24.10.22/2. A Crimson-Speckled Moth & Fungi, Lullington Heath National Nature Reserve.
Updated: Oct 31
I visited Friston Forest and Lullington Heath National Nature Reserve with a focus on observing fungi. Since starting reading Merlin Sheldrake's magnificent Entangled Life, How Fungi Make Our Worlds, Change Our Minds and Shape Our Futures (2020) I have increased my attention on fungi, because of their central importance to life on earth. Although I can only observe the fruiting bodies (mushrooms, toadstools, etc.), made of hyphae, the tiny threads that make up fungi; I can't see the bulk of most fungi, the hyphae known as a mycelium, which extends in all directions through the soil, and which is essential to plant life. I can only imagine the mycelia; caring about nature entails knowing the importance of things you may never see, not just the observable that captures your attention. After three hours of walking through Friston Forest, I decided to walk up to Lullington Heath, a steep trek. On the way up I was very tired and nearly decided to give up, but I am pleased I didn't. I am a beginner at fungi ID, so of my identifications may be wrong!
Whilst looking at fungi, an insect flew past me. For a second I thought it was an Orange Tip Butterfly; but it couldn't be, as Orange-Tips are butterflies of Spring, and often one of the first butterflies to be seen in the year; they are one of the earliest butterflies to appear which did not overwinter as adults. Orange-tip (Anthocharis cardamines) - Woodland Trust, although they do occasionally have a small second brood in late August. I watched the insect land, and slowly walked toward it, but it flew off as soon as I got close enough to see it; on its second landing, I got close enough, before it flew off, to get a few quickly taken photographs. I could tell it was a moth, but I had no idea of the species as I had never seen it before. I used the Obsidentify App (ObsIdentify - Apps - Observation.org) to make a possible identification; I then checked the identification with images from the MothsUK website (Crimson Speckled | UKmoths) and the Butterfly Conservation website, (Crimson Speckled | Butterfly Conservation (butterfly-conservation.org)). To check my observation, I posted one of my photos in the Sussex Moths Facebook Group (Sussex Moths | Facebook); and my ID was confirmed (by the County Recorder for Butterflies and Moths). I have since uploaded my observation to iRecord (Home | iRecord)
Right now there are thousands of dedicated volunteers around the world collecting data that is contributing to scientific research. They are called citizen scientists and in the world of wildlife conservation, they are true heroes. ..., these heroes contribute 4.5 million wildlife records every year. These wildlife records not only play an important role in making planning and development decisions but are also one of the most important sources of data informing conservation science and policy. ... [With iRecord]you can add your own biological records and images for others to see, as well as look what other people have recorded. Experts can review your sightings and the information can then be shared with other users and will be made available to National Recording Schemes, and Local Record Centres. How to Use iRecord | Conservation Research Institute (cam.ac.uk)
From Butterfly Conservation (Crimson Speckled | Butterfly Conservation (butterfly-conservation.org)): An unmistakable species that is both common and widespread in Europe but unfortunately only a sporadic migrant to the British Isles with less than 200 records in the last century.
The moth occurs naturally in the Mediterranean and North Africa, and most immigrants are presumed to have originated there, typically arriving with plumes of warm air during the summer or autumn. Attracted to light but also flies during the day when it is easily disturbed.
Size and Family
Family – Tiger moths, ermines, footman moths and allies (Arctiidae)
Wingspan Range – 15-22mm
UK BAP: Not listed
Very rare immigrant
Caterpillar Food Plants
Caterpillars have not been found in the wild in the British Isles but elsewhere in Europe, they feed on herbaceous plants such as forget-me-not (Myosotis), Borage (Borago officinalis) and ribwort plantain (Plantago lanceolata). Overwinters in this stage.
In Europe, these moths inhabit dry open places, meadows, shrublands, grasslands and even parks and gardens but in the UK most sightings are confined to the coastline of southern counties.
Countries – England, Wales, Scotland and Ireland
Native to North Africa and central Asia but only a sporadic migrant to UK shores where most sightings are confined to southern counties and coastline. Crimson Speckled | Butterfly Conservation (butterfly-conservation.org)
From Moths UK (Crimson Speckled | UKmoths): Wingspan 29-42 mm.
A spectacular species, but unfortunately only a sporadic migrant to this country with around 100 records in the last century.
The species occurs naturally in the Mediterranean and North Africa, and most immigrants are presumed to have originated there. Moths may turn up at any time during the summer or autumn, but most records are from the southern counties or offshore islands.
Wild larvae have not been encountered in Britain, but abroad they feed on a range of herbaceous plants. Crimson Speckled | UKmoths
From Wildlife Insight Crimson Speckled Moth (Utetheisa pulchella) | Wildlife Insight
The Crimson Speckled is a rare migrant to the British Isles from North Africa and southern Europe.
Most recordings occur in southern counties during September and October at times of favourable weather systems moving up from the continent. ...
They are attracted to light and can be disturbed from grasses and low growing vegetation during the day. ...
Identification of the Crimson Speckled moth
When seen settled this moth is unlikely to be mistaken for any other species in the British Isles.
