Country Corner - The rare moth found in a bee’s clothing

The bee moth on a first visit to south-east Scotland.

The bee moth on a first visit to south-east Scotland.

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I suppose if a naturalist is forever curious and always looking at plants, insects, birds or mammals, they are likely to turn up something rare every now and then, writes George Hogg (Hogg Estate Services).

Even in the course of a lifetime investigating nature, I could count on my fingers the number of times I have found real rarities.

It happened the other day.

I was in the Lammermuir Hills, looking for scarce butterflies when I saw a bumblebee which intrigued me.

Carder bees are those little ginger orange bumblebees.

This was a carder bee but a bit bigger than usual and with a dark smudge on its back.

There are other, scarcer species of carder bees I am not familiar with and I suspected this may be one of those.

I needed a photograph good enough to identify the bee at home.

Easier said than done as the foraging carder never actually stopped as it flitted from flower to flower.

All I could do was hold the camera towards it and follow it around, clicking off shots as fast as I could before it disappeared.

Later, back in the van and out of the sun, I finally had the chance to look at the pictures on the screen of the camera.

Imagine my surprise to realise this wasn’t a bee at all.

It was a moth disguised as a bee.

I had read of Bee Moths but had never seen one or even heard of anyone who had seen one.

At home I checked the photographs against a moth book.

My ‘bee’ was a Narrow Bordered Bee Moth.

However, the book said it wasn’t found in our area.

Posting the photo online for moth experts to see, it turned out this was a first for south-east Scotland and one of those rare times in life when a real rarity crosses my path – even if I did think it was a bee!