Only five days ago, after seeing Sallow Clearwing, Wingman Will and I were musing that there remained only two clearwings for me to see in the UK: one illegal (Fiery Clearwing) and one impossible (Lunar Hornet Moth). A week is evidently a long time in mothing...
When work finally abates a little, I shall enjoy spending a few hours photographing these wonderful beings. For now, these images will suffice.
The yellow-on-black theme rose a notch further up the excitement scale yesterday when a LUN pheromone lure arrived from Anglian Lepidopteran Services. For pretty much every moth-er I know, Lunar Hornet Moth is an enigma, precisely because there has been no pheromone pure to attract it. It is known to be the most widespread of clearwings, yet I can count on the digits of one hand the number of moth-ers I know who had encountered it in the field. In the first 20 years of this century, there have been only about 25 records of adults in Norfolk. In the past 24 hours, I have now heard of nine people catching them thanks to the new lure. After five minutes’ token attempt in the garden, I biked down to the River Wensum, where there are some nice patches of willow at Gunton Lane. Although it was warm and muggy, with a light breeze, I wasn’t overly confident – as experience with the closely related Hornet Moth suggests that their activity prioritises mornings and I started trying at 15h35.
A couple of days ago, Maya and I were out for a cycle ride when we maneovured past a tiny, steep grass bank by a subway under the main A road that cuts west from Norwich, close to our house. Last year, I spotted a couple of Bee-wolf here, and saw one in our garden as well. So I made a note to check out this sandy bank during Bee-wolf breeding season. But I certainly didn’t expect to be confronted with a colony of at least 252 active burrows. This seems to be a very large colony, particularly for such a tiny area – and more than Tim Strudwick (Norfolk bee etc record) knows of. And this on the fringe of a suburban housing estate, surrounded by concrete.
But within five minutes, first one male then another came in - only the second record for 10-km square TG11 (the first being one in a mist net last month!). Both wandered in slowly, exploring nearby sallows, as if they could only vaguely detect the scent of a female. Over about two minutes they moved closer and closer to the lure, before finally investigating it and adjacent leaves. Unlike my experience with the wham-bam Hornet Moth, these creatures seemed sluggish. I even managed a couple of in-flight shots, and reckon I can do better.