Garden Moth Scheme

It’s the end of the first quarter of my first year participating in the Garden Moth Scheme. It’s not exactly been a flying start (no pun intended); the moths have been few and far between this spring. But I’m consoling myself with the fact that all data is useful, even if it shows disappointing numbers.

On the 9 nights the moth trap has been out for the scheme, only 46 moths have deigned to make an appearance. On two of the nights nothing showed up at all! The 46 moths represented individuals of 9 species. These 9 species were dominated by the Orthosia – 5 species of this genus; all typical spring moths.  I was particularly chuffed with the Twin-spotted Quaker record, as it was a new one for our garden. With the exception of the Hebrew Character, they are generally quite plain looking moths – see photos below.

Small Quaker (Orthosia cruda)

Small Quaker

Common Quaker (Orthosia cerasi)

Common Quaker 2

Clouded Drab (Orthosia incerta)

Clouded Drab

Twin Spotted Quaker (Orthosia munda)

Twin spot quaker (6)

Hebrew Character (Orthosia gothica)

Hebrew Character (2)

The GM scheme records 6 species of Orthosia  and the final species, Powdered Quaker (Orthosia gracilis), did indeed turn up in the trap, just not on a GMS night.

Powdered Quaker

 Besides the Orthosia moths, the other 4 species making up the 9 for the GM scheme were Common Plume (Emmelina monodactyla), Double Striped Pug (Gymnoscelis rufifasciata), Early Grey (Xylocampa areola) and a Brindled Beauty (Lycia hirtaria).

For the year to date though I’ve recorded 22 species – it’s just that most of them seem to appear on nights that aren’t official GM scheme nights so don’t get logged for the project, which is a bit of a shame. For some reason as well the non GMS nights seem to attract the more striking moths (not that they aren’t all lovely to my eyes!), such as the Herald, Oak Beauty and this Angle Shades and Early Thorn.

Angle Shades

Early Thorn

Hopefully the next quarter will bring a greater variety and abundance of moths. The trap is out again tonight – it’s not a GMS night so I’ll probably get something huge and spectacular  – Mothra perhaps?

Doomed Beauty

It was week two of the Garden Moth Scheme last weekend – I put the trap out twice – once for the official GMS count and once just because I probably need to get out more! Needless to say the non-GMS night produced more moths than the official night, but then it was several degrees warmer. I was tempted to log the better of the two results, but decided to be a good citizen scientist – after all the aim of the scheme is to find out about moth numbers on average nights, not just on the best ones!

The official night still produced 6 moths of 4 species, including this small Double Striped Pug (Gymnoscelis rufifasciata), which landed on the garage wall next to the trap at the beginning of the night and stayed there until dawn.

Double Striped Pug

The trap also attracted a Common Plume (Emmelina monodactyla) – a funny stick like micro moth, shaped like a capital T, hence its other common name T-moth.

Emmelina

The second trapping night produced 24 moths of 8 species, including this new species for our garden the March Tubic (Diurnea fagella).

DSC_3136

Another first for the garden was this much more attractive (apologies to the above March Tubic) Herald moth (Scoliopteryx libatrix). I’d been wanting to find one of these in the garden for a while (having previously only seen it when I’d rescued a few from a friend’s building site of a garage). Herald moths overwinter as adults, so this was probably one that had been hibernating somewhere nearby and emerged on one of the first warm nights.

Herald

But the star of the show was this magnificent Oak Beauty (Biston strataria) – a large moth with fantastic feathered antennae. We have had them in the garden before, but this was a lovely fresh specimen, looking his or her best. Sadly this beauty was doomed. Before I could move him to the safety of a quiet corner, he took off, flapping towards the apple tree. Unfortunately hubby and I weren’t the only ones watching him go and before we knew it, a robin swooped down and had our bright beauty for breakfast. It must have made a big fat treat for the robin, but I must admit I felt more than a little guilty at our part in this poor moth’s short life!

Oak Beauty

So the two nights trapping brings the total species count for the year to 12, which includes 4 new records for the garden – not a bad start to the year at all. Sadly the Oak Beauty can’t say the same!

Is it a moth, is it a fly?

I had hoped this weekend to be posting results from my first official moth trapping night for the Garden Moth Scheme. Unfortunately I got a complete no-show; not a single moth deigned to put in an appearance. All I got to record was the minimum temperature (-1.9°C)! I’m trying to console myself with the thought that there is no such thing as bad data – even a nil count provides information, even if it’s not very exciting information.

So in the absence of any moths, I’m posting about the next best thing – a Moth Fly.

Moth fly

This little beauty (and it is little – only a couple of millimetres wide) appeared this week on a garden planter next to a bucket of water. They may look like tiny moths, but they are actually a type of fly – hence the common name Moth Fly. They are also known by the less than romantic pseudonym of Drain Fly, as their larvae are found in drains or stagnant water. A slightly more appealing alias is Owl Midge.  Their wings and bodies are characteristically hairy giving them their moth-like appearance. I’ve no idea of the species (there are about 100 species in the UK); I suspect a microscope would be needed to identify it to that level. If anyone’s got any suggestions though, they would be most gratefully received.

Fingers crossed next weekend brings some warmer weather and some genuine moths in the trap.

Moth Count Down

Less than a week to go until the summer Garden Moth Scheme starts, so I’ve been dusting off the trap and my ID skills, such as they are. Although I’ve been moth trapping for a couple of years now, this will be the first time I’ve submitted my results to any study like this and I’m really looking forward to it.

So on Friday night I put the moth trap out as a sort of a dry run,  in the site I’ll be using through the summer for the scheme.  It was a slightly warmer night than it has been recently (a balmy 2.3°C) and virtually no wind, so I was reasonably optimistic about catching something at least. Sure enough, my optimism was rewarded with the grand total of 7 moths of 4 species; more moths than I’ve had in all the other trap nights this year put together. I even had one species I’ve never recorded in the garden before (probably because I don’t normally trap in February). The Grey Shoulder-knot (Lithophane ornitopus) below most probably hibernated as an adult moth over winter to emerge in the spring.

Grey Shoulder Knot

The remaining 3 species all belonged to the Orthosia genus of moths, which would have spent the winter as pupae. The first of these was the Common Quaker (Orthosia cerasi) which I’d already caught this year and mentioned in earlier blog posts.  The second was the unfortunately named Clouded Drab (Orthosia incerta) seen below camouflaged very well against a stone background.

Clouded Drab

The final species was the much more interestingly titled Hebrew Character (Orthosia gothica), named apparently because the dark mark on its wing looks like the Hebrew character Nun: It’s not a perfect match, but you can see what they were getting at, when whoever it was named this moth.

Hebrew Character

So 6 species of moth under my belt for this year so far and looking forward to seeing what the garden holds in the coming months. Having the discipline of having to put the moth trap out every week for the scheme, will hopefully yield a few extra species that I would otherwise miss. And it’s nice to know that our Malvern moths are in some small way contributing to the wider knowledge of the UK moth fauna.