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Gold Spangle
Autographa bractea ([Denis & Schifferm?ller], 1775)
Noctuidae: Plusiinae
2444 / 73.018
Photo © Paul Kipling, 23 Jul 2010,  NZ20:Richmond, VC65

Similar Yorkshire Species: None
Forewing: 18-21mm
Flight: July - August
Foodplant:   Herbaceous plants
Red List: Least Concern (LC)
GB Status: Common / Immigrant
Former Status: Common (Immigrant)
Verification Grade:  Adult: 2

Yorkshire Status: Uncommon and increasingly local resident.

The 2020 lockdown summary paints a good picture of what was happening at the time. 2021 and 22 were reasonable years for this species, but in the 2023 report we wrote "we said last year this species was in slow decline. This year it looks like a rather fast decline, as this is an all-time low [just 18 records so the worst year for ages]. There were no records at all from low-lying areas in the south and east of the county." So a rather worrying situation for what is a rather attractive moth.

2020 (CHF): Gold Spangle was evidently not a common moth in Porritt's day. He noted that it was much commoner in some neighbouring counties and "ought to be taken oftener in similar localities within our boundary". He noted it from York, Pateley Bridge and at Doncaster ("very rare"). By the 1950s the situation had changed and there were records from far more sites. By the time of Sutton and Beaumont (1989) it was "widely distributed and locally common" and other comments noted "it may be expanding its range in Yorkshire. This fine moth is a distinctive feature of the northern fauna and until recently was almost unknown in southern England". Rothamsted data showed a stable picture, and surprisingly still does. I say "surprisingly" because since the 1990s, records have gradually declined in Yorkshire.

The recent Atlas quotes the stable Rothamsted figures for abundance and charts a significant decline in distribution, but only 34% (1970-2016) or even less, 22% (2000-2016), in other words not much. It does point out some "range retraction at its southern edge in the English Midlands". It all sounds fairly unremarkable. I think however that the situation is far more dramatic than this. It has completely disappeared from the south-east of England. In Yorkshire last year we did not have a single record from VC61, from the east of VC63 and from the usual sites in the middle of the county. In other words, it has almost completely deserted lowland areas. Looking at this further, our Yorkshire data show that the average altitude of all records has increased dramatically, and it has moved upwards by 3.7 metres per year in the 20 years from 1998 to 2017. Only Lunar Thorn, Autumn Green Carpet, Broom Moth, Pale Eggar and Red Sword-grass have moved upwards at a faster rate, a change most likely caused by warming temperatures. In 2020 we received only 33 records of 36 moths from 24 sites, so virtually all records were of single moths. On the database, 82% of records are of single moths (suggesting perhaps that it might not come strongly to light), but even so, counts of five to 15 have been not particularly unusual, and at one site above Pateley Bridge in 2008, 40 were caught at light. Having said all that, I had two in my trap in 2020 and I'm at 35m above sea level [Hutton Conyers, VC65], so perhaps all is not lost!

Recorded in 121 (61%) of 200 10k Squares.
First Recorded in 1842.
Last Recorded in 2023.
Additional Stats

Latest 5 Records
Date#VC10k Area
18/08/2023162TA08 - Scarborough
15/08/2023162TA08 - Scarborough
09/08/2023163SE01 - Marsden
08/08/2023165SE19 - Leyburn / Catterick Garrison
07/08/2023164SE06 - Grassington / Hebden
Further info: Autographa bractea
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