Status and Distribution
Very local, on short-turfed downland, in south-east England (Kent, Surrey and Sussex). In the 1950s several were bred from Portland, Dorset, but there have been no known recent records since.
Early records away from the above mentioned areas are probably based on misidentification of M. aprilella, not recognised in Britain until 1981 (Emmet & Langmaid, 2002).
Foodplant and Larval Feeding Signs
Cirsium acaule (dwarf thistle), see plant distribution map, and Centaurea nigra (common knapweed).
No external signs of feeding damage.
Short-turfed, herb-rich chalk downland.
Finding the Moth
Larva: feeds internally on the seeds from late August onwards, overwintering inside the seed-head. Detailed description of larval feeding habits can be found in The Moths and Butterflies of Great Britain and Ireland Vol. 4 (2) where it is advised there is no outward sign of larval presence. The larvae were invariably in attached seedheads where the bracts were still greenish brown and the pappus still white. Pupates in June.
Adult: flies at dusk and night and comes to light. Tim Wilton, pers. obs., noted they were active at dusk making slow ponderous flights which often ended with the moths landing on common knapweed stems and flowers.
Metzneria aprilella is usually smaller and has orange-red streaks. Metzneria lappella and Metzneria metzneriella have a prominent black spot two thirds of the way along the forewing.
Single-brooded. All records of imago received to date have been from late July to mid-August. The Moths and Butterflies of Great Britain and Ireland Vol 4 (2) gives June to August as flight period.
Earliest: 23rd July 1892 (VC17)
Latest: 18th August 1894 and 1985 (VC17 & 14 respectively)