Sutton & Beaumont, 1989: As has been said above (see S. mucronata (Scopoli)), all the dated records suggest that S. luridata is the predominant 'belle' found in Yorkshire. There are likely records from all five vice-counties (although many had been submitted as S. mucronata but as yet the only confirmed records are from VC64 from Harrogate (Faulkner, 1977), Pannal (GTF), Wharfedale (WNS), Guisborough in VC62 (PWa) and West Melton in VC63 (HEB).
VC61. Spurn, 6 & 8.6.1969, 5.6.1989 (BRS) NEW VICE-COUNTY RECORD.
Argus 52, 2006:
VC65. Foxglove Covert MoD, 23.6.2006 (CHF, JCW). NEW VICE-COUNTY RECORD.
2012 (CHF): We have recent records from all five VCs but it remains very local and seems to have been commoner in the county in the past.
2020 (CHF): I get lots of records of July Belle every year. The only problem is that when I ask for photo, they are usually something completely different. Brown Silver-line is a favourite. Shaded Broad-bar. Snout. Some even claim Lead Belle - but more of that later. In fact, there are few other moths that make me raise my eyebrows quite so much, apart from Bordered Straw (90% are Barred Straw) and Spinach (90% are anything but Spinach).
Porritt was well aware of this species and recorded it at several sites. "Not uncommon on heaths" he said in 1883. "Fairly common probably in all parts of the country" was his pronouncement in 1907. The only problem was that in 1941 it was decided that we had two species in the country and it was split into July Belle and Lead Belle. Rutherford in 1970 assumed that all of our moths were Lead Belle but Sutton and Beaumont in 1989 pointed out that the only confirmed records in the county were of July Belle and suggested that it was the "predominant, if not the only species present in Yorkshire", and indeed all confirmed records since then have been of July Belle. The plot thickened a little when I was given an old moth collection which contained two specimens, taken by Jo Beanland on Baildon Moor in 1897. They looked odd to me for July Belle so I dissected one and it was Lead Belle, so it did once exist in Yorkshire. The question is, does it still exist? Two years ago I received a photograph of a "July Belle from near Catterick and I would have put a fiver (a lot for me to bet) on Lead Belle by its appearance, but the moth was not retained. So, if you do catch this beast. Take a photo and keep the moth in the fridge until I've had the time to look at it.
Looking at the map, you could be forgiven for thinking that you might find this moth anywhere. The dots however are mostly from 1960-2000 and there is a preponderance of records from RIS traps. Are they all correct? I wouldn't risk my fiver on that one. The only 2020 dot is from Strensall Common, where it was first seen in 2019. Recent records are thin on the ground and it appears to be very local. It can be strangely common however. We trap every year at the MOD site at Catterick - Foxglove Covert. We usually run several traps around the site. One year, a trap on a small area of heathland attracted 13 July Belles - the commonest moth in the trap! All the other traps attracted one between them, so it probably doesn't stray far from its ideal habitat.
Both the "Belles" are gorse feeders and are moths of heaths and moors. "Warm heathland of the subatlantic type" says one book. Both are doing badly in the east of the country and have much bigger populations in the west - especially Wales and the counties surrounding Devon. The Field Guide says "identification problems bedevil the records of both Lead Belle and July Belle". Quite right, and the Atlas even has a map for the "agg." at the back. You should suspect Lead Belle if the black central spot is "tear-shaped" or "comma shaped" and is equidistant between the two cross lines, rather than a small dot closer to the proximal line. A pale wavy cross line at the edge of the wing may be present, and moths flying in May or the first half of June might also suggest this species. These would need dissection for confirmation. I think Lead Belle is a prettier-looking beast. I don't think it's lead-coloured at all, in fact our subspecies of July Belle is plumbaria which means lead-coloured. Confused? You should be.
Retained Specimen / Photograph will be Required.
Recorded in 44 (22%) of 200 10k Squares. First Recorded in 1846. Last Recorded in 2022. Additional Stats