Monday, 6 February 2017

Moth Mondays - The Buff-tip


The Buff-tip
Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Arthropoda
Class: Insecta
Order: Lepidoptera
Superfamily: Noctuoidea
Family: Notodontidae
Genus: Phalera
Species: P. bucephala
Binomial name
Phalera bucephala

This week's moth is one of my favourites... it is also one of the creatures that sparked my interest in the natural world... it is the Buff-tip [Phalera bucephela] la Lunule or la Bucéphale.

Again, it is a very attractive moth... all silvery and woody... at rest it looks like a twig...
more specifically, a dead twig of Silver Birch (Betula pendula) Le Bouleau... or even a Poplar twig...

Posing on a length of dead Alder

The moth itself is an overall shade of Silver Birch... except for the broken ends...which resemble the dead heartwood of the twig... a pale straw colour at the exaggeratedly flat front end....and the same colour at the tip of the forewings... which has even evolved a "hint of woodgrain"!
The moth is one that is always exceedingly easy to handle... it "knows" that it is a bit of dead twig and behaves as such...

Viewed from the front... on my fingertip!!

The metallic silver/gunmetal wing scales also seem larger than the average scale... 
fused scales?.....

These are the silver wing scales on the moth on the twig...
...and these are at the wing-tip!
the gunmetal colour is more pronounced towards the forewing edge... that gives a rounded, shadow effect on the "underside" of the twig... and, most of the time it rests with the wings tightly held against the body...

The wings roll under....
And as viewed from above!

the flight period is mid-May through to the end of July.

This was a darker individual caught this year....
notice the distinct wavy stripes on the paler grey area.
This shot does show the gradation from silver to gunmetal as almost a line of change!

The caterpillars are longitudinally striped in black, yellow and white and slightly hairy... the back-end looks a bit like the front of a Eurostar train... the rounded head is black with a bright-yellow, inverted V-shaped marking... and they feed together [gregarious feeders] often stripping whole branches... one of the favourite foodplants, next to silver birch, is the Hazel... and it is here that the caterpillars are most often seen at eye-level as here, on our hazels....

The newly hatched caterpillars are quite interesting... and possibly even cute... as seen here on the site, feeding side by side.

These are larger larvae on our hazels....

Eurostar? Perhaps not....
Gregarious feeding...
Another nut-nibbler in action!

This picture shows the inverted V on the head.

Sometimes though... the camoflage doesn't work so well...

This is on a bramble leaf... a particularly dark specimen....
and this... one that settled... in this spread-out fashion on our front door.
In both the above cases thay are rather obvious!

Next Monday... a short break from moths.... I have decided to attempt to incorporate my blog about our meadow in with this blog... the reason for this is to try and simplify life a little... and possibly be more productive on information about Le Pré de La Forge and what we are doing with it....

NB: The information from the other sources is now placed at the bottom of the post.
Other than Wikipedia.... and personal observations!
Moths and Butterflies of Europe and North Africa [ also known as]
A superbly illustrated site.... marvellous on the Micromoths...
but difficult to use on a tablet/iPad.... an awful lot of scrolling needed.   An excellent resource... with distribution maps

UK Moths This is quite a simple site... but nicely put together.

The German site - For really good samples of photos...
including museum specimens: to use....
Enter the Latin name and then select the Latin name from the list of pages found.
There is probably a lot more on this site... but I don't read [or speak] German!!

From the Wiki:


The Buff-tip (Phalera bucephala) is a moth of the family Notodontidae.
It is found throughout Europe, Mongolia.

This is a fairly large, heavy-bodied species with a wingspan of 55–68 mm. The forewings are grey with a large prominent buff patch at the apex. As the thoracic hair is also buff, the moth resembles a broken twig when at rest. The hindwings are creamy-white. This moth flies at night in June and July and sometimes comes to light, although it is not generally strongly attracted.

The young larvae are gregarious, becoming solitary later. The older larva is very striking, black with white and yellow lines. It feeds on many trees and shrubs (see list below). The species overwinters as a pupa.

Recorded food plants:

    Acer - Norway maple
    Betula - Birch
    Corylus - Hazel
    Populus - Poplar
    Quercus - Oak
    Rosa - Rose
    Salix - Willow
    Tilia - Lime
    Ulmus - Elm

From UK Moths

Buff-tip Phalera bucephala
(Linnaeus, 1758)

Wingspan 42-55 mm.

When at rest, the adults of this species bear a remarkable resemblance to a broken twig of silver birch.

The species is widely distributed throughout Britain, and quite common, especially in the southern half.

The yellow-and-black caterpillars live gregariously and feed on a number of different deciduous trees, sometimes defoliating entire branches.

The adults fly in June and July, frequenting mixed woodland.


Susan said...

I think it's a good idea to incorporate the two blogs. Habitat and species info in the one place makes sense to me.

The Buff-tip is a lovely moth. I must remember to check my hazels for the caterpillars.

LaPré DelaForge said...

Susan... "I must remember to check my hazels for the caterpillars."
the naked branches do tend to stand out a little!!
It isn't so much a habitat blog as a what I am doing to "a bare field with five old pollards" sort of record!!
But, yes, indirectly they do go together as this blog could possibly be re-titled "500 Metres of Aigronne Valley Wildlife"... seeing as almost all the entries are for this "patch"!

Sheila said...

Just amazing...I kept studying the first photo in order to pick out. where the moth was. Then I read that that was the moth! The woody end as shown on your finger appears to be grinning at you.

Looking forward to next week's installment on the meadow. I'd be interested to see how the mill stream where the moor hen lives goes through your land.

You must be getting ready to start work on your nesting boxes.