Insects Insects Insects Insects Insects Insects


Moths of the Outer Hebrides

There are currently (October 2018) 560 species of moths recorded from the islands. Out of these, 281 are classified as macro moths and the remaining 279 as micros although in reality this division is rather random as some of the so called micros are actually larger than those classified as macros. The total number of species recorded in the Outer Hebrides equates to around 23% of the British list with around 2,400 species recorded; of which around 900 are macros. The relatively low variety is due to a number of factors of which being a group of islands positioned in the far north-west is significant. The remoteness from the continental landmass creates barriers for the spread of less mobile species whilst the cool, damp climate makes the islands unsuitable for others. Broadly speaking the habitat is rather limited, being dominated by moorland / upland bog with signifcant areas of machair, especially in Uist. These areas do support some significant populations of nationally scarce species whilst creation of habitat such as Lew's Castle Grounds in Stornoway and Archie's garden at North Loch Eynort, South Uist have helped increase variety. Each year new species are added to the list as more areas are explored yet there is a huge amount left relatively untouched making this an exciting time to be studying moths in the islands. A complete checklist for the moths of the Outer Hebrides can be found here.

There are a number of notable macro moths inhabiting the islands including the Belted Beauty (Lycia zonaria atlantica) which can be found in machair areas throughout the islands. This is classed as Nationally Scarce A (i.e. found in just 16 - 30 hectads throughout the UK). Other similarly scarce moths residing in the islands are Slender-striped Rufous (Coenocalpe lapidata) which has been recently recorded from South Uist along with Sweet Gale Moth (Acronicta euphorbiae) and Borded Grey (Selidosema brunnearia). There are also old, unconfirmed records of Northern Dart (Xestia alpicola) from Harris. In addition a number of other moths that are classed under the slightly commoner status of National Scarce B (recorded in 31 - 100 hectads in the UK) are also found in the islands and include: Yellow-ringed Carpet (Entephria flavicinctata flavicinctata), Chestnut-coloured Carpet (Thera cognata), Argent & Sable (Rheumaptera hastata), Thyme Pug (Eupithecia distinctaria), Manchester Treble-bar (Carsia sororiata), Scotch Annulet (Gnophos obfuscatus), Small Chocolate-tip (Clostera pigra) and Marsh Oblique-barred (Hypenodes humidalis).

Beside some exciting residents the islands also receive migrant species and although not in the ideal position being so far from the rest of mainland Europe we do manage to get some each year. The numbers and variety vary depending on the weather conditions although have included some rare British moths including Oleander Hawkmoth and Clifden Nonpareil in 2014.

Recording in the Outer Hebrides has been very patchy and until relatively recently there was no consistent site monitoring. Since 2006 there has been a gathering interest and this has produced a whole host of new records for both the macro and micro moths. There are still large areas that have few moths recorded from them as the map below illustrates. This is not completely up to date but is roughly what the situation was up to the end of 2013 for the macro moths (please click on the map to enlarge and the return button to reduce it).

If you are going to be recording moths in the Outer Hebrides please feel free to use the data sheet here which is used by the National recording scheme. The same sheet can be used to record butterflies and emailed to the local recorder, Steve Duffield at:County Moth and Butterfly Recorder.

The following links are to photogalleries of the macro and micro moths.