Spruce, Pine, Grey Pine and Juniper Carpet identification
The Autumn months bring with them a difficult quartet of moths, which can sometimes prove to be tricky to identify. Although we say quartet, its really just a trio of moths which can be troublesome to anyone new to moth trapping.
Pine Carpet, Grey Pine Carpet, Spruce Carpet and Juniper Carpet, are all (or can be) extremely similar, but Pine Carpet should provide much less of a challenge by having a distinctive reddish brown ground colouration to the wings.

Preferred habitat

There's no doubt that those living near to commercial forestry plantations, will trap at least three of the four species (Pine, Grey Pine and Spruce Carpets) at some time.

Juniper Carpet is perhaps the most likely to be encountered when living in urban, or suburban areas, after increasing its UK range as a result of ornamental Junipers being used in garden planting schemes.

Pine Carpet has one extended generation each year, Grey Pine Carpet and Spruce Carpet both have two generations a year, where Juniper Carpet has an extended single generation. All four species appear in greatest numbers from September - October.

    Identification of Spruce, Grey Pine, Juniper and Pine Carpet

As with many moths, there are always some differences in markings, which can make one species superficially similar to another. So we have tried to help by pointing out the more distinctive features to aid identification. As we mention, some differences can be subtle.

The two photographs on the left, show a characteristic difference used to determine Juniper Carpet from Grey Pine Carpet, which is the sharper 'V' indentation to the basal side of the cross-band.

Differences in the appearance of the cross-band, is the key to seperating Spruce, Grey Pine and Juniper Carpets. The ground colouration of Pine Carpet is usually enough to distinguish that species from the others, but again, there is a distinctive indentation in the cross-band of Pine Carpet.
70.077 .... B&F 1767 Pine Carpet Pennithera firmata (Hübner, 1822) .... Formerly known as Thera firmata
Identification features: In general, this is the easiest of the four species to identify, based on the ground colouration of the wings alone and should not really pose any real identification difficulties.

Most specimens we have caught, have a reddish brown ground colour, which in some lights appears to have a distinct purple element to it.

The diagnostic feature however, is the sharply indented cross-band, which narrows the cross-band along to the trailing edge of the wing.

Nottinghamshire distribution: Common around the Pine forested areas of north Nottinghamshire.

Flight period: July to November in one extended generation, but with greatest numbers from October onwards.

70.079 .... B&F 1769 Spruce Carpet Thera britannica (Turner H J, 1925)
Identification features: Very similar to Grey Pine Carpet, making seperation of the two often difficult. Ground colour of wings variable, between light and dark grey.

Spruce Carpet is often more heavily marked than Grey Pine Carpet, giving it a 'cloudier' appearance than the other three species. Both edges of central cross-band on Spruce Carpet, usually less smooth than Grey Pine Carpet.

Nottinghamshire distribution: Largely confined to the Pine forested areas of the county, though it should be expected to occur in urban areas. Less commonly recorded at MV light than either Pine Carpet or Grey Pine Carpet.

Flight period: May to July and then again in September to November, in two generations.

70.081 .... B&F 1768 Grey Pine Carpet Thera obeliscata (Hübner, 1787)
Identification features: Ground colour of wings on Grey Pine Carpet is extremely variable and the cross-band on some examples can be very dark to almost black.

The cross-band also tends to narrow towards the trailing edge of the wing, the last section usually being dark at the trailing edge.

Nottinghamshire distribution: Grey Pine Carpet is generally much more widespread across Nottinghamshire.

Although there seems to be a sparsity of records east of the River Trent, this does coincide with the distribution of commercial forestry in the county.

Flight period: Similar to Spruce Carpet, with adults flying from May to July and then again in September to November, in two generations.

70.082 .... B&F 1771 Juniper Carpet Thera juniperata (Linnaeus, 1758)
Identification features: General background colouration of light grey/brown to wings, which at first glance gives the appearance of a faded/worn Grey Pine Carpet.

Basal side of cross-band, often with a small but distinct 'V' like indentation. One to three diagonal dashes towards tip of wing, often reaching central band.

Nottinghamshire distribution: We have little information on the current distribution of Juniper Carpet in Nottinghamshire. Formerly restricted to a small number of localities in the UK, Juniper Carpet has undergone a huge expansion of range through the planting of ornamental Junipers in gardens. It is most likely to occur in urban areas, but has been recorded from Budby South Forest.

Flight period: A single generation flying from September to November.