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The size (which you do not mention) should help ID Small Autumnal Moth. But the other three do require examination of the abdomen on the males as you indicate.
I will add a crop with a ruler beside one, still have them. I dont think they are small enough to be Small Autumnal moth. I'd love to get some of these properly IDed as none of them have been recorded anywhere near the site, due to under-recording in this area in general.
The inspection inst straight forward, Ive tried. Any advice on how to remove abdominal hairs easily on something so small, it sounds easier than it is??
Use a soft haired artist's paint brush and that should work. Requires a bit of practice (I still tend to ruin about 1 in 10) but not too difficult.
I will have a go. I think I am very possibly recording more than one species of Epirrita. There is diversity in markings and size so there might be more than one species involved. I am having a bit of difficulty finding the exact ones pictured above as they insist on resting with wings closed or are busy flying in their tubs, maybe a cool down in the fridge is required.
I'll try the soft brush approach.
Unfortunately I dont have a copy of Skinner, maybe its time I thought about getting it. Is it still in print/available?
Waring makes it pretty clear that the only reliable way to differentiate is close inspection of the tip of the males abdomen, not sure its safe to bring this to species based on markings, certainly not by me anyway!
Skinner agrees that it is not really possible to reliably do them. He suggests that the sub-median fasica can help tell them apart. In this case I would say the left hand one looks more like christyi but would still regard examination of the abdomen as necessary.
Well worth getting Skinner, it is still in print even from large commercial retailers (e.g. http://www.amazon.co.uk/Colour-Identification-Guide-Moths-British/dp/878...).
You might be able to pick up an old edition second hand a bit cheaper but I would say that is probably a false economy, the quality of the presentation of the plates in the third edition is so much better as to justify paying for it.
I was just in the process of buying Skinner from Amazon, the front cover seems to show hawkmoths illustrated with their wings spread. Is that how all the illustrations are within the book?
If the moths aren't in natural resting position I'm not sure I want to spend that amount of money on it to be honest.
Skinner is a traditional field guide showing moths in set posture. Well worth learning to use I would say - for some key identifications showing the hindwings clearly is the only way to go.
Are the species where hind wing views are necessary not all covered by hindwing pics in Waring? Some are but maybe not all?
I think I'll take your advice and get the newest edition if its available. Thanks for the link to Amazon. Will be visiting them this evening.
Lat/Lng: 55.0323, -5.9716
OS grid ref: NW463780
On a road this evening between wooded slopes and seashore rocks. This moth is exactly 10mm long.