Colour intensity of the markings may vary slightly but its red, yellow and black markings on a white forewing make it instantly recognisable.
When attracted to light or found during the daytime it sits with wings folded close to its body.
The hindwings are rarely seen but have a dark band close to the outer edge.
Life-cycle of the Crimson Speckled moth
Records suggest that the Crimson Speckled cannot survive the British winters in any form – egg, larva, imago or pupa.
Abroad in a sub-tropical climate it is continuously brooded with the larvae feeding on various herbaceous plants.
The colour identification guide to caterpillars of the British Isles by Jim Porter.
Field guide to the Moths of Great Britain and Ireland by Waring, Townsend and Lewington. Crimson Speckled Moth (Utetheisa pulchella) | Wildlife Insight
In the few days since seeing this moth, I have heard of three other sighting of the Crimson Speckled Moth in the south; one in Kent (at the Sandwich Bay Bird Observatory); one more in Sussex (at Seaford Head Nature Reserve) and one in Hampshire (Hayling Island). These significantly increased sightings may be a result of particularly strong southerly winds blowing these moths across the channel, but as their typical distribution was the Mediterranean and North Africa, global warming may account for them being in northern France and Belgium, to be able to be blown across the channel.
Some local butterfly and moth enthusiasts seem to be excited that climate change will have a "silver lining"; in that they'll see species in the UK that were previously unknown or rare migrants.
However, I think this is spurious; as Dave Goulson points out in Silent Earth; Averting the Insect Apocolypse (2021), butterflies and moths can only expand into warmer areas if they have there the habitat there that supports their existence. He points out that global warming in the UK "should" have resulted in the expansion of the range of Silver Studded Blues, but it hasn't because most heathland habitat that they require for forage has been destroyed. Insects that like warmer climates and are not dependent on very specific habitats - perhaps like Crimson Speckled Moths - may become more abundant and increase their range with global warming, whereas insects that like warm climates but are dependent on specific habitats will eventually become extinct when the tiny bit of habitat that remains for them becomes too hot for them, as they have nowhere else to go.
Lullington Heath National Nature Reserve is a very unusual habitat and is managed by Natural England; not that this moth is indigenous to this habitat or anywhere in the UK; it is a migrant moth, native to the Mediterranean and North Africa
Lullington Heath NNR lies on the South Downs between the villages of Jevington and Litlington. The 62 hectare Reserve is nationally important and was established in 1955 to conserve one of the largest areas of chalk heath remaining in Britain. Chalk heath only occurs where, by the remotest of chances, acid soils have been deposited on the alkaline chalk, allowing acid loving plants to grow together with these of the chalk. Chalk heath covers just under a third of the Reserve. Elsewhere, bushes, chalk grassland and valley grassland form a patchwork across the site. Over 250 types of plant grow here. More than 98 types of bird have been seen, 50 of which nest on the Reserve, and 34 butterflies are listed amongst the hundreds of types of insects known to be present Lullington Heath National Nature Reserve; Nature walks - NE362 (naturalengland.org.uk)
Here are a few photos of the site to give you an impression of what Lullington Heath is like. Yesterday there were Exmoor ponies conservation grazing (nibbling gorse) and there were some Natural England workers clearing the gorse to provide more space for heathers.
Landscape gorse, bracken, heather (gone over) (all acid heathland plants) and trees covered in lichen; lichen are not single organisms; they are stable symbiotic associations between fungi and algae and/or cyanobacteria What is a Lichen? | The British Lichen Society
Devil's Bit Scabious (common on chalklands in autumn)
Fungi observed on Lullington Heath
I am very new to fungi identification, so all these IDs are tentative. I am using the Stefan Buczacki, Chris Shields, Denys Ovenden (2013) Collins Fungi Guide; Collins Fungi Guide : The Most Complete Field Guide to the Mushrooms & Toadstools of Britain & Ireland: Stefan Buczacki: 9780007466481: hive.co.uk I have also found the Facebook Group of the British Mycological Society very useful British Mycological Society (BMS) | Facebook
Hygrophorus sp? Hygrophorous is a genus of woodwaxes
Possibly Summer Cep, Boletus reticulans?
A Mycena species?
A fieldcap; an Agrocybe sp?
Possibly Pale Brittlestem mushroom, Psathyrella candolleana; In the past more commonly referred to as the Common Crumblecap, Psathyrella candolleana is a very delicate member of the inkcap-related group of fungi. This mushroom occurs in all kinds of woodlands and woodland clearings as well as on timber buried in damp grassland. Psathyrella candolleana, Pale Brittlestem mushroom (first-nature.com)
Possibly, Panaeolus semiovatus, the egghead mottlegill, is invariably found on dung or on recently manured soil and can appear at any time of year provided the ground is not frozen. Panaeolus semiovatus, Egghead Mottlegill mushroom (first-nature.com) There was dung!
Leucopaxillus giganeus (Giant Funnel)
Possibly, vopluteus gloiocephalus, commonly known as the Big Sheath mushroom,or Stubble Rosegill
Possibly, vopluteus gloiocephalus, commonly known as the Big Sheath mushroom,or Stubble Rosegill