Orthosia (Quaker) Moth identification
March is a month neglected by many of Nottinghamshire's moth trappers. The evenings and nights still tend to be on the cold side of being mild, but there are still moths flying and waiting to be caught. This lack of observer coverage, means that we still don't have the complete picture of many early Spring moths distribution.
The Orthosias (Quakers) are no exception and despite most being common moths in the county, there are virtually no records from sites east of the River Trent and south of Newark.

Nottinghamshire distribution and range

From the records we have, most of the Orthosias are found in a broad band, running north from Nottingham, to the far north-east of the county (shown right) taking in most of Nottinghamshire's well forested areas. They predominantly favour deciduous woodland, but many species can and do occur in suburban gardens.

While most Quakers are common moths, Powdered Quaker is certainly uncommon and is a moth we have personally yet to trap ourselves, even after running an MV light at various sites since 2003. The Idle Valley NR is certainly the Nottinghamshire stronghold of this moth, but there are a handful of records from the Sherwood Forest area.

Lead-coloured Drab is easily the rarest of the seven Orthosias, being found at just four Nottinghamshire sites, of which two produce records annually. The Idle Valley NR and Bevercotes Pit Wood have both produced records of Lead-coloured Drab in the past few years.

Orthosia identification

The relatively small number of species flying in the early months of the year, allows plenty of time to quickly learn the five commoner species. Clouded Drab, Hebrew Character, Common, Small and Twin-spotted Quaker, will all soon be trapped at most Nottinghamshire woodlands, especially in the dark shaded area on the above map.

In the following species descriptions, we have listed the main identification features to help those new to moths and moth trapping. The most likely confusion for the beginner, can be Common Quakers at the smaller-end of the size scale, which at first may be mistaken for Small Quaker.

73.242 .... B&F 2188.... Clouded Drab Orthosia incerta (Hufnagel, 1766)
Nottinghamshire status and distribution: From the information we have, Clouded Drab has a similar Nottinghamshire range to Common Quaker and is generally commonest in deciduous woodland, but does occur in gardens. Adults can frequently be found nectaring on Sallow blossom after dark. There are few records from the Trent Valley area, which may only be due to a lack of moth trapping in the early months of the year.

Flight period: Usually from early March, with moths occurring until around mid-May. Much depends on the weather conditions and Spring temperatures in February.

Identification features: Larger than most Common Quakers, this moth generally lives up to its name, being characteristically dull and poorly marked. However, there are occasional exceptions to the rule, with some individuals being quite well marked.

Ground-colour of the fore-wings is often variable, ranging from a dull grey to reddish brown, with the majority of moths being grey. Some adults have an almost textured mottling to the fore-wings, whilst others are characteristically plain.

73.244 .... B&F 2187.... Common Quaker Orthosia cerasi (Fabricius, 1775)
Nottinghamshire status and distribution: Very common and probably found across much of the county. It is found across most rural habitats, including gardens, but is like most of the Quakers is certainly commonest in deciduous woodland.

This is certainly a common moth at Sherwood Forest and all other woodland sites where we have trapped and large numbers are often attracted to MV light.

Flight period: Generally flies from early March through to early May.

Identification features: The large, rounded oval and kidney-marks are outlined whitish, although this may be quite faint on some individuals. The smooth outer cross-line is more conspicuous than on any of the other species featured here and will be more distinctive than the outlines of the oval and kidney-marks.

Often shows a degree of variation in brown ground colour and is smaller than most Clouded Drabs.

Although some individuals can be at the smaller end of the size scale, Common Quaker is always noticeably larger than Small Quaker.

73.245 .... B&F 2182 .... Small Quaker Orthosia cruda ([Denis & Schiffermüller], 1775)
Nottinghamshire status and distribution: Common. Has a similar Nottinghamshire distribution to both the preceding species, which is just as likely to be down to a lack of observer coverage across the county as a whole, rather than being genuinely restricted in range.

Small Quaker is predominantly a moth of woodland, but does occur in other rural habitats and is likely to occur in some suburban gardens.

Flight period: Flies from late February through to early May.

Identification features: Easily distinguished from all the other featured species on small size alone, always much smaller than even a small Common Quaker.

The ground-colour of the forewing often shows variation between individuals, with a fine dusting of black scales which is illustrated on the moth shown below-right.

The oval is small and indistinct, while the kidney-mark is considerably narrower than on Common Quaker.

73.246 .... B&F 2185 .... Lead-coloured Drab Orthosia populeti (Fabricius, 1781)
Nottinghamshire status and distribution: A real Nottinghamshire rarity and currently restricted to just two regular sites - Bevercotes Pit Wood and the Idle Valley NR, where it has been attracted to MV light.

Flight period: March to April is the known flight period.

Identification features: Lead-coloured Drab is slightly smaller than Clouded Drab and until this moth is seen for the first time, many examples of Clouded Drabs may be mistaken for this species.

Once seen however, the experienced moth trapper will instantly suspect Lead-coloured Drab, just on general appearance alone.

The antennae of the male will appear to be thicker than that of male Clouded Drab and inspection with a hand lens will show the antennae of male Lead-coloured Drab to have slight projections, which Clouded Drab males don't have.

The ground-colour of the forewing is usually leaden grey and both the oval and kidney-mark are outlined. The outer cross-line is usually broken, with small brown or blackish marks along the inner edge.

73.247 .... B&F 2186 .... Powdered Quaker Orthosia gracilis (Denis & Schiffermüller, 1775)
Nottinghamshire status and distribution: Apparently common in Nottinghamshire, although the number of records we have available would indicate otherwise.

Its range is very much in line with the other Orthosias, with apparently no recent records south-east of the River Trent. Usually a moth of marshy areas and damp woodland, but is known to occur in gardens.

Flight period: Flies slightly later than the other Orthosias, from April to May.

Identification features: Once seen for the first time, Powdered Quaker is a distinctive moth, with an attractive light sandy ground-colour of the forewing, often with a very fine dusting of black scales.

The oval is small and not entirely obvious on some individuals. The kidney-mark is more distinctive and fairly large.

The pale outer cross-line is relatively straight and faintly edged with light brown, with a row of black dots between the outer cross-line and kidney-mark.

73.249 .... B&F 2190 .... Hebrew Character Orthosia gothica (Linnaeus, 1758)
Nottinghamshire status and distribution: Common and found in most parts of the county, although not well recorded from south-eastern areas of Nottinghamshire.

It is found in a wide range of habitats, from woodland to urban gardens.

Flight period: March to early May.

Identification features: Hebrew Character is probably the easiest of the seven Orthosias to identify.

The black mark, centrally positioned on the forewing, is partially indented by the oval and is diagnostic, being found on none of the other Orthosias.

The ground-colour of the forewing is comprised of various shades of grey and reddish-brown patches. Some individuals often show a purplish suffusion to the forewing ground-colour.

73.250 .... B&F 2189 .... Twin-spotted Quaker Anorthoa munda ([Denis & Schiffermüller], 1775)
Nottinghamshire status and distribution: Has the same Nottinghamshire range as all the common Orthosias and is probably common across most of the county.

Most common in deciduous woodland, but also recorded occasionally on heathland adjacent to deciduous woodland in the Sherwood Forest area.

Flight period: Flies from March to April.

Identification features: The two black dots/marks on the inner edge of the outer cross-line are diagnostic of this moth. On some individuals, these marks can be less distinct, such as the moth in the photograph below left.

The ground-colour of the forewings is usually a light, sandy brown and the oval and kidney-marks are quite large and pale outlined.

The antennae of the male is visibly feathered.