Currant Clearwing moths ….no!…but….
A few weeks ago I put in an appeal here to see if there were any extensive black or red currant bush plantings in or near MK, which I could access. The objective was to place a synthetic lure in prospective sites to see if Currant Clearwing moths Synanthedon tipuliformis were present. This was always a rare species, but as the growing of currant bushes in gardens has declined, it is presumed it has also decreased in numbers.
I received two very positive responses.
The first was very local to me, where Jenny Mercer obtained permission for me to place a lure in Stony Stratford, Wolverton Road, allotments, under her supervision, only for that to be withdrawn by a ‘jobsworth’ at the last minute.
Undaunted, on Tuesday 23rd June, I decided to recce the allotments to see if the currant bushes were close enough to the fence to make it worthwhile to put up a lure outside. I decided to try, but was taken by the proximity of some old apple trees. So I first put up a Red-belted Clearwing Synanthedon myopaeformis lure (another nationally rare species) on a sapling outside the allotment fence, with no expectation at all. By the time I had put up the Currant Clearwing lure on another sapling and turned round, there were two male Red-Belted Clearwings at the first lure. Once photographed, that lure was returned to its sealed and cold container in a ‘cool bag’, so that they would not be attracted again. They need to be attracted to real females.
My second lead for the Currant Clearwings was provided by Julie Lane, who arranged for me to contact Mike Totton, the Chairman of the Olney allotment association. He was perfectly happy to allow me access, but finding a mutually convenient date with the appropriate weather conditions of sunshine and a light breeze was not easy.
In the period before we actually met, I discovered two relevant things. Firstly the Currant Clearwing ‘season’ in other areas had started early and could easily be ‘over’. Secondly, during a Zoom meeting of the Beds moth group, I noted that Raspberry Clearwing Pennisetia hylaeformis had been found in north Bedfordshire. This is a fairly recent colonist which appears to be spreading west from Cambridgeshire, where it was first discovered in 2007.
By now the continuing inappropriate weather was making our lack of a rendezvous embarrassing. Therefore, despite poor conditions, I visited Mike on his allotment to explain what I wanted to do and why. I put up lures for both aforementioned species … but not for very long as conditions worsened. However, Mike did give me carte blanche to visit whenever I wanted. In the next week only Friday 17th July seemed at all likely. So I gave it a go, placing a Currant Clearwing lure invitingly adjacent to a nice crop of currants. There were a few scattered raspberry bushes I could see, but placing a lure close to any of them meant watching with binoculars while attending the currant bushes. Given this tricky situation I simply hung the Raspberry Clearwing lure on a pole close to where I was standing. To my amazement, ten minutes later a male Raspberry Clearwing turned up, and I was able to take a few pictures. After a couple of minutes, I took the lure down for reasons noted above. Needless to say, no Currant Clearwings appeared in the next half an hour, but I think I got a great deal, since Raspberry Clearwing has only been formally recorded in Buckinghamshire on one occasion in 2012, with, possibly, a not yet submitted sighting in 2019.
Currant Clearwings will have to wait until next year.