Thursday 4 June 2015

Life on Germander Speedwell

Mmm….that does sound vaguely like I’m about to regale you with tales of drinking and debauchery onboard a Victorian sailing ship or something! Sadly not. Just moths...

Bovingdon Brickworks (BMT): This week, inspired by moth-er extraordinaire, Ben Sale, I have spent rather too many hours on my knees and elbows with my eyes trained on Germander Speedwell (Veronica chamaedrys). I was, of course, looking for the dinky, day-flying moth Adela (Cauchas) fibulella. Its larval foodplant is G. Speedwell and the adults seem to spend most of their time in or around it. The moth is scarce in Hertfordshire and Ben’s recent find was only the 13th record for the county.

Monday morning was overcast and blustery but I thought it was still worth a moth hunt. I headed to the Brickworks, knowing there was a good supply of G. Speedwell on site. As it turned out, it wasn’t long before I’d found what I thought was Cauchas fibulella. I took some photographs and was really chuffed when Ben later confirmed that I had indeed found another population of this “scarce Hertfordshire moth”. Knowing that I’d got my eye in, I was keen to return and do a proper count of the species.

Today was calm, hot (20°C) and sunny. Perfect conditions, and, searching the 2 main stretches of Germander Speedwell and a couple of larger clumps nearby, I reached a total of 31 Cauchas fibulella! Far more than I had expected. Not only that, but I called in briefly at Westbrook Hay (Hemel BMT) to check another large patch of G. Speedwell and found another 7 there. From these results and discussions with Ben, it may well be that the moth is simply under-recorded rather than scarce but I guess we won’t know that unless we get out and look for it…!

Adela (Cauchas) fibulella on Germander Speedwell 

Now that I’ve got the Big Find out of the way, I’ll share a few of the other G. Speedwell critters. There were at least 6 tiny 4mm long, 1mm wide moths, feeding on the nectar. Ben very kindly provided the ID as Glyphipterix simpliciella, a common species of grass moth.

Glyphipterix simpliciella on Germander Speedwell

Glyphipterix simpliciella on Germander Speedwell

A third moth species dependant on the G. Speedwell is Stenoptilia pterodactyla. I came across what I think is its larva (caterpillar).

Stenoptilia pterodactyla on Germander Speedwell

I was concentrating on moths but there were tiny flies, bees, grasshoppers and beetles all on or around the G. Speedwell. It always amazes me what you find even in just one small 50cm square of a plant like this.

Finally, a bonus find on Monday was what I think is Heath Speedwell (Veronica officinalis). I’d never seen it before and it isn’t included in the Brickworks 2011 Plant Survey. Further correspondence with Martin Parr, Conservation Manager at Maple Lodge, suggests that the plant has previously been recorded in the vicinity of the Brickworks but not actually at the site. So, a new plant to add to the species list as well.

Heath Speedwell (LEFT); Germander Speedwell (RIGHT)
(my thumbnail at the bottom)


  1. Well done again Lucy.
    I am not sure if Colin has got back to you at all regarding your records? He is a busy man and I find it difficult getting in contact with him at times, so if he hasn't he's not being rude, just very busy probably.
    Super shots of the moth and 100 times better than my efforts! I am hoping to find them at a large wood in the far East of the County on Wednesday, as I noticed lots of the foodplant groing there but it was a very cloudy day.
    All the best now.

    1. You were very definitely the brains behind the find, Ben :o). David & I went back this morning and managed to find them again, which was a relief. Thanks for letting me know re: Colin, lol. Good luck on Wednesday, and on Thursday at Roughdown, if the weather behaves itself. I'll look forward to reading your reports. Take care.

  2. Great work Lucy, off to the lodge today and will be checking for that one! Sorry for lack of comments have fallen behind on your blog and will catch up asap!

    1. Thanks Martin. Ah, no worries - I know how busy you are with ML. I reckon reading/commenting on blogs should be free of pressure, obligation and time limits :o). It's something I do that I hope others will enjoy and reading/commenting can be done as/when/if people feel like it. Have a great day!

    2. No sign at the lodge, and the speedwell has gone over so I was probably too late - but did find a horehound long horn moth - a BAP priority status and not found in Herts so far from what I can find on NBC etc. Nearest is at Pirton, Beds up east of Hitchin. Pic here


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