35.110 Scrobipalpa pauperella (Heinemann, 1870)

Status and Distribution

Rare. Recorded at three well scattered sites in England.

The species was first discovered in Britain in June 1972 at Chippenham Fen NNR, Cambridgeshire and was still present at this site in June 1973. Since then all searches for the larvae and adults at this site have failed to produce any additional signs and by 2013 it was considered extinct in the British Isles (Agassiz, Beavan and Heckford - Checklist of the Lepidoptera of the British Isles).

Several specimens of a Scrobipalpa attracted to light in mid-West Yorkshire (VC64) from 2011 onwards, and initially thought to refer to S. obsoletella, were critically re-examined in late 2013 and found to refer to S. pauperella. The number of moths found over subsequent years (c30 to late 2015) suggest the moth is resident at this site. So far searches for the larva have drawn a blank.

In July 2018 a photograph on the Dissection Group website of the male genitalia of a Scrobipalpa from Ashridge, Bucks (VC24) on 18th June 2013, and identified as S. obsoletella, was thought more likely to refer to S. pauperella. This was subsequently confirmed by H. Beaumont and C. Fletcher.

National Status: Unknown
Bradley & Fletcher no: 814a
Photographer: © C Fletcher
Location: Yorkshire

Provisional map



Set Specimens





Scrobipalpa pauperella, Yorks 2014 (Photo: © C Fletcher)

Male genitalia

Foodplant and Larval Feeding Signs

Foodplant unknown in Britain.

In Europe, the moth is associated with various species of Asteraceae (Compositae), such as Centaurea scabiosa (greater knapweed), Cirsium palustre (marsh thistle), Cirsium helenioides and Petatsites albus (white butterbur). It is also possibly associated with Serratula tinctoria (saw-wort). It feeds in the stem of greater knapweed and mines along the midrib of the leaves in marsh thistle.

Larvae on Cirsium palustre (marsh thistle) collected during searches for this species at Chippenham Fen produced only Scrobipalpa acuminatella and no Centaurea scabiosa (greater knapweed) was found anywhere near the 1972/3 capture site.


Scrobipalpa pauperella habitat, Yorks 2014 (Photo: © C Fletcher)

Fenland at the Cambridgeshire site. The Yorkshire site is an area of mature mixed woodland with open areas of herb rich magnesian grassland containing several small ponds formed largely of bomb craters on this MOD site.  The moths were light trapped near one of the wetter parts of the site.

Finding the Moth

Larva: fenland areas in Cambridgeshire where the possible larval foodplant, marsh thistle, occurs would be worth further investigation. Checks at the Yorkshire have failed to turn up any signs of larval feeding so far.

Adult: in Europe the moth has been noted flying about marsh thistle.


Similar Species

The British specimens found to date closely resemble dark forms of Scrobipalpa acuminatella but have slightly more slender forewings and the black spots are more distinctly surrounded with orange brown. In Europe, the forewing colour of S. pauperella varies from nearly fuscous to more or less orange brown depending on the ammount of orange scales. If S. pauperella is suspected, retention of a voucher specimen from the original or any new site is considered essential.


Possibly single-brooded, in June, but insufficient data is currently available to make a definitive judgement. In Europe it is considered probably bivoltine with records from April to early June and again in July and August.

Earliest: 25th May 2011 (VC64).

Latest: 8th July 2011 (VC64).