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Sycamore
Acronicta aceris (Linnaeus, 1758)
Noctuidae: Acronictinae
2279 / 73.039
Photo © Dave Williamson

Similar Yorkshire Species
Poplar Grey
Subacronicta megacephala
Forewing: 18-22mm
Flight: June - August
Foodplant:   Sycamore, Field Maple, maples, Horse-chestnut
Red List: Least Concern (LC)
GB Status: Common
Former Status: Local
Verification Grade:  Adult: 1

Yorkshire Status: Rare and local resident.

Sutton & Beaumont, 1989: This species has never been included in the official County list. Records do exist, but because this species is so easily misidentified we do not feel able to accept these records. No specimens or photographs have been traced. Unless confirmation can be found this species cannot be added to the Yorkshire list.

Beaumont, 2002:

VC61. Bridlington, 29.7.1996 (KAB); Spurn, 29.6.1999, three 27.6-1.7.2000 (BRS); Kilnsea, 2.7.1999, 30.7.2000 (DPB). NEW VICE-COUNTY RECORD.

VC62. Levisham, 3.7.1992; Strensall, 12.7.1992 (GBS) (Jackson, 1993d). NEW COUNTY RECORD.

Argus 63, 2011:

VC64. Settle, 15.7.2011 (RW). NEW VICE-COUNTY RECORD.

2012 (CHF): This species was first found in London in the late 19th century but was rare until the 1950s. There are unconfirmed records in Yorkshire in the 1960s but the first confirmed record was from Levisham in 1992. This was followed by more records in VC62 and the east of VC61 but records died out at many of the old sites and a new wave of colonisation started in the Spurn area in 1999 and in the south of VC63 in 2006. The population has grown and is now expanding steadily north-west. This is mirrored on the national distribution map which shows a line of advance roughly from the Humber to the Severn. A record from Settle in 2011 was well ahead of this line and rather unexpected. This moth now looks likely to turn up in any part of the county. Take care not to confuse it with the rather similar Poplar Grey. Look out for the spectacular larva which feeds on various broadleaved trees and not just sycamore.

Argus 90, 2020:

VC65. Hutton Conyers, 17.7.2020 (CHF). NEW VICE-COUNTY RECORD.

2020 (CHF): It is not obvious how long Sycamore has been found in the county. There are one or two old records in the 1960s but they are thought to be unreliable. Some of the dates are rather vague - for example I have one record dated "1930-81" from the Malton area. None of these records are acceptable as it is an easy moth to misidentify - the confusion species being Poplar Grey - and there are no specimens or photos. It is a recent colonist to the UK and was first found in London in the late 19th century but was apparently rare until the 1950s when it started to move north and west. The first records that we can be sure about were in 1992 at Levisham and Strensall Common, followed by more records in VC62 and the east of VC61. As often happens these early pioneers disappeared; there were no more from VC62 and a fresh invasion started in the Spurn area in 1999. This was followed by colonisation of the south of VC63 in 2006. Numbers built up steadily until 2013 since when they have fluctuated quite a lot - presumably its parasitoids caught up with it. The range has been slowly expanding. One in Settle in 2011 was a wandering moth way out of area, but the core population has consolidated, particularly in VC63, and is doing well. In 2020 there was evidence of a range expansion north-west with several new sites on the periphery of its range including a jump to near Skipton and to my garden in the south-east of VC65. So when interpreting the map, the north-eastern records in VC62 and the north of VC61 are the first wave of invasion in the 1990s, and the record in the west of VC64 is the early Settle wanderer. So ignoring these gives us a nice line of advance heading north west.

It seems that it can now be found almost anywhere in the centre, south and east of the county and it will be interesting to see whether its rather stop/start progress will continue. In 2020 we received 51 records of 52 moths from 32 sites, so all except one were of single moths. The maximum ever caught in one trapping session is four which makes me wonder if it more common than we think and just isn't strongly attracted to light. Most of our records are from gardens and the main garden food plant is often horse chestnut rather than the usual sycamore or field maple. We commonly get records of the rather spectacular larva - 14 records on the database including two this year.

Recorded in 62 (31%) of 200 10k Squares.
First Recorded in 1930.
Last Recorded in 2023.

Latest 5 Records
Date#VC10k Area
07/09/2023161TA03 - Beverley (S) / Cottingham
02/09/2023+64SE35 - Harrogate / Knaresborough
28/08/2023164SE13 - Bradford
22/08/2023161TA03 - Beverley (S) / Cottingham
09/08/2023+64SE33 - Leeds
Further info: Acronicta aceris
 
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