DavidHowdon's picture

A challenge

Observed: 8th November 2008 By: DavidHowdon
Amateur Entomologists' SocietyLondon Natural History SocietySelborne Society
DavidHowdon’s reputation in InvertebratesDavidHowdon’s reputation in InvertebratesDavidHowdon’s reputation in InvertebratesDavidHowdon’s reputation in InvertebratesDavidHowdon’s reputation in Invertebrates

As a bit of a challenge here is a moth that hasn't managed to expand its wings. I'll hold of posting the ID for a few days so people can have fun guessing.
Divisions on ruler are 1mm

Species interactions

No interactions present.

Species with which Scarce Umber (Agriopis aurantiaria) interacts


madasyernan's picture


Hope you don't mind a complete novice having a go.
My books show mostly 'side on' views of moths.
I think i've narrowed it down to 3,

One of the Fratillary moths
A painted Lady

Ok only two, any clues please, what should I be looking for in my books (Taking into account my books are quite basic)
Thank you

Sam, Student.

AndyBanthorpe's picture

I like a puzzle

Hi David,
A nice puzzle to set. My bid is for Scarce Umber, Agriopis aurantiaria, though as always I am prepared to be wrong. By chance I was photographing one last night and have a range of angles of it including, interestingly, one taken of it lying upside down on an envelope where it lay playing dead before I recaptured it and let it out.

To Sam above when looking to identify a moth a knowledge of what is likely to be seen at a given time of the year is useful and although to a beginner that is daunting, some of the moth group websites have a "what's flying tonight" list which can help with this. Of course in the middle of the summer the list is rather large but combine this with what it looks like which can please it into a particular family and also where geographically it was seen and in what habitat and all these clues add up. A good way of starting with moth id is to go to a meeting of a local moth group with only a few people about and see what arrives at the lights and as someone identifies a moth ask why is it that species and just pick up a few at time. Before you know it you will be able to identify more straightaway and at least know what family your query moth is most likely to be from.

Good luck and remember that the most important thing in all this is to enjoy what you are doing!

Andy Banthorpe
Joint Macro-moth recorder for Bedfordshire, VC30

Martin Harvey's picture


My guess agrees with Andy - Scarce Umber. I did exactly what Andy suggests, I went to one of the "what's flying tonight" sites to narrow down the possibilities. I used Suffolk Moth Group's site:

and there's another example for Norfolk:

David set us quite a hard task I think, but the other clues in the photo are:
- the bipectinate antennae (you can just see one antenna in between the legs on the left of the moth - 'bipectinate' is illustrated here: http://etc.usf.edu/clipart/28900/28948/bipectinate_28948.htm)
- the colour of the head and thorax

Will be interesting to find out if Andy and I are on the right track or not!

Entomologist and biological recorder

rimo's picture

re. Sam

I would suggest that a moth book instead of a butterfly book would be a good start! Other than that, I can only echo what Martin and Andy have already said - identification is a holistic process involving time of year, habitat, available foodplants and behaviour as well as the patterns, colours, etc, of the actual specimen. Most of the family groups are also relatively easily distinguished which will allow you to cut down the list of possibilities for each individual, espcially when you also use a list of what flies when.

I'd also guess Scarce Umber, but with a pretty low degree of certainty!

Record your ladybird sightings!

madasyernan's picture

Thank you

Thank you so much (yet again) for all the information.

I am amazed at how easy it is to become 'obsessed' with nature. My photograph collection is so large, and my book collection is huge.

I have said before though, that no matter how many books a novice like myself has, you cannot beat the knowledge and advice I get from everyone at ispot.

Thank you again.


Sam, Student.

foxy's picture


Another novice here,I agree with the suggestion of Scare umber based on colour,flight time (and by extension hatching time)and size on having checked my books.My first guess as an amateur would have been feathered thorn until I saw the antennae which in feathered thorn would have been feathered.
I hadn"t known about a whats flying tonight guide but its a great idea!

I learn something every day on iSPOT!

Regards foxy


DavidHowdon's picture

Impressive ID skills

Rather impressive the ID skills on this iSpot thingy. It was indeed Scarce Umber.