Plume moths in Nottinghamshire
  These unusual moths really cannot be mistaken for anything else. As a family they are easily distinguished and should present no problem at all, but the identification to individual species is usually much more difficult.

Known as Plume moths, these characteristic moths are members of the Pterophoridae family and many peoples first encounter with them, will most likely be by finding our commonest species, Emmelina monodactyla on a fence during the day.

At rest and in flight, Plume moths are not really recognisable as moths at all. They show no obvious wing shape and the public (even if they recognise them as an insect at all) often presume that they are a type of Crane Fly.

Known Nottinghamshire species

From what we can find, there are certainly 18 species on the Nottinghamshire list. Nationally the current Pterophoridae species list is 34, so Nottinghamshire appears to be relatively well represented.

Nottinghamshire's commoner Plumes are without any doubt, Emmelina monodactyla, Pterophorus pentadactyla, Amblyptilia acanthadactyla and Platyptilia gonodactyla. The latter species can be expected anywhere Coltsfoot (Tussilago) grows, but the other two Plumes can be expected at a moth trap operated even well within urban locations. Pterophorus pentadactyla is the most easily identifiable of all our Plumes. Brilliant white in colour, the wings consist of three, finely feathered 'fingers'. It is another fairly common moth and will likely turn up in most peoples moth trap at some point in the year. Please note that several species have recently undergone name changes.

Amblyptilia punctidactyla (Haworth, 1811)   Amblyptilia acanthadactyla (Hübner, 1813)
Gillmeria pallidactyla (Haworth, 1811)   Platyptilia gonodactyla (Denis & Schiffermüller, 1775)
Stenoptilia bipunctidactyla (Scopoli, 1763)   Stenoptilia pterodactyla (Linnaeus, 1761)
Stenoptilia zophodactylus (Duponchel, 1840)   Emmelina monodactyla (Linnaeus, 1758)
Hellinsia osteodactylus (Zeller, 1841)   Marasmarcha lunaedactyla (Haworth, 1811)
Pterophorus pentadactyla (Linnaeus, 1758)   Adaina microdactyla (Hübner, 1813)
Nottinghamshire also has several records of more uncommon/rare Plumes. In July 2010, we trapped what appears to be Nottinghamshire's first ever record of Marasmarcha lunaedactyla at Clipstone Old Quarter, which certainly surprised us, as this was never an expected species and then found this moth breeding on Hills and Holes SSSI at Market Warsop in July 2012. But even more surprising is the historical record of Merrifielda tridactyla from Sherwood Forest around the turn of the last century, which seems more remarkable for a moth who's larva feeds on Thyme growing in chalk or limestone areas.

Taking the view that the record is sound (the recorder was R.E. Brameld) then other Plume moths with a more southerly distribution could well turn up, or already be present at sites in the county. Pterophorus galactodactyla is another rare Plume, found predominantly in the Brecklands of East Anglia, but at a few other sites, scattered across the southern UK. J.W. Carr in his book "The invertebrate fauna of Nottinghamshire" lists a record from Wellow Park in 1900 (Becher) of larvae bred from the leaves of Burdock and it may be worth searching to see if this moth is still present at the site.

Right:- The known UK distribution of Emmelina monodactyla, as depicted on an NBN Gateway map. Despite being a common moth, the patchiness of its UK range is purely down to observer coverage and recording, rather than the moth actually being absent from many parts of the UK.

Visual determination of many adult Plume moths is difficult and in some cases, may be better determined by genitalia dissection. Searching for larvae/feeding signs on the correct foodplants and then rearing them to adult in captiity, is often a better way of determining the more difficult species. Correct identification cannot always rely on wing shape, pattern or markings alone.
Flight periods and larval foodplants

The following table gives the known Nottinghamshire species, flight period and larval foodplants. Determining what species could be present on site can be done effectively during daylight, simply by being aware of the range of plants on site, but this should also be part of a recorders standard practice anyway.

................................................................   Flight period   Larval food-plants
Capperia britanniodactylus   June - July   Wood Sage (Teucrium scorodonia)
Marasmarcha lunaedactyla   July   Rest-harrow (Ononis sp)
Amblyptilia acanthadactyla   July, then from September onwards and over-wintering till the following Spring   Cranesbills and cultivated Geraniums (Geranium spp.), Goosefoots (Chenopodium spp.), Heathers (Calluna and Erica spp.), and Mints (Menthaspp.)
Amblyptilia punctidactyla   July, then from September onwards and over-wintering till the following Spring   Hedge Woundwort (Stachys sylvatica)
Platyptilia gonodactyla   May - June, with a second generation during the Autumn   Coltsfoot (Tussilago)
Gillmeria pallidactyla   June - July   Yarrow (Achillea spp)
Gillmeria ochrodactyla   July   Tansy (Tanacetum vulgare)
Stenoptilia zophodactylus   July - September   Centaury (Centaurium erythraea), Yellow-wort (Blackstonia)
Stenoptilia bipunctidactyla   Late May - early October, in two overlapping generations   Devil's-bit scabious (Succisa pratensis) and Field Scabious (Knautia arvensis)
Stenoptilia pterodactyla   June - August   Germander Speedwell (Veronica chamaedrys)
Merrifieldia tridactyla   June - July   Thyme (Thymus spp)
Merrifieldia leucodactyla   June - August   Thyme (Thymus spp)
Pterophorus pentadactyla   June - July   Bindweed (Convolvulus)
Porrittia galactodactyla   June - July   Burdock (Arctium minus)
Adaina microdactyla   May-June, with a second generation in August   Hemp Agrimony (Eupatorium cannabinum)
Hellinsia osteodactylus   July   Goldenrod (Solidago virgaurea) and Ragwort (Senecio spp)
Oidaematophorus lithodactyla   July - August   Fleabane (Pulicaria dysenterica) and Ploughman's Spikenard (Inula conyza)
Emmelina monodactyla   Virtually throughout the year. Adults over-winter and are common in early Spring   Bindweed (Convolvulus)