Emptying the moth trap last weekend at the crack of dawn, I could hear the frogs croaking in the half-light, while the garden was swathed in a light mist, spider webs draped around the trees glistening with dew – made me feel like I was deep in the Louisiana swamps (I have an active imagination at that time of day it seems). But the strange atmosphere was all forgotten when I spotted a Merveille du Jour; a French name for a beautiful British moth whose name means Wonder of the Day. I’d been wanting to see one of these little beauties for ages and been growing increasingly envious (moth envy is a terrible thing) of photos posted on Facebook showing Merveilles sitting beautifully camouflaged on green lichen. Of course my little wonder refused point blank to sit on the perfect bit of lichen I found on the apple tree, preferring instead to crawl up a brown twig – no sense of artistry!
The Merveille du Jour’s appearance had the added bonus of taking my moth species tally to 150 for the year – an arbitrary target I’d set myself. The trouble with setting yourself random targets is that as soon as you reach them, you set another one – so I now want 160 species this year! Fortunately my little wonder brought some of his mates along to the trap, so I bagged another 4 species taking the total to 154.
Several of these also displayed camouflage tendencies with subtle autumn colours. This Barred Sallow blends well amongst the leaves with its yellow and brown splotches, as did the Brick with its muted russet brown tones.
My favourite though was perhaps this Beautiful Hook Tip, whose wings even had veins and curled slightly at the edges mimicking a dead leaf. Moths have a reputation of being dull grey or brown things, but I find these autumnal moths every bit as beautiful as their more showy cousins the butterflies.