The Teasel Dipsacus heads of Tophill Low NR, East Yorkshire at this time of the year stand as skeletal plant structures of last summer. But, inside some of the heads, the larvae of a scarce moth with only 62 Yorkshire records since first found in 1883 can be found. (per Yorkshire Moths up to the end of 2014). There may be a few more records to date, but it remains scarce overall across the county.
In 2013, Tophill Low’s first Endothenia gentianaeana also known as Teasel Marble was recorded, and further inspection of Teasel Dipsacus heads since then has revealed several larvae – identified from the similar E. marginana by the lack of an anal comb.
Since 2013 it has been discovered the species occurs in two areas of the reserve and so far there are five definite records via larvae or genitalia identification. However, the species must be more common given it has been recorded over the five year period. In previous years, the scarce Teasel Dipsacus heads have been removed prior to spring mowing of the meadows and placed nearby in the hope some larvae will survive and emerge as moths in the next flight season.
After five years of knowing the species is present, some Teasel Dipsacus heads have been collected and placed in tights to see just how many can be bred out, with the moths emerging being released in the area they were found, and several being checked by way of genitalia dissection for identification confirmation, which will hopefully offer a better idea of the Tophill Low NR population.
While Teasel Dipsacus heads in tights may not look appealing, the delightful adult moth, this one photographed on site in 2013, is rather stunning.
The Teasel heads are insignificant for the many who walk past them, but to Tophill Low NR, the presence of them means the site holds a very rarely recorded Yorkshire species.
For the latest news from Tophill Low NR, click here to check out the blog and twitter feed.