Rare micromoth Anacampsis temerella rediscovered on the Sefton Coast after 37 years

Figure 1. The first Anacampsis temerella to emerge on 15.06.21 from larva on Salix repens at Ainsdale NNR 28.05.21. (c) Ben Smart

Anacampsis temerella is a rarely recorded, inconspicuous member of the Gelechiidae family, with a mainly coastal distribution and a Nationally Notable A conservation status (Figure 1). It is usually found as a larva in spinnings on the larval foodplant Creeping Willow (Salix repens) in late May and June.

In Lancashire, A. temerella has historically been recorded from the dunes at Formby, Freshfield, Ainsdale, Crosby and Lytham St Annes. However, its status on the Lancashire coast in general, and the Sefton Coast in particular, is of great concern. The last record of A. temerella from the Sefton coast was of three moths from the Formby area in 1984, and most recent UK record is of an adult moth found at Lytham St. Annes on Lancashire’s Fylde coast in 2013.

Following consultation with National Gelechiidae Recording Scheme Organiser, Steve Palmer, The Tanyptera Project decided A. temerella was worthy of a focused search and in 2021 I was commissioned to carry out a survey on The Sefton Coast.

The survey was carried out by looking for the larval stage of the moth in spinnings of S. repens (a typical plants of the fixed dunes) (Figure 2). Due to the similarity of the larva of the very common moth Anacampsis populella, and the lack of any photographs showing A. temerella larvae (Figure 3), larvae had to be reared to imago before identity could be absolutely confirmed.

Figure 2. Larval feeding signs on Salix repens at Ainsdale NNR 22.06.21. (c) Ben Smart

Figure 3. Larva of Anacampsis temerella, from spinning on Salix repens at Ainsdale LNR 11.06.21. (c) Ben Smart








I made eight visits to Ainsdale Dunes to look for larval spinnings between May 28th 2021 and June 22nd 2021.

Figure 4. Comparison of Anacampsis temerella (left) and Anacampsis populella (right), both emerged 20.06.21 from Salix repens at Ainsdale NNR 28.05.21. (c) Ben Smart

The first moth appeared on 15th June 2021 from a larva collected on 28th May 2021 at the Ainsdale Dunes NNR, thus confirming that the moth is still present on the Sefton Coast, after an absence of records of 37 years.

So far, twenty moths of A. temerella have emerged from the spinnings collected from the Ainsdale Dunes area, split between the NNR and the Ainsdale and Birkdale Sandhills LNR, suggesting that the colonies in the dunes remain reasonably strong.

Following the successful emergences, it was now possible to safely differentiate the larva of A. temerella from that of A. populella (adult shown in Figure 4), as larvae had been photographed out of the spinnings, meaning they could be correlated with the resulting moths. This meant that A. temerella larvae could be recorded without the requirement to rear to imago.

A secondary survey was also made of other Lepidoptera feeding on S. repens, and this turned out to be quite an impressive list, with larvae of twenty species so far recorded on the foodplant.

A survey report will be made available via this website in due course.

Anacampsis temerella at Ainsdale Dunes NNR 2021. (c) Ben Smart