Species of the Month - May 2016

Common Heath (moth)

Ematurga atomaria

Ematurga atomaria

This is probably the commonest day-flying moth to be seen on heathery ground in May and June.  The markings are somewhat variable but it is easily recognised if you get a good view.

Ematurga atomaria   Ematurga atomaria

Front and rear view of a male Common Heath with broadly feathered antennae.  The male has less contrast between the wing markings and the background than the female.

Ematurga atomaria

Female Common Heath with non-feathered antennae.  Females are more often seen than males in my experience.

Ematurga atomaria   Ematurga atomaria

The Common Heath can lead you quite a dance before it settles and then is often behind bits of vegetation making it difficult to photograph.

The only similar-looking species is Latticed Heath which I have never seen or had reported, but which could occur at the same time of year in the same habitats.  It has lines going up and down the wing as well as across it, to create a latticed effect.

Ematurga atomaria

The caterpillar is about in July and August.  It feeds mainly on heathers but also plants of the pea family such as clover and Birdsfoot Trefoil.  This one is on a birch twig for some reason, but heather was growing nearby.  It's the only one I've ever found; they're probably better camouflaged when on heather.  It was confirmed by Roy Leverton as a Common Heath larva.

Please send in your Common Heath sightings using the form below, or email sightings@lnhg.org.uk with the details if you prefer.  If you are not sure of the identity of your moth, please send a photo to sightings@lnhg.org.uk, or put one on the LNHG Facebook page.

Date of sighting 
Grid reference 
Number seen 
Name of finder 
Your name (if different) 
Email (not needed if I already know it!) 
Any other details, e.g quantity, habitat   


By filling in this form you agree that the information contained in this form may be collated and disseminated manually or electronically for environmental decision-making, education, research and other public benefit uses in accordance with the LNHG data access policy.  Your email address will not form part of the record and will not be passed on to anyone.

Carl Farmer
LNHG Biological Records Manager

Sightings so far

12 May: One seen by Sallie Jack in Glen Suileag, near Fassfern

Ematurga atomaria

18 May: This one was photographed by Jan Hamilton in Glen Etive.

24 May: Seen by Sallie in Glen Nevis

26 May: Several on Ardnish peninsula, Arisaig, by Sallie


Note you can still send in records for past species of the month.  Here are the previous May species:

May 2015 - Orange Tip
May 2014 - Large Red Damselfly
May 2013 - Early Purple Orchid
May 2012 - Small Copper
May 2011 - Green Hairstreak

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All photos and other content copyright Carl Farmer except where stated.  Last photo on page is Jan Hamilton.