Noctuidae : Acronictinae
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Sycamore
Acronicta aceris

(Linnaeus, 1758) 2279 / 73.039
Photo © Aidan Smith,  4 July 2023, VC64, Otley

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Poplar Grey
Subacronicta megacephala
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Yorkshire Status: Rare and local resident.

The 2020 summary provides a good overview of the history of this moth in the county. Since then, numbers have stabilised and there has been little further expansion of range. It has now settled down to a core area comprising VC61, 63, and the eastern half of VC64 with one or two outliers. We have a number of records of the spectacular larvae, but frustratingly very few tell us what foodplant it was found on. Sycamore, oak and acer palmatum are the only plants mentioned.

2020 (CHF): It is not obvious how long Sycamore has been found in the county. There are one or two old records in the 1960s but they are thought to be unreliable. Some of the dates are rather vague - for example I have one record dated "1930-81" from the Malton area. None of these records are acceptable as it is an easy moth to misidentify - the confusion species being Poplar Grey - and there are no specimens or photos. It is a recent colonist to the UK and was first found in London in the late 19th century but was apparently rare until the 1950s when it started to move north and west. The first records that we can be sure about were in 1992 at Levisham and Strensall Common, followed by more records in VC62 and the east of VC61. As often happens these early pioneers disappeared; there were no more from VC62 and a fresh invasion started in the Spurn area in 1999. This was followed by colonisation of the south of VC63 in 2006. Numbers built up steadily until 2013 since when they have fluctuated quite a lot - presumably its parasitoids caught up with it. The range has been slowly expanding. One in Settle in 2011 was a wandering moth way out of area, but the core population has consolidated, particularly in VC63, and is doing well. In 2020 there was evidence of a range expansion north-west with several new sites on the periphery of its range including a jump to near Skipton and to my garden in the south-east of VC65. So when interpreting the map, the north-eastern records in VC62 and the north of VC61 are the first wave of invasion in the 1990s, and the record in the west of VC64 is the early Settle wanderer. So ignoring these gives us a nice line of advance heading north west.

It seems that it can now be found almost anywhere in the centre, south and east of the county and it will be interesting to see whether its rather stop/start progress will continue. In 2020 we received 51 records of 52 moths from 32 sites, so all except one were of single moths. The maximum ever caught in one trapping session is four which makes me wonder if it more common than we think and just isn't strongly attracted to light. Most of our records are from gardens and the main garden food plant is often horse chestnut rather than the usual sycamore or field maple. We commonly get records of the rather spectacular larva - 14 records on the database including two this year.

Sutton & Beaumont, 1989: This species has never been included in the official County list. Records do exist, but because this species is so easily misidentified we do not feel able to accept these records. No specimens or photographs have been traced. Unless confirmation can be found this species cannot be added to the Yorkshire list.

Recorded in 62 (31%) of 200 10k Squares.
First Recorded in 1930.
Last Recorded in 2023.
Additional Stats

< Dark / Grey Dagger  |  Miller >
Forewing: 18-22mm
Flight: June - August
Foodplant:   Sycamore, Field Maple, maples, Horse-chestnut
Red List Status: Least Concern (LC)
GB Status: Common
Verification Grade:  Adult: 1
List Species Records   [Show All Latest]
Latest 5 Records
Date#VC10k Area
07/09/2023161TA03 - Beverley (S) / Cottingham
02/09/2023164SE35 - Harrogate / Knaresborough
28/08/2023164SE13 - Bradford
22/08/2023161TA03 - Beverley (S) / Cottingham
09/08/2023164SE33 - Leeds
  Immature   Adult   [Show Flight Weeks]
Show Details | 1990 to 2023 | 2000 to 2023 | Graph Key
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