordered with chocolate colour, and angled above the middle; the third line runs from a white spot on the costa and through the chocolate patch. The moth is shown on Plate 35, and the early stages on Plate 34.

Of the offspring resulting from eggs laid by a female curtula that had paired with a male pigra, and also those from a female pigra crossed with a male curtula, the hybrids in each case most nearly resembled the female parent.

The eggs are pale olive green tending to brownish, and all that I have seen have been laid in irregular lines on leaves, or [ 85 ] on the sides of a chip box. The caterpillar is greyish, with some short hairs and black dots; the back is broadly marked with yellow, and there is a yellow stripe, with black dots on it, low down on the sides; rings four and eleven have each a raised black spot; head blackish. Feeds from June to September, on dwarf sallow (Salix repens), and also on young plants of aspen. Like other caterpillars of this genus, it hides by day in a packet of leaves spun together. There are certainly two broods, if not more, in the year. The moth emerges in May, and more irregularly in July or August, and October. Except when attracted to a light, the moth is rarely seen, but in fens, marshes, and boggy places generally, the caterpillars may often be obtained in numbers almost throughout the United Kingdom. Its distribution abroad embraces Northern and Central Europe, with extension into Northern Spain and Italy; Bulgaria, South-east Russia, and Armenia.