Tony Simpson

In 1878 Dr. J.H. Wood, who was a Herefordshire General Practitioner and amateur entomologist who lived at Tarrington, first identified a small tortricid moth, which was named in his honour by Barrett, who wrote its scientific description from his specimens. In 1892 Wood discovered its life history. He wrote in the Victoria County History of 1908 "orchards, the moth at rest on the trunks of the apple trees and the larva (more frequent) mining the leaves of mistletoe. There is no record of its having occurred outside the county, and it is apparently unknown abroad". Bradley and Tremewan (1979) give its known range as "Northern and central Europe to U.S.S.R." In Britain it has only ever been found in Herefordshire, Worcestershire, Gloucestershire, Monmouthshire, Somerset, and in just over the border in Warwickshire.

I have found the larvae on mistletoe on pear and apple trees in an old orchard at Drakes Broughton in May 1980, and I bred seven moths. It was also found on mistletoe on a planted Rowan tree beside the Droitwich Road in Claines, Worcester in May 1980, adjacent to some old apple trees in an allotment. These trees have now gone. I have not found it anywhere else, but Michael Harper has found it very locally in a few old orchards in Herefordshire. Most of the old orchards in both counties have now been grubbed up and this is a very threatened habitat. Surveys of mistletoe suggest that the plant is doing well despite the loss of orchards because it is able to live on other trees and shrubs, especially Poplars, Limes, and Hawthorns. We do not know however if the moth can survive on mistletoe in these situations, and I feel we should try to survey mistletoe for the presence of woodiana in the two counties.

This is easier said than done however! The small green larva mines in the leaves of mistletoe from the autumn. At first the mines are very inconspicuous, but in April and early May it makes inflated blister-like mines in the leaves, which are initially pale but when vacated go dark brown. Later in June the mined leaves fall off, and so old mines are usually no longer visible after this time. Finding the moth resting on tree trunks would be a much less easy way of finding it. Therefore the mines would only be likely to be found at the end of April and May. The other problem is that most of the mistletoe clumps are out of reach from the ground without the use of a ladder. Mistletoe on larger trees such as Poplars and Limes would be almost entirely out of reach to all practical purposes. One way, once one could confidently identify the mines, might be to use binoculars to find them on the higher trees, or at least use this method as a survey to identify potential mines from below. This method has not yet been shown to be useful and accurate however.
We would like to ask recorders to look for possible mined leaves in April and May, and if they are accessible (usually in orchard or garden fruit trees), pick a few and keep them, and give or send them to us for confirmation. Please do not take any risks by climbing trees, and avoid going up tall trees altogether! If you have or see any likely mistletoe mines please give us a ring. For Worcestershire: Tony Simpson on 01886 832637, and for Herefordshire Michael Harper on 01531 632030.

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