Cork Clearwing Moth survey
In the summer of 2021, Cork Nature Network conducted a survey of the Clearwing moth species in Cork.
This survey was supported by the National Parks and Wildlife Service ‘Biodiversity Recorders Grant’ and was carried out by lead researcher Ken Bond and a small team of volunteers.
Ken Bond is an expert in Ireland’s lepidoptera (butterflies and moths) and he noted the need for this survey as there is very little known about Ireland’s clearwing moth species (family Sesiidae). Clearwing moths are diurnal, meaning they are active during the day, and for this reason they are often not recorded by common moth survey techniques such as light traps. They are also usually quite small and can be mistaken for flies when they are seen in flight during the day.
Five clearwing moth species are thought to be currently present in Ireland:
- Lunar Hornet Moth (Sesia bembeciformis)
- Welsh Clearwing (Synanthedon scoliaeformis)
- Red-Tipped Clearwing (Synanthedon formicaeformis)
- Currant Clearwing (Syanthedon tipuliformis)
- Thrift Clearwing (Pyropteron muscaeformis)
Three other species have been historical recorded in Ireland but there is insufficient evidence to confirm whether they are still present:
- Hornet Moth (Sesia apiformis) – accepted to be locally extinct in Ireland.
- Large Red-belted Clearwing (Synanthedon culiciformis)
- Red-belted Clearwing (Synanthedon myopiformis)
This survey did not focus on the Lunar Hornet moth as this species is widely recorded throughout the country. However there are scattered recordings of the other four known species, particularly in the South of Ireland. Both the Welsh clearwing and Red-Tipped clearwing have previous recordings in Kerry and West Cork. The Currant clearwing has been previously recorded in West Cork, North Kerry and two sites near Cork city. Finally the Thrift clearwing, which is often associated with the presence of Sea Thrift (Armeria maritima), has been recorded in several locations along the Cork coast, including Cork harbour, Courtmacsherry and Cape Clear island.
In order to target these species, this survey used pheromone lures, which are known to be successful in surveying uncommon or rare species, especially when these species are not attracted to light traps. The lures consist of a rubber piece which contains the pheromone for attracting the target species. During the survey, this equipment was placed on foliage near relevant food plants in order to maximise the chances of recording the target species.
The survey was conducted in a variety of sites in Cork during the summer of 2021. Thrift clearwing was found to be present at several locations in West Cork and it is thought that this species probably occurs widely along the coast of Cork. Red-tipped clearwings were found in both Kilmurry and Ballinascarthy, which are both new sites for this species. There were unfortunately no sightings of the currant clearwing or Welsh clearwing during this survey. The researchers will endeavor to continue the survey in May to look for clearwing larvae in the locations where adult moths were observed in summer 2021.
The results of this survey are encouraging as they add new recordings and locations to the known Irish populations of two clearwing species, the thrift clearwing and red-tipped clearwing. It is hoped that future surveys will provide a clearer picture of the current populations of clearwing species in Ireland, including the two species which were not found during this survey.
Download the Clearwing Moth project report:
If you think you have found a clearwing moth and would like help identifying the species, please contact us via our social media below or the contact form on our website.
Cork Nature Network would like to thank the National Parks and Wildlife Service for the opportunity to run this survey. Thank you also to Ken Bond, John Deasey, Emily Mangan, Sean Bourke, Karl Woods and Melanie Mangan for their work on this project. Thanks also to Macdara O’Shea and Gill Weyman of Cork Nature Network for their help in developing the outline of the work and for overseeing the project.
This survey will be used as a base for an education leaflet that will be available in our Education Page. Stay tuned!
Written by Rebecca O’Sullivan
Images from Gillian Stuart