The publication in 2001 of The Lepidoptera of Waterford
City & County (LWCC) 1provided
the main impetus for the following study. That publication
is a catalogue of all lepidoptera recorded in the county of
Waterford to the end of 2000, and the first time a single
record has been compiled for lepidoptera for this county as
a whole. As such, it stands as a landmark publication for
lepidopterists in Waterford. Crucially, all records are
linked to the 10km squares of the national grid in which
they were collected. One fact which becomes very clear when
examining records in this way is the contrast between areas
with resident recorders and those with none. In particular,
those 10km squares with low population, and especially those
composed mainly of upland habitats have fared very badly to
date. As a resident of the townland of Glendaloughin in
square S21, the present author paid particular attention to
records from this area. Composed in the main of the slopes
of the Comeragh Mountains, S21 is one of those squares with
a dearth of records, especially of moths. This is
understandable as a large section of S21 is either very
lightly populated or without human residents. The low
population and inaccessibility of much of S21 aside, O'
Meara, in the Introduction in LWCC, notes several factors
which tend to hinder the recording of moths in more remote
Moths, which are largely nocturnal, must first be caught
for examination and identification. The accepted method of
doing this is by using modern moth traps that emanate either
mercury-vapour or ultra-violet light which attract the moths
and catch them alive for examination and later release. If
the traps are used in places remote from a supply of
electricity, a small portable generator must be used. These
are all expensive pieces of equipment, which are not
generally available except to the most dedicated
The challenges for the moth enthusiast are not
inconsiderable. The problem was thus framed: how to record
small, airborne, nocturnal insects in a remote location
without excessive expenditure.
The solution settled on for the purposes for this
experiment was to fit a 25 watt fluorescent tube beside an
outdoor white-painted wall and to collect using glass jars
which had been stored for recycling. A number of compromises
were therefore involved: The lighted wall faces onto a yard
enclosed on all sides by farm and domestic buildings,
limiting the visibility of the light; recording was limited
to a single location; the attractiveness of fluorescent
light is not as potent as that of either mercury vapour or
ultra-violet lamps; and trapping using individual jars
rather than a moth trap necessitates repeated night-time
visits by the recorder. These limitations inevitably impact
on the number and range of recordings possible, but do at
least show what is possible with minimal financial outlay.
The issue of record range is mitigated greatly by recording
daily rather than on two or three occasions a month. It is
hoped that the results detailed below will encourage others
across Ireland - and rural Waterford especially - to begin
Samples were collected from a single location, 200m OD,
in the Comeragh Mountains. To the south-east and north-west
the land slopes steeply upward, with a small river running
north-east to south-west.. The surrounding land-cover
includes cattle and sheep pasture and several abandoned
fields with a heavy cover of bracken, bramble and, in some
places, ragwort. While the immediate vicinity is
well-protected and south-facing with a relatively mild
micro-climate, within 100m to the north-west the land is
very exposed and, where not actively farmed, is a mix of
willow, birch, gorse and hazel scrub, and heather-covered
upland. Numerous springs allow for several marshy patches
within a general context of good, well-drained soils. Also
present in the immediate area are considerable patches of
several nettle species, several thistle species, an
excellent diversity of grasses, and foxgloves, dandelions,
wild parsnip, honeysuckle, bilberry, raspberry, blackthorn
and other potential larval foodplants. The diversity tree
coverage is quite good and includes ash, hawthorn, holly,
downy birch, silver birch, crab apple, wild cherry, alder,
hazel, goat willow, wych elm, Scots pine and rowan. In
addition, several naturalised species are present: English
elm, sycamore, beech, white willow, crack willow, and cherry
laurel. A plantation of sitka spruce of c.30ha. lies
immediately adjacent to the collection site on the eastern
Moths were collected on a nightly basis throughout the
period 22 May - 22 September 2005, with the exception of the
week 17 - 23 August, on an ongoing basis from dusk through
to between 3 and 5am. Specimens were refrigerated to
facilitate handling during identification. Identification
was by reference to the recently-published Waring and
Townsend Field Guide (W&T) 2.
