Sunday, 20 July 2014

Bee Moth - Aphomia sociella

The other week I found a small moth in the light trap, and I had a little difficulty in finding an identification. It turns out I was being my usual stupid self, and had missed the obvious candidate. The temporary mystery moth turned out to be a Bee Moth, Aphomia sociella. It is also known as the Wax Moth, but this can cause confusion with another species,  Galleria mellonella. So for now we'll just continue to call it the Bee Moth. Now this little chap has quite an interesting life cycle.

Bee moths are not very large. And the males and females are different. Females are 33 mm long, have olive-grey forewings with pinkish central area and a large and a small black spots. Males are 35 mm long, have more contrasting colours on their forewings, mainly whitish and brown, with a zigzagging line over the middle.  I think from this description that my visitor on this occasion was a female.

The adult moths are nocturnal and can be attracted to light, and my light trap on this occasion proves this. Bee Moths fly from June to August. The after mating, the females
search suitable host nests and lay up to 100 eggs there. The hosts in this case include wasps and bumble bees. Females prefer to lay their eggs in aerial, exposed nests such as those of the Median Wasp Dolichovespula media , or in nests made up on walls or in nest boxes by the Red-tailed Bumblebee Bombus lapidarius . The nests built close to or under the ground such as those of the German Wasp Vespula germanica  or the Buff-tailed Bumblebee Bombus terrestris  are less sought-after.

The young larvae move quickly and protect
themselves by spinning a strong silk. They grow eating nest materials, stored food, their host’s larvae dejections and other wastes.

Older larvae also eat young bumblebee or was larvae. Caterpillars are very active digging tunnels in the combs and spinning silken webs very dense and difficult to penetrate. The last stage caterpillars move out of the host’s nests and spin long, tough cocoons in communal masses often between planks of wood or narrow gaps between two adjacent
surfaces. These are very difficult to remove and the webbing has the consistence of soft cloth. The Bee Moths

overwinter as larvae in these structures, then in the spring they pupate to emerge as adults at the beginning of summer.

All of this from one little moth. The Nurturing Nature website provides an intriguing description of what happens when a bee nest is infested with Bee Moth larvae:

Although a common moth, the distribution recorded via the NBN Gateway seems to be rather sporadic. I can only assume that there may be some under recording.

Buff Arches

The light trap popped up with a real cracker this weekend when I uncovered a Buff Arches (Habrosyne pyritoides) toward the bottom. The colours and markings are superb. I think is my new favourite.

It has one generation with a flight season from Late June through to early August. The larva feed on Brambles, which we have some growing in the hedge, but it has also been reported to feed on raspberry in captivity. And we have raspberry and cultivated blackberry in the veg patch.

The NBN (National Biodiversity Network) Gateway distribution map shows that Buff Arches is fairly common in the southern part of the UK (1).