OBSERVATIONS ON SOME WORCESTERSHIRE MACROLEPIDOPTERA
Purple Emperor (Apatura iris (L., 1758): Nymphalidae)
In Worcestershire (VC37) Harper & Simpson (2002) suggest that this species is known only from a single old record in SO94 10km map square, and that there are no modern records. During the 1960s I engaged in some discussion with part of a now extinct fraternity of butterfly and moth collectors who insisted that A. iris could still be found 'without great difficulty' at one or two sites in Worcestershire, all in SO94 map square.
During July 1999 I was required to visit a variety of private sites within SO94, access to some of which was stringently regulated. At one of these secluded sites on 15th July 1999 I observed a fresh female A. iris probing mud at un-vegetated rut-puddles, after which it flew around the high crowns of adjacent oak trees Quercus robur L. It was made clear to me by the landowners, for reasons which I had no cause to contest, that this or any similar records should not be disseminated in the wider press or otherwise advertised. To forestall comment on this matter, I am unable to provide any further data on this record, and indeed, may already have gone farther the maintenance of faith permits. Many people recognise that there are occasions when a certain amount of discretion is advisable, and that there are also occasions when non-interventionism is a supportable objective.
Privet Hawk Moth (Sphinx ligustri L., 1758: Sphingidae)
Two larvae of this very rare Worcestershire species were found feeding on out-grown planted privet Ligustrum sp. at Haselor near Evesham (VC37, SP04) in 1959. The population was believed to have been extinguished by the 1962-1963 winter (G. Grove, pers. comm., 6.3.1993) and none were seen after that.
Emperor Moth (Pavonia pavonia (L., 1758): Saturniidae)
Harper & Simpson (2002) regard this as a rare resident of heathland, moorland and commons in Herefordshire and Worcestershire, and there is no doubt that it is associated with those habitats in the minds of many people. The British distribution map given in Goater (1991) confirms the wide geographical range of P. pavonia, and the scarcity of it in some parts of the English Midlands. P. pavonia is, however, a markedly polyphagous species, and also has an unusual breadth of habitat spectra, which in Worcestershire brings it down in small little-known populations, virtually to river level. The most complete list of host-plant genera that I have found is that given in De-Gregorio, Muñoz & Rondós (2001) who cite Prunus, Crataegus, Calluna, Erica, Fraxinus, Ulmus, Quercus, Alnus, Salix, Sambucus, Rosa, Rubus, Vaccinium, Genista and Rumex. At some Worcestershire sites the host plant is likely to be Blackthorn Prunus spinosa L., or possibly even rose Rosa or dock Rumex; this requires confirmation. I have two modern records which support these lowland populations at altitudes between 20 and 30m O.D. Between 30 April 1991 and 1 May 1991 inclusive, a male P. pavonia was found on a bush rose in a garden in Bredon village (VC37, SO93). On the early date of 6 April 2003 (an equally early male Orange Tip Anthocharis cardamines L., 1758) was flying in Little Comberton, Worcestershire, on 3 April 2003) a female appeared at nightlights on the edge of Offenham parish (VC37, SP04) and laid eggs on concrete at ground level. According to South (1920) there are precedents for terrestrial oviposition.
DE-GREGORIO, J.J.P., MUÑOZ, J. & RONDÓS, M., 2001. Atlas fotográfico de los lepidópteros macroheteróceros íbero-baleares 2. Arganio Editio, Barcelona. pp. 1-210.
GOATER, B., 1991. Saturniidae In: EMMET, A.M., FREED, T., The moths and butterflies of Great Britain and Ireland, 7(2):324-326. Harley Books.
HARPER, M.W. & SIMPSON, A.N.B., 2002. The larger moths and butterflies of Herefordshire and Worcestershire, an atlas. The West Midlands Branch of Butterfly Conservation. pp. i-vii, 1-195.
SOUTH, R., 1920. The moths of the British Isles. First Series. Frederick Warne & Co Ltd, London. pp. 1-427.
P.F. Whitehead, Moor Leys, Little Comberton, Pershore, Worcestershire WR10 3EH
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