First Lepidoptera of 1998

Dr. James Adams jadams at
Wed Jan 14 09:42:25 EST 1998

Dear Listers,

        I agree things have been a little slow, and so I'll put in a 
little update on the winter lep happenings here in north Georgia (the 
state in the U.S., not the former USSR republic nor part of the 
islands off the east coast of Argentina).  I am always interested in 
reading about what species are being encountered by other people at 
particular times during the year.

          John Murray mentioned Erannis defoliaria; we have our own 
"miserable" Erannis tiliaria, though typically our Erannis flies 
(males only, females are wingless) from November 
through December and is about done by January.  Other geometrids that 
are common in the winter are Alsophila pometaria, Paleacrita and 
Phigalea species.  More interesting to me are the noctuids, of which 
there are a significant number of species that fly during the winter 
months:  Metaxaglaea semitaria, viatica, and inulta; Chaetaglaea 
sericea; Epiglaea decliva; Eupsilia spp. (including vinulenta, 
morrisoni, tristigmatica and probably others); and Lithophane spp. 
(no fewer than 14 species are now known from here).  Sunira 
bicolorago and Plathypena scabra are not really worth mentioning 
(please, no complaints about my mentioning them!!).  One of the 
species that always "rings in" the new year is the beautiful green 
noctuid Feralia major.  I always expect this species to start flying 
right around the new year, and this year I saw the first one on 
January 4.  Don't believe the illustrations you can find in the MONA 
fascicle on the Cucullinae, Stirinae, and Psaphidinae -- here in 
Georgia Feralia major is a beautiful bright green.  I have found it 
as early as late December (is that an oxymoron?) in some years.

          I was also intrigued by John's mention of a Gonepteryx 
rhamni in the UK on Jan. 9.  Is this species typical of most pierids, 
overwintering as a pupa and emerging in the spring?  If this is so, 
then Jan. 9 is truly a strikingly early emergence.  Our earliest 
pierids here in N Georgia are not on the wing until late February at 
the very earliest, though, during mild winters we do have occasional 
adult Eurema nicippe holdovers from the previous year.

           Mark Walker mentioned what he had seen in S. California.  
I must admit that a warm winter climate sounds great to me, and not 
just because of the leps.  But, although the butterflies are 
relatively unexciting here in N. Georgia during the winter, at least 
there are moths to be seen year round.  I feel for you up there in 
Vermont, Mark!!


Nothing unusual about that, but far more unusual was the sighting of a Brimstone
(Gonepteryx rhamni) butterfly in my garden on January 9th.  The temperature was
13.4 c in the Stevenson screen, and the weather was sunny, but with a moderate
southwesterly blowing.  The butterfly did not appear to have been accidentally
disturbed - I watched it flying about for 2 minutes around the garden and our
neighbours'garden, half-heartedly looking for nectar sites, perhaps a mate as
well.  This beats the previous Hertfordshire record for early sightings of this
species (1994 Jan 29th) by 20 days.  

That evening, the first Pale Brindled Beauty moth appeared in the moth trap, and
2 or 3 have come to the trap since.  This is also quite early for this species

John Murray
Field End                Email:  j.b.murray at
Marshalls Heath
Herts  U.K.

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