Species Account

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Summary Data

Season (Adult / Immature):

National Status: Nb

Local Status: Rare and very local resident.

Local Record: Grade 3   See here for explanation

Flight time: May-Jun.

Forewing: 16-19mm

Foodplant: Seedlings of Downy and Silver Birch and also on Bog-myrtle

Regional breakdown:

Year first recorded1883185718831883
Year last recorded1950201419932014
Number of records3142519
Number of individuals031266
Unique positions2121711
Unique locations39178
Adult records1122215
Immature records0000

For the county, we have a total of 61 records from 37 sites. First recorded in 1857.


70.120 Argent and Sable 2020 map
© C H Fletcher
70.120 Argent and Sable 03
© Nick Lawman
70.120 Argent and Sable 02
© Damian Money
70.120 Argent and Sable 01
© Damian Money

Species Account

Sutton & Beaumont, 1989: A local and mainly day-flying moth, seemingly now quite scarce with few records since 1970.

2012 (CHF): A National BAP species which has declined all over England though it is still doing fairly well in the north-west of Scotland. The only post-2000 records have been from its old site at Bishop Wood and in 2011 from an unexpected new site in VC62 near Boltby.

2020 (CHF): Today, another map with no red dots from 2020. Black dots are post-1950. If anyone recorded Argent and Sable in the county in 2020, I didn’t get the records.

Argent and Sable in Porritt’s day was “common in several localities among birch”. He listed it from several sites in 1883 and in 1907 said it was “abundant in many localities in the southern and western divisions, and occurring as far north as Middlesbrough. It also seemed to have been fairly common in counties to our south and west. It was never common to our north, with very few records, the last Northumberland record being in 1956 from Dipton Woods – a large area of woodland near Hexham. Sutton and Beaumont in 1989 said that it was “now quite scarce with few records since 1970” but listed several sites from the 1970s and 1980s. The Atlas says that it is “much declined in England and Wales, probably due to unfavourable woodland management” but it is “doing a lot better in the western Scotland where it is associated with Bog Myrtle rather than birch.” In Yorkshire, apart from Bishop Wood which has been the main site in the county since Porritt’s time, it is worth looking at the last dates where it has been recorded elsewhere in the last 50 years. Beecroft Moor Plantation, Fewston: 1981. I’ve looked for it here, unsuccessfully though the habitat looked not too bad.

Huntington (York) 1982
Askham Bog 1982
Pilmoor 1984
Owston Wood (Doncaster) 1986
Howell Wood Country Park (Barnsley) 1991
Stocksmoor Common (Wakefield) 1993
Stoneycliffe Wood (Wakefield) 1993

In 2011 a colony was found at Boltby Forest where we have had several records of good numbers up to 2018. In 2018 a moth was also seen in woodland north of Hawnby (also the Small Brindled Beauty site). So, the current situation is that we appear to have two colonies in the county – healthy numbers at Bishop Wood and regular sightings in the Boltby/Hawnby area. For a showy day-flying moth, one could be forgiven for thinking that it would be unmissable, however I suspect that there may well be other colonies in the county waiting to be discovered. If we get some sunshine at the end of May and we’re not all “locked down”, it would be nice to search for more colonies. In addition to exploring more woodland in the Boltby/Hawnby areas, there may be places near Bishop Wood. Gateforth Wood to the south west looks promising – I went there too late in the year to find it. Other woodland in VC63 where it was found in the 1980s is also worth searching, especially if you can find some with low birch regrowth. It’s not impossible it might turn up again at Strensall or Skipwith Commons where there are records from the 1950s and 60s.

This is a day-flying species which should be looked for on warm sunny days at the end of May. If you look for it after the middle of June it will be too late, and the best time is probably the last week in May or the very beginning of June. It needs birch woodland (either silver or downy birch) with trees of different ages – the larvae seem to like low regrowth less than 40cm tall in full sunshine. So coppiced woodland is ideal, and the lack of coppicing may be linked with its downfall. It is worth looking for the larvae in July. They feed in spinnings – wrapped inside a folded birch leaf, feeding on the inside of the leaf creating windows which can reveal their presence. The larvae are reasonably distinctive, though it is possible to mistake them for July Highflyer which can also feed on birch.

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