Erebidae : Lymantriinae
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Photo © Ben Sale,  Stevenage, Hertfordshire (02/07/20)

Immature stages

Similar Herts & Middlesex Species
Yellow-tail
Euproctis similis
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Brown-tail
Euproctis chrysorrhoea

(Linnaeus, 1758) 2029 / 72.012

Hertfordshire Notes: Our earliest dated record is from Haileybury (Bowyer, 1888) and this may or may not pre-date one from East Barnet (Gillum) given by Gibbs (1902) in the Victoria County History. Nineteenth and early twentieth-century records are summarised in list form by Foster (1937) and in addition to these two are Stevenage (Matthews), Tring (Rothschild), Bishops Stortford (Mellows), Watford (Heaton), Letchworth, 1910 (Everett) and the Berkhamsted School list, this last almost certainly in Buckinghamshire. The Bishops Stortford record by Chas Mellows must have been made post-1912 when he came to teach at the college there; the Rothschild record would also have been from that same era. Thus it appears that at the tail end of the nineteenth century the Brown-tail was present, but probably rare in the county. There are no further reports until Jim Reid recorded one at Therfield Heath on 2nd July 1973; the year coincides exactly with the start of the sudden colossal and problematic outbreak of larvae in eastern London and the record relates to a wandering male. At Totteridge, where trapping had been continuous since 1954, the first arrival was a male on 3rd July 1976 (the very hot summer) and a second arrived in July 1977, but there were none in 1978 or 1979. These moths were very probably wanderers from the east London area, as was the male in Bishops Stortford on 25th July 1978 (Charles Watson) and another male in Birchanger Wood on 31st July 1980 (Geoffrey Sell). Barry Goater records a male at Bushey on 13th July 1983 and another male at the nearby Haberdasher's Aske's School, Aldenham, on 24th July 1985. Back in Bishops Stortford, where I commenced nightly trapping in October 1986, I caught my first there, a male, on 9th July 1988 with a second male on 23rd July in the same year. Subsequent records are equally few and far between, from Rickmansworth, 12th July 1990 (Ric Sandifer), Much Hadham, 29th July 1991 (Colin Plant), St Albans, 20th July 1995 (Wendy Hatton), Sawbridgeworth Marsh, a male on 29th July 1995 (Colin Plant), Bishops Stortford, 22nd July 1995 and 3rd June 1997 (James Fish and Julian Reeves). Some encounters may have gone unreported, but there are no records in 1998 or 1999, just two in 2000, two in 2001, one in 2002 and one in 2003. A peak of twelve separate reports herald from 2004, but there were only three from 2005. Finally, in 2006 there were ten records. Repeat records in the Bishops Stortford area may suggest a low level of residency, but no larval nests have ever been found here and it is far more likely, given the river valley setting of the town, that the records all relate to wanderers from further south in London. Happily, we do not knowingly have any records of female moths. Larval records for the county as a whole number just two and are restricted to the southern fringes.
The larvae bear hairs that cause an urticating rash in humans and present a considerable medical problem. Local authorities have a duty to destroy larval nests if they are found but, regrettably lack the specialist knowledge to make a correct identification and this sometimes leads to other species being sprayed; this could, potentially, include the extremely rare : Small Egger, which also lives gregariously in silk webs. It might be wise if competent lepidopterists destroy larval nests of Brown-tail in public places to prevent subsequent indiscriminate damage by others.

Middlesex Notes: Widespread and common, with occasional population irruptions, the last one of significance being during the 1970s.

Recorded in 33 (80%) of 41 10k Squares.
First Recorded in 1905.
Last Recorded in 2023.
Additional Stats

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List Species Records   [Show All Latest]
Latest 5 Records
Date#VC10k Area
15/09/2023120TL23 - Letchworth / Baldock
15/09/2023120TL23 - Letchworth / Baldock
02/09/202310020TL23 - Letchworth / Baldock
10/08/2023120TL34 - Royston (S)
09/08/2023120TL21 - Welwyn Garden City
Show Details | 1990 to 2023 | 2000 to 2023 | Graph Key
Express Record Brown-tail
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VC20 VC21 VC21 VC20
Click Map for Details
Forewing: M 16-20mm. F 18-19mm.
Flight: One generation July-Aug.
Foodplant:   Various shrubs and trees; Bramble, Hawthorn, Blackthorn, Dog-rose, sallows, Plum, Apple, Pear, cherries and Sea Buckthorn
Red List: Least Concern (LC)
GB Status: Common
Former Status: Local
Verification Grade:  Adult: 2
 Immature Adult   [Show Flight Weeks]
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