In order to limit multiple records of individuals, each was
stored until after collecting was completed on the following
night and then released approximately 200m from the
collection site. Though some micro-moths were recorded where
easily identified, the study proper was restricted to
macro-moths due to the difficulty of identification of many
micro-moth species, and thus no micro-moths have been
included in the records given below in Appendix 1. In
addition, no records were retained for individuals where
identification was in any way uncertain. It is likely that
several interesting specimens have not been recorded as a
result, though this is considered to have been preferable to
including any doubtful records.
As expected, the quantity of captured individuals on any
given night was low, varying from 0 - 28. Almost all were
species regularly attracted to light, and most were common
species. However, the limited records for S21 to date mean
that many otherwise common species are deserving of
attention. Rather than discuss each species, therefore,
attention in the following four sections focuses on:
These are followed by a further section of observations
arising from the study.
Only one immigrant species was recorded.
Recorded, on 22 May at mid-afternoon trapped accidentally
inside the author's home. This occasion prompted the start
of the present study on 22 May rather than the planned date
of 1 June. Sightings of this species generally occur later
in the summer and, though an arrival in late May is not
exceptional, it is not impossible that this individual
arrived late in 2004 and overwintered.
Most individuals in this section occurred only slightly
outside the expected season, i.e. by one or two weeks.
However, as any such variations are potentially of interest,
all such cases are noted.
The reference for this section is LWCC, W&T and
personal communication with the author of LWCC, Michael
The records for moths in LWCC cover the period up to
2000. Inevitably during the intervening years, species new
to the county have been recorded, and species have been
recorded from new locations in the county. The effect is
that the data in this section is inevitably already out of
date. The data will be compared to records for 2000-2005 and
when completed, this section will be updated accordingly. As
a mark of the very low recording levels for S21, only a
handful of species recorded in this study have already been
recorded for this square. Species are listed below by
English checklist number. A table of all records from this
study can be accessed via a link in the Appendix below.
Hepialus hecta, Gold Swift
Four specimens from late June and early July. Though
apparently very sparsely recorded in Ireland, records are
widespread in the county, including the adjacent squares
S10, S22 and S30.
Hepialus fusconebulosa, Map-winged
Two males. Otherwise sparsely recorded, though the
most recent records are from Minella Hotel, Clonmel in
1973, 1974 and Mahon Falls in 1997, both sites in
Falcaria lacertinaria, Scalloped
Four trapped in early August. Previously recorded for
Waterford at Clonmel in the early 1900s.
Cilix glaucata, Chinese
A single specimen was trapped just after dusk in late
August. This beautiful and usually quite common moth is
represented by four specimens in the county prior to
2000: Clonmel (1947, 1974), Ballymacaw (1978), and
Thyatira batis, Peach Blossom
Eleven specimens. Otherwise sparse but widespread
records for Waterford include adjacent squares S10 and
Habrosyne pyritoides, Buff
Three records, all in late June. Nearest records are
for Clonmel in S22. Widely dispersed across the
Geometra papilionaria, Large
Ten records. Though best efforts were made to avoid
duplicates, the actual number of different individuals
trapped was probably 5-8 rather than ten. Otherwise
sparsely recorded in Waterford, though recorded by Murray
Hemithea aestivaria, Common
Twelve specimens recorded from 03 July - 27 July.
Records from Clonmel, S22 exist from the 1930s, 1960s and
1970s, but all other records for the county are from the
south east and south west.
Scopula immutata, Lesser Cream
A single specimen in early July. Sparse but widespread
records for the county. The most recent in 1986 near
Cappoquin, but also from Clonmel in the 1920s and
Scopula floslactata, Cream
Three specimens trapped within a single week in early
July. Previous records are sparse, from the area of
Waterford City in 1997, and from Clonmel in the Murray
Xanthorhoe designata, Flame
Twelve specimens recorded during July, August and
early September. First recorded for the county in 1974 in
Clonmel. Current records are from three adjacent squares:
S11, S22, S30 and from Waterford Airport. There is
clearly a population resident in the Comeraghs south of
Xanthorhoe ferrugata, Dark-barred
Seven specimens trapped over three weeks from late
July to mid-August. Previously recorded only at Clonmel
in the 1920s and '30s, and in 1974, and in 1998 in
Waterford City. The numbers suggest that a population is
resident in the Comeraghs just south of Clonmel
accounting for the records in this study and earlier
records from Clonmel.
