Wednesday, 30th May 2012
Rare Waterford Moths, the family Arctiidae
Members of the moth family Arctiidae are amongst the most brightly-coloured animals to be found in the wild and several are extremely rare in Ireland. Serveneen species have now been recorded in Waterford, which seems to be the Irish stronghold for several of these. For instance, there appears to be more records of the rare Round-winged Muslin than for the whole of the rest of Ireland. Dr. H. Murray first found it at Cappagh in June 1931 and this was only the third Irish record of the species. Baron de Worms recorded it in Waterford City in 1982 where in 1997, one trapped by Michael O'Meara at a lighted window was confirmed as this species by Ken Bond of NUI (Cork). It is only known for two other locations in Ireland.
The Rosy Footman is even more rare. Two old records existed for Galway up to July 1962 when B. H. Aldward then found it in Waterford City. This remains the only Irish record for the twentieth century. The Muslin Footman was unknown in Waterford and was thought to only exist at a few sites in west Cork and Kerry until two were trapped at Bunmahon in July 1997 and another at Mount Congreve in July 2000. The Red-necked Footman has been recorded eleven times in Ireland since systematic recording began in the 19th century. This figure includes a pre 1960 record from Waterford City and one trapped by Ken Bond near Cappoquin in 1986.
Two closely-related species are the Scarce and the Hoary Footman. The Scarce Footman is only known in Ireland from the coasts of Kerry and Waterford and is anything but scarce where it occurs at the latter. However, the Hoary Footman is very special. This was first discovered at Howth in 1861 and was accepted as the first record for Britain and Ireland. It was then found by Warren Wright at Tramore – the second 'British' record. The Howth population later became extinct, largely due to over-collecting by Victorian gentry with more money and enthusiasm than ordinary-honest-to-God-Cop-On! However, the Tramore population remained intact and was rediscovered by Baron C.G.M. de Worms and R. E. Ellickson in 1954. The moth seems to be doing fine as it was again trapped in good numbers about Tramore Bay in August 1995. All were later released. This is the only location in Ireland where this is known to occur.
Francis de Vismes Kane was one of the leading entomologist in Ireland in the 1800's. In a published work of 1884 he states that the first record of a very rare migrant moth, the Crimson Speckled was found by Robert Ussher at Cappagh House. This gem of a record was quoted by several writers in the following years. However, re-examination of the specimen and accompanying data by A.W. Stelfox at the National Museum of Ireland c.1933 confirmed that the moth was in fact found by Ussher's son, B.G. Ussher at Ardmore in September 1880. It matters little at this stage! Three other records from Ireland now exist but none from the twentieth century.
Three other species from this family are worthy of note, not for their rarity but for their beauty! One of the most spectacular moths in Irish Lepidoptera is the Garden Tiger. It measures up to 75-80mm (3 inches) and is an array of bold colours including vermilion-red, brown, black and white. The Cinnabar is a medium-sized moth and is blood red in colour and often to be found on common ragworth on which the caterpillars feed. These have very bold black and amber stripes across their bodies and are usually to be seen in large numbers where they occur. Finally, the Ruby Tiger has only been recorded once in Waterford (Ballymacaw, 1977) though the authorities say that it is common and widely distributed in Ireland. It is a ruby-red colour with a hint of iridescence that sparkles as it reflects light.
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