Moth Trap Intruders

Nearly at the end of October and we’re coming to the end of “moth season”. Moth numbers are dwindling as the nights get colder, so it seems a good time to review what I’ve had in the trap. It’s been an interesting year for moths, but they aren’t the only animals the trap attracts. So I thought I’d share some of the Moth Trap Intruders (a name shamelessly copied from a very interesting Facebook group I’m a member of) I’ve had over the last few years.

Sadly I can’t compete with a blogger who had the most amazing moth trap intruder ever – a puffin! Have a read of http://www.surfbirds.com/community-blogs/amigo/2017/06/17/puffin-in-the-moth-trap/ if you don’t believe me.

But puffins aside, there is still quite a variety of animals that find their way into our moth trap. The biggest and probably most impressive non-moth I get in the trap is the May Bug or Cockchafer (Melolontha melolontha). It is a huge beetle and I remember being absolutely amazed the first time I found one in the trap. Chris wasn’t quite so impressed when I woke him about 5am waving a large beetle in his face!

The May Bug isn’t the only large beetle we get though. These jazzily coloured Sexton Beetles pop up occasionally too.  Not as big as the May Bugs, but the Wildlife Trusts describe these as the undertakers of the animal world, burying dead animals. Slightly gruesome to think that perhaps the reason these appear in the traps is because there is a dead mouse or bird nearby that they’ve been burying.

Smaller still are these, which I thought initially were water beetles. Thanks to a kind reader I now know they are bugs not beetles, a type of water boatman. They must have flown in from a nearby pond. Some summer nights they can appear in large numbers in the trap, trying to swim about ineffectually at the bottom. Caught and released into some water they whirl around surprisingly quickly.

Caddisflies are common intruders. There appears to be a variety of species, but I’ve yet to get to grips with identifying most of them. Some of them have quite strikingly patterned wings and look like they should be easy to identify, but I suspect they are more difficult than they look.

I did manage to identify one tiny black & white caddisfly, mainly because I initially thought it was a micro moth. It was so small, I potted it up to take a photo so that I could zoom in on it. Turned out not only to be a caddisfly, but to be a fairly rare species –  Leptocerus interruptus. It is associated with the Severn catchment which I suppose we just about come under here in Malvern.

Bees and especially wasps often end up in the moth trap and fly off in the morning when they have warmed up. In the summer months I sometimes put the whole trap inside a mosquito net tent to empty it. When there are large numbers of moths, they will sometimes escape quicker than I can count them and the net tent catches them before they disappear. I was a bit surprised one morning to find myself sitting in this tent with a large and slightly angry hornet! I have nothing against hornets, but being stuck in a small tent with one was slightly alarming even for me. The hornet found the entrance to the tent only slightly slower than I did (I rarely move that fast first thing in the morning), so I only got this one poor photo of it.

Another occasional intruder is the mayfly. These alien-like insects can hatch in their thousands if not millions and swarm over rivers. A lot of fishermen’s flies are designed to look like mayflies as they are a favourite food of fish like trout.

These beautiful green Lacewings are also occasionally attracted to the light. They are so transparent and delicate the camera struggles to focus on them and I’ve yet to take a photo that does them justice.

Various leafhoppers get attracted to the light. My favourite is the weird and wonderful Eared Leafhopper (Ledra aurita). Again difficult to photograph, these strange little insects are so well camouflaged I’ve never seen one in the wild, only when they come to the moth trap.

Various other invertebrates have also ended up in the moth trap over the years. Ladybirds, snails, slugs, spiders, flies, mosquitos and shield bugs have all appeared, but I’ve not thought to photograph them – something to keep in mind next summer.

Invertebrates may be attracted to the light but if I don’t get up early enough in the morning, birds are then attracted to the invertebrates. I may not have a puffin, but plenty of other birds have cottoned on to the benefits of moth trapping. The blackbirds have learned to check the grass around the trap in the morning for stray moths. The robins take their entomology to a whole other level though. If I turn my back they are on the trap itself and on one occasion I felt the robin literally land on my back itself. Whether I had a moth on my back or he was just trying to get a better view of the trap, I don’t know.  Once I’ve emptied the trap I put all the moths in a quiet corner of the garden near the house where they can rest up on the egg boxes until the next night. The birds of course have learned to watch where I put the eggs boxes. I have had to become increasingly devious to prevent them helping themselves to a moth buffet. The photo below is from a day where I obviously wasn’t careful enough!

Spring Insects

This last week the insects seem to have been coming out in force in the garden. After the relative quiet of the winter, it’s great to hear the buzz of insects in the air again. Moths may not buzz, but it’s still really nice to have them appearing again too. March brought the start of the Garden Moth Scheme for the summer. After a few weeks of fairly plain looking moths (sorry Common Quakers, but you aren’t the most showy of moths), it was nice last weekend to get a few of the more beautiful ones – in fact the Pine Beauty and Oak Beauty.

Hopefully it won’t be too long before the really spectacular hawk-moths start turning up in the trap too.  Butterflies have been proving a bit more elusive than the moths; so far I’ve just seen a few Small Tortoiseshells in the garden, but not managed to nab any photos.

Wasps may not be popular with everyone, but when you study them close up, they really are stunning insects and they are already making themselves known around the garden this year.

In the last 2 weeks, we’ve already recorded 12 species of bee in the garden – a promising start to the bee season. First up was my perennial favourite – the Hairy Footed Flower Bee. The males appeared first, patrolling frenetically around the garden, seeing off anything remotely bee-shaped that got in their way.

The last few days, I’ve been seeing more of the females – distinguishable by their all black bodies with orangey pollen brushes on the back legs. Our garden has naturalised primroses all over the place and the bees love them.