Xanthorhoe montanata montanata,
Twenty-three trapped throughout June. Other records
are focused on the eastern end of the county, and on
Scotopteryx chenpodiata, Shaded
A single specimen trapped in early August. Previously
recorded in several sites in east Waterford and at
Epirrhoe alternata, Common
One trapped in mid-August, with two more in early
September. Previously recorded from almost every other
area of the county, including four adjacent squares.
Camptogramma bilineata bilineata,
A single specimen recorded in early July, disturbed
from shrubs while walking. Records exist from across the
county though only those from Clonmel are adjacent.
Entephria caesiata, Grey Mountain
A single specimen from the start of August. Previously
only known for the county from Clonmel, in the Murray
Mesoleuca albicillata, Beautiful
Two specimens were trapped in mid-August. The nearest
record from Co Waterford comes from S22.
Cosmorhoe ocellata, Purple
One trapped in mid-September. Otherwise only recorded
at Clonmel and Killahaly Wood.
Eulithis populata, Northern
Twenty-eight specimens trapped over nine weeks. Very
sparse records previous to this significantly include
Clonmel, less than ten miles away.
Ecliptopera silaceata, Small
Five records during August. Not recorded for Waterford
County in LWCC, though it may have been identified since.
This is currently being checked.
Chloroclysta siterata, Red-green
A single specimen. Previously recorded only at Clonmel
Chloroclysta citrata, Dark Marbled
Twenty-one specimens recorded between 15/07 - 28/08.
Common where active recorders present, suggesting it is
very under-recorded. The present study supports this.
Recorded from S11 and S22.
Chloroclysta truncata, Common Marbled
Thirty-four specimens trapped between 14/08 - 21/09.
Common across the county and recorded from three adjacent
squares: S11, S22 and S31
Colostygia pectinataria, Green
Twenty-three trapped during May and June. Also
recorded from adjacent squares S22 and S30.
Hydriomena furcata, July
Numerous records through July, August and September.
Well-recorded elsewhere in the county.
Euphyia unangulata, Sharp-angled
Twenty trapped during July and August, though the
inclination of individuals to return to light the night
after release may mean the actual number of individuals
is about half that stated. Previous records for the
county are widespread and include S22 and S30, both
Perizoma taeniata, Barred
Two specimens were trapped in early August. Though
there is no record for this species in LWCC, specimens
may have been found since 2000. This is currently being
Perizoma blandiata blandiata, Pretty
A single record. Details given for this species in the
previous section as it is otherwise unrecorded for the
Perizoma didymata didymata, Twin-spot
A single specimen at the start of September. Previous
records are from Clonmel, and one from Ballymacaw in
Eupithecia tenuiata, Slender
A single record from the start of August. One other
record, from 1901, completes the county inventory.
Eupithecia absinthiata, Wormwood
Two specimens trapped at the start of August. Murray
recorded the species at Clonmel, and one other record
exists from Waterford City, 1979.
Eupithecia vulgata, Common
Two specimens trapped in early and late June. Also
recorded for adjacent squares S22 and S31.
Eupithecia tripunctaria, White-spotted
A single specimen trapped in mid-August. Other county
records are from Clonmel, S22 in the early 1900s, and
Kilbarry Bog, S61 in 1997.
Three specimens recorded in a single week. Other
records exist from across the county, including adjacent
Opisthograptis luteolata, Brimstone
This species is widely distributed in the county, with
the nearest records from S22. Six specimens from the end
of July through to late September.
Epione repandria, Bordered
The nearest records are from S22. The number of
specimens trapped - ten, all in the month of August -
suggest that this species is not uncommon in the
Aperia syringaria, Lilac
Four trapped in a fortnight around the start of July.
Previously, sparse records from the early 1900s
constitute the whole record for the county, though
significantly including records from S22.
Ennomos alniara, Canary-shouldered
A single specimen was trapped in late August.
Previously recorded at three sites in the county, the
nearest at Clonmel, S22.
Selenia dentaria, Early Thorn
Fifteen specimens trapped in late July and through
August. Sparsely recorded elsewhere, but including
Biston betularia, Peppered
Eight records from May-July. Sparse but widespread
records for the county include Clonmel to the immediate
north in S22.
