Coll The Coll Magazine

Article by K.P. B (1985)

COLLoquis - on various Coll activities. The Wee Scalie-winged Beasties of Coll.
COLLoquies - on various Coll activities
The Wee Scalie-winged Beasties of Coll

Most people are familiar with the day-flying lepidoptera, namely the butterflies, but few are as well acquainted with their nocturnal cousins the moths-those 'wee braun furry things that practise kamikasi about the light.'

So far we have definite records of some 300 species of moths from Coll. The smallest ones are so small (wingspan 3mm) that even the Clothes Moth seems like a giant. Their caterpillars are so minute that they can feed inside leaves, eating out passages between the upper and lower surfaces. You may have noticed their scribble-like mines in the leaves of Rose and Rowan on the island. The Fox Moth and its close relative the Northern Eggar Moth are probably the largest resident moths, being the size of the Small Tortoiseshell Butterfly but much heavier in the body. I emphasize 'resident' because butterflies and moths often migrate, like birds, though only rarely do they make the return journey. The occurrence of large numbers of Painted lady Butterflies in the early summer of 1982 was the result of such a migration.

Three hundred species from anywhere in Scotland is a respectable list, but for Coll it is even more so when one considers the sparsity of indigenous trees. Only Willow, Aspen, Rowan and Birch appear to be truly native. This tree list may be too short. Possibly the single Alder. on the crannog in loch an Duin is a remnant of a wider distribution; certainly a small moth, called Caloptilia elongella, that feeds only on Alder is present on the recently planted Alders by the lodge. This suggests that it may have been presenl on the island before these trees were planted. The few Oaks in village gardens and the solitary Oak sapling by loch Fada (Bousd) may also be remnants. And are there any Hazel or Nut-trees still present on the island? Hazel is mentioned as present in 1938 and had a long history. Hazel pollen was found at a 4,000 year old Beaker-people site on the island.

Some of the island's moths species eat different food from their ancestors on the mainland. For example the speckled creamy 'Iooper' caterpillar of the Magpie Moth which can be a terrible pest of Gooseberry bushes in most parts of Britain - feeds solely on Heather in the Hebrides. Although it is common on the Heather in parts of the north end of the island, I have never seen the large Gooseberry bush at Sorisdale attacked! Similarly the caterpillars of the Scalloped Oak Thorn Moth normally feed on deciduous trees and bushes but on Coll appear to be confined to Bilberry or Heather.

K. P. B.
Images associated with this article:-

Belted Brindled Beauty Moth

Magpie Moth
Coll Magazine - Article by K.P. B

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