Smutty Ferns

A Fern Smut larva showing its characteristic brown head and green gut Graham Watkeys

A Fern Smut larva showing its characteristic brown head and green gut Graham Watkeys

This is about smut, but not the fungal kind of smut this time but the Mothy kind (reference previous article - Smut at Pwll Waun Cynon.)

Fern smut feeding case Graham Watkeys

Fern smut feeding case Graham Watkeys

I’ve no idea why this particular group of Moths are called smuts but apparently they are.

Maybe it’s one of these names that get applied to species that have never had common names, sometimes people seem to think they are in need of one to fill in a perceived nomenclatural hole, many of which just don’t stick or are less memorable or more unwieldly that the Latin.

Anyway this particular Smut goes by the name of Psychoides filicivora better (or maybe otherwise) known as the Fern Smut.

It was first recorded in Ireland in 1909, probably introduced via imported Ferns, first recorded at Taf Fechan by me via another newly acquired habit: systematic leaf turning.

Now of the many “funny look” generating habits I have acquired whilst wildlife surveying (kissing fungi, stalking (or in fact having any kind of an interest whatsoever in) flies, suddenly stopping and staring at trees/grass/twigs/rocks/the sky in a disconcertingly intense manner amongst others) this really isn’t that bad, it may even be bordering on (for me) abnormally normal.

Admittedly the middle of winter is probably not the best time to develop this habit but luckily P. filicivora likes the Hart’s tongue Fern which is evergreen and its larvae can be seen feeding throughout the year. They also feed in a particular manner generating a little case from their leftover meals to camouflage and protect themselves from predators.

For those who are also interested in Flies I also found the leaf mines of Chromatomyia scolopendri on the same frond it’s one of the few other insects that feed on Fern and worth looking for as there are very few records of it in Wales.