©Michael O Meara
Cabera exanthemata, Common
Seven records throughout July. Recorded from three
other locations in Waterford including adjacent S22.
Campaea margaritata, Light
Ten trapped between late June and mid-July. Previously
only recorded at Clonmel in the 1930s and 1960s, and more
recently in the extreme south-west of the county.
Laothoe populi, Poplar
Two records in one week may represent a single
individual, though the area is well populated with larval
foodplants. Both specimens were trapped shortly before
dawn. Otherwise widespread, sparse records may represent
Phalera bycephala, Buff-tip
A single record from early July. Only recorded four
times for the county according to LWCC, most recently at
Waterford City. The nearest record is also the earliest,
at Clonmel in 1974. The previous records are widely
dispersed across the county.
©Michael O Meara
Ptilodon capucina, Coxcomb
A single specimen from early July. Previously only
recorded from Youghal in 1981 and Killahaly Wood in
Thumatha senex, Round-winged
Two trapped in early July. It is worth quoting O'Meara
in full on this rare species: "There appears to be more
records of this rare moth for Waterford than for the
whole of the rest of Ireland. Dr. H. Murray found it at
Cappagh at the end of June 1931 and Baynes (1964) quotes
this as being one of only three records for Ireland. In
addition, de Worms (1983) gives a more recent record for
south of Waterford City while in July 1997, one which
flew to a lighted window in the City was later determined
by K. G. M. Bond (pers. comm.) as this species. De Worms
loc. cit. gives only two other known locations in
Ireland." (LWCC, 62)
Nudaria mundana, Muslin
A single specimen recorded in July. Restricted almost
wholly to west Cork and Kerry, two records for Waterford
exist, at Bunmahon in 1997 and Mt Congreve in 2000. It
may be that the south-west population is spreading
eastwards, though the species may simply be poorly
recorded in the area to date.
Lithosia quadra, Four-spotted
A single specimen trapped in early August. Previous
records for the county end with a record by Murray in the
early 1900s at Clonmel.
Spilosoma lubricipeda, White
71 specimens trapped between late May and late July.
The period 29/05 - 18/06 was highly productive, giving 51
of the total. Common and widespread in the county.
Nearest records are for Clonmel, S22.
Spilosoma lutea, Buff Ermine
Nine specimens trapped during late June and early
July. Common and widespread in the county. Nearest
records are for Clonmel, S22.
Euxoa nigricans, Garden Dart
Eight records in July and August. Previously recorded
only in the vicinity of Waterford City.
Ochropleura plecta, Flame
Three specimens in early July. Widespread and common
in the county. Nearby records exist from S22 and S30.
Noctua pronuba, Large Yellow
A single specimen from early July. Of this species,
LWCC says: "The Large Yellow Underwing is probably the
most common moth in the county and up to two hundred have
been recorded in moth traps on many occasions." (LWCC,
68) Despite this, it is previously unrecorded for S21,
highlighting the sparsity of records for this 10km
Noctua comes, Lesser Yellow
A single specimen trapped in mid-August. Widespread in
the county including two adjacent squares.
Noctua janthe, Lesser Broad-bordered
A single specimen. Otherwise widespread in the
Lycophotia porphyrea, True
A single specimen recorded in mid-June. Otherwise
widespread and quite common across the county. Previous
records include S22 and S30, both adjacent squares.
Diarsia brunnea, Purple Clay
A single specimen trapped in early July. The only
other Waterford records are three specimens from Clonmel,
Killahaly Wood and the vicinity of Tallow.
Xestia baja, Dotted Clay
Recorded in late July-early August. Only one other
record, from the Tallowbridge area in W99 (which is only
partly in Waterford), may also be from the county.
Ceramica pisi, Broom Moth
Not recorded for the county before 1984, several have
since been seen, with the nearest records from just south
of Mahon Falls in the adjacent square, S30. Eight records
from the end of June through to mid-July.
Mythimna pallens, Common
Recorded continuously from the start of the study
through to the end of June. Widespread across the county
including three adjacent squares: S10, S22, S31.
