300 moths and counting

In autumn last year I did a tally up of the number of moth species I’d recorded in the garden since I began looking about 5 years ago. I was amazed to find it was over 290, but then of course I started thinking, wouldn’t it be wonderful to get to 300. I thought I was sure to hit the magic number by the end of the year, but as the months rolled on I got stuck at 297.

So as the spring moths started appearing this year, I started ticking the new ones off – no. 298 the Satellite, no. 299 the Early Tooth Striped. No. 300 was tantalisingly close, but what was it going to be? Sod’s law being what it is, around this time I got a bit behind identifying some of my moth catch. I’d taken loads of photos, but not gone through them all properly. So the next moth I identified was a little micro moth called the Sulphur Tubic (Esperia sulphurella) – moth no. 300 had arrived. But then this week I went back through some of the photos from earlier in the month and found another new one – the Silver Cloud (Egira conspicillaris). As I’d technically caught the Silver Cloud first, it took the noteworthy no. 300 spot and the poor old Sulphur Tubic got bumped to no. 301. So here it is, proud no. 300 – the Silver Cloud. This moth has quite a restricted distribution in the UK, so I’m lucky to get it here in Malvern.

Having been pipped at the post for the glory of being no. 300, I felt the Sulphur tubic deserved a photo too. So here it is, a pretty little moth only a few millimetres long.

Having hit the magic number 300, I thought I’d have a look through my records and share my top 10 favourite moths. This proved harder than I expected, because I just like all of them! So in the end, here are my top 12, just because I couldn’t whittle it down any further.

So in reverse order  – at No. 12 is the Scarce Silver Lines (Bena bicolorana). I’ve included this one because it is just too beautiful not to.

At No. 11 another moth that is so perfectly marked, it’s hard to believe it’s real – the Black Arches (Lymantria monacha).

At No. 10 the first day flying moth on this list – the Six Spot Burnet (Zygaena filipendulae). It’s a beautiful glossy black moth, with 6 clearly defined red spots – I always like a moth that fits its name.

At No. 9, a moth that gets my vote for its mastery of camouflage – the Buff Tip (Phalera bucephala). It looks just like a broken twig, particularly of a silver birch tree, but it even blends in pretty well with this apple tree twig I used for the photo.

At No. 8, not my favourite looking moth, but it makes the list because the individual I caught was the first record of this species in Worcestershire – the Box Tree Moth (Cydalima perspectalis). I felt quite proud to have caught the first one, although it’s not good news for anyone growing box trees, as it is a pest. It is an introduced species having only been recorded in the UK from 2007.

At No. 7, a moth that is not only striking in appearance, but has a great name – the Leopard Moth (Zeuzera pyrina). I like moths and I like cats, so put the two together and it’s bound to be a winner for me (although on that principle I could also have included the Puss Moth or one of the Kitten moths).

At No. 6, the second day flying moth on this list – the Scarlet Tiger. Stunningly colourful moths that fly on sunny days and are often mistaken for butterflies. We were lucky enough to have a whole flock of them come into the garden one afternoon.

At No. 5, a cute moth that looks like it’s got a pair of glasses on its head – the appropriately named Spectacle (Abrostola tripartita). I’ve spent a lot of time photographing these moths, always focussing on the heads to get their funny specs and tufted topknot in.

At No. 4, the first of the big guns moths – the Lime Hawk-Moth (Mimas tiliae). These are great big moths (up to 7 or 8 cm across) and seem almost too heavy to fly.

At No 3, probably one of the most beautiful moths of all and with another fantastic name – the Merveille du Jour (Dichonia aprilina). Despite its Latin name it flies in September/October and is always a joy to find in the trap at the end of the summer. The name means Marvel of the Day in French and it certainly is.

My second all time favourite moth has to be the amazing Hummingbird Hawk-moth (Macroglossum stellatarum). A medium sized moth, it hovers over flowers so well it often gets mistaken for an actual hummingbird. It is actually an immigrant moth from as far away as Africa, but nearly every year we get at least one in our garden. They are so quick, it is virtually impossible to get a sharp photo of them, so I’ve often resorted to videoing them instead.

 

Hummingbird Hawk-moth

But finally there could only ever have been one moth that was my No. 1 favourite – the biggest, the pinkest and the best – the Elephant Hawk-moth (Deilephila elpenor). I can still remember my utter amazement the first time I caught one of these (Chris was less enthusiastic when I woke him at 4am to show him my prize specimen!). And they still thrill me today whenever one appears. They just don’t look real – big fat pink bodies with pink and green wings. If I were to make up a moth this would be it and I will never tire of seeing them.

9 thoughts on “300 moths and counting

  1. Wow! I never knew there were so many moths. 301 and counting! The only moth I have seen in your top 12 is the Six Spotted Burnet. I saw 2 last year at our local nature reserve at Salthill quarry. I was wowed by them. I have never seen any of the beautiful moths you have there. They have such gorgeous patterns. 🙂 x

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    • No I can’t quite believe we’ve got so many either! But if you put out a moth trap you’d probably find you get a lot of these in your own garden too. Our garden is nothing special, but there are still lots of moths. Glad you liked them though. x

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  2. Benjamin had me enlarge every single moth photo for his close examination. He loves being able to pick out all of the details on each one. Every time another enlarged photo appeared another “WOW!” came from Benjamin. I edited the information about each moth for him to understand and he was fascinated. At the end I questioned him about which would be his favorite and he said : “All of them!” I suggested just choosing the best one and he said : “No Gem, they are all the bestest!” He did love the Hummingbird Hawk-moth video and caught it’s proboscis at work (I had to research to find the correct term for him) and the humming sound. We watched that six times! We have been here over half an hour and he said : “Keep this for tomorrow too.” Thank-you so much from both of us!!

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  3. Oh my god! These are absolutely beautiful! Kudos on the amazing photography.

    I did have a question. You mention a few times that the moths are found in your garden. Do you grow certain plants specifically to attract the moths to your garden?

    What about cases where you can’t grow certain plants/can’t find certain moths at your residence? How do you go about finding them?

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    • Hi Nisha. Glad you liked them. No I haven’t grown anything specially for the moths, they’ve all just come naturally. But we do have quite a wild garden with lots of what other people call weeds and some dense undergrowth – I think it’s all good for insects. I’m sure you’d find you have lots of moths too. I use a moth trap – it is basically a light which attracts the moths at night and they get caught in a box. They’re not harmed at all and I release them the next day. You could just try shining a light onto a white sheet in the garden – I expect you’d attract some moths that way too.

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  4. That is an impressive undertaking.
    When I found that I had most of the known specie of yucca, I collected the rest that lacked, and procured all but one of the known 49 specie. The odd thing is that I had one of the most rare species Yucca lacandonica, but the one that was missing was supposedly not so rare. (No one really know how many specie there are. Some say that many are synonyms. Others say that there are more than 52.)

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