Blepharita adusta, Dark
One specimen from early July. For this species, LWCC
states: "Several to light at Ballymacaw in June 1975 is
the only record for Waterford." (LWCC, 76)
Amphipyra pyramidea, Copper
Five specimens from late June/early July and early
September. Previously only recorded from Clonmel,
Euplexia lucipara, Small
A single record for early July. Previous records are
from widely spaced sites across the county, including
Phlogophora meticulosa, Angle
Four specimens were trapped between late August and
mid-September. The nearest record from Co Waterford comes
Mesapamea secalis, Common
Eight specimens trapped between early and late August.
Recorded from widespread locations across the county
including adjacent squares S10 and S31.
Chortodes pygmina, Small
Fourteen specimens trapped between late August and
early September. Common in boggy areas, though recorded
in LWCC only around Waterford City, in coastal squares
and at Clonmel.
Gortyna flavago, Frosted
A single specimen trapped in mid-September. Few
records for the county, and the most recent dates to
Coenobia rufa, Small Rufous
Three specimens trapped, two in early August, one in
late August. A rare species listed for just nine
locations in Ireland in 1983, one near Waterford
Colocasia coryli, Nut-tree
Twenty-five specimens, most first generation.
Previously recorded only at Clonmel in the early 1900s,
and seven from Kilbunny Wood near Portlaw in 1997.
Autographa pulchina, Beautiful Golden
O'Meara notes "This is not a common moth in Waterford
and when found is usually in small numbers." (LWCC, 84)
and this is borne out by the two specimens in this study,
found in early August. The nearest previous record in
LWCC is for S22.
Three recorded in a single week. Records are
widespread in the county, though locations are few.
Scoliopterix libatrix, The
A single specimen trapped in mid-September. Recorded
intermittently for the county including at Clonmel.
Hypena proboscidalis, Snout
Numerous records throughout July and August. Common
and widespread including three adjacent squares: S10, S22
Numerous records throughout July and August stand in
stark contrast to just two previous recorded individuals
for the county, one for Murray at Clonmel in 1935, one
for Kilmacthomas. Both previous records, however, occur
in squares adjacent to S21 and at opposite sides of it,
suggesting that a population may exist centred in S21,
with previous records being made at the extremes of the
Thirteen specimens from late June to mid-July.
Previous records for the county are from Clonmel in
Herminia grisealis, Small
Six trapped during late June and early July.
Previously recorded from Clonmel and Waterford City.
The minimal cost with which this study was carried out
demonstrates that such recording work is feasible on an
ongoing basis. The low numbers recorded each night ensure
that the burden of identification is light, allowing the
amateur time to take care over identification. By sampling
small numbers on an ongoing nightly basis, a wholly
different picture of local populations is produced from that
obtained by intensive study over a short period. While the
latter method produces larger numbers of specimens for a
given date, unfortunate timing can easily result in
important species not being observed at all. The main
problem in using the method employed in this study lies in
the need to attend the study site on an ongoing basis during
the night. There is no easy solution to this, though
replacement of the current light source with a home-made
moth trap, which can be built at minimal cost and can be
designed to be portable, will remove the need to tramp about
in darkness night after night.
The section above titled Species not recorded for S21 in
LWCC demonstrates the dearth of records in the county for
the remoter 10km squares, and also demonstrates clearly the
impact even casual recording can have on the county record.
Only a few species recorded by this study had already been
identified in S21. Seventy-seven species recorded are new to
S21. One species is new to the county, and two others are
possibly new to the county. While it is unlikely that this
level of success will ever be matched in S21 again, there is
every reason to expect similar levels of success for new
recorders located in similar remote sites in the county.
The possibilities of using a portable lamp or trap in
2006 are now being considered with a view to expanding the
geographical range of recording in the area.
A table listing all species by week for the study period
can be viewed or downloaded by clicking here.
(2) Paul Waring and Martin Townsend, Field Guide to the
Moths of Great Britain and Ireland, British Wildlife
Stiofán MacAmhalghaidh is currently lecturing
part-time in archaeology and history at Waterford Institute
of Technology. He founded the IRQUAS Irish Studies Online
Project in 2000, and is Editor of both Insight and Celtic
Well online journals. Stiof has been photographing and
recording fungi, trees, lichens and moths since 1993, and is
currently working on a digital encyclopaedia of Irish native