Another favourite is the Tawny Mining Bee, in particular the females who have this bright red foxy looking hair all over them. I spend (some may say waste) an awful lot of time chasing these round the garden, trying to get the perfect photo to do them justice.

Not quite so showy and much smaller is the Red Mason Bee. We get these little bees every year, finding nooks and crannies in the brickwork to nest in.

The much larger Red-tailed Bumblebee is also on the wing now, although so far I’ve only seen Queen bees like this one (I think).


The strikingly coloured Mourning Bees have already been busy on the rosemary flowers. These are also a favourite, not least because of the obvious white “kneecaps” which make them a cinch to identify.

Buzzing like a bee, but actually a fly, Bee-Flies seem particularly abundant this spring. I’ve previously only ever seen the one below – the Dark-edged Bee-Fly. They seem to torment the male Hairy Footed Flower Bees by hovering around “their” primroses. They also seem curious about us and often hover in front of me as if they’re trying to work out what this huge being is?

But there is a second species of Bee-Fly – the Dotted Bee-Fly. I’ve been hoping to see one of these for years and have chased a lot of the Dark-bordered ones around fruitlessly trying to find one with dots on. Then I read on Twitter this week to look out for the white stripe on the abdomen – easier to spot when they are flying than the dots on wings whirring like mad. And so I was thrilled when using this marker, I finally spotted one – complete with dotty wings and white striped bum (white stripe is more apparent in the second photo below).

As for other groups of insects, well they’re all starting to appear too. Hoverflies are always fairly abundant, although tricky to get a decent photo of. This male (male because its eyes meet in the middle, so I’m told) Eupeodes was more obliging than most.

A single Cinnamon Bug so far, but easily visible against the primrose leaves.

I’ve always had a soft spot for the Shield Bug family of insects. We’ve recorded 7 species in the garden in total, although so far this year we’ve only seen the green one and this Dock Bug.

Not had the time yet to go rooting about in the undergrowth looking for beetles, but did at least spot the first ladybird of the year. Slightly disappointingly I think it is a Harlequin, so not an ideal spot, but hopefully some of the native species will appear soon too.

Final photo for the blog, this crab spider lying in wait for a bee. I know they’re not actually insects, but having spotted him today posing so nicely on the red valerian, it seemed rude not to include him. I thought these spiders were supposed to be able to camouflage themselves, but this one doesn’t seem to be doing a very good job.

So that’s a round up of the spring invertebrates currently buzzing/flying/crawling around the garden. It feels like everything is springing into life at last and we can look forward to an insect (and arachnid) filled summer.

 

 

2018 – Some Highs, Some Lows

Every January I tend to do a review of our previous wildlife year, so here goes. 2018 was a mixed year for us to say the least, with some difficult family issues and the loss of our beautiful Norwegian Forest Cat – Puddle. It’s been 9 months and I miss her every day. Family problems have meant we haven’t managed to get out and about as much as normal and consequently the blog posts have been a bit thin on the ground. Hopefully 2019 will bring happier times. I can’t think of any better therapy than getting out and enjoying the wildlife both in our garden and beyond, so hopefully 2019 will bring more of that.

Having said all that, there were a lot of positives too. 2018 started well with some birdy highlights. We saw our first ever Hawfinches at Bewdley and also a pair of Peregrine falcons up on the Malverns less than a mile from our house. Hopefully the peregrines will return this year and we’ll get some better photos. We “rented a nest” through Worcestershire Wildlife Trusts scheme at Knapp & Papermill and “our” nest box was found to have blue tits with 8 chicks hatched in the spring.

The Beast from the East weather front blew in during March, bringing the most snow I can remember for a good few years. It may have been cold but we had the bonus of fieldfares and redwings in the garden, which was great. We also had another day in a photography hide, this time overlooking a reed bed full of buntings and warblers and the occasional lightning flash of a kingfisher.

 

There was delight in spring, when the pond which we’d put in at the allotment the previous year had its first clumps of frog spawn. With the help of our new GoPro camera we watched the spawn turn to tadpoles and then to mini frogs. Hopefully at least some of these will have survived and will return to their ancestral pond to mate this year.

At the end of May we headed to the Isle of Wight for a long weekend. Our main aim (other than to sample the local hospitality) was to see 2 more species of butterfly – the Glanville Fritillary and the Adonis Blue. Thankfully despite an unpromising foggy start, we managed both of these, plus a few precious glimpses of some red squirrels.  During the year we also managed to see a Large Heath and some Clouded Yellow butterflies, taking our tally of British butterflies to 47.

The trail camera was of course out almost full time during the year and with it, we were really excited to get our first glimpse of a fox in the garden. Hedgehogs of course featured heavily, with both feeding the wild ones and fostering a few rehabilitating ones. We were really worried in the summer when our neighbours announced they were replacing the fence. Thankfully they are lovely neighbours and readily agreed to have 3 gaps put in their new fence specifically for hedgehogs to come and go. The hedgehogs soon found the new gaps and as can be seen in the video clip below have been making good use of them.

Highway Traffic

 

As well as trying to bag as many butterfly species as possible, the moth trap has also been put to good use; one of the few things I’ve managed to keep going throughout the year for the Garden Moth Scheme. This year alone we have recorded 220 moth species in the garden. Overall since I began moth trapping I’ve found 331 species – not bad for a fairly regular (albeit scruffy) suburban garden. This year’s moth haul has included a couple of beauties I’ve been dying to find for a long time – a Rosy Footman and a Chinese Character.

As well as the regular moth trapping, we had a go with pheromone lures, managing to attract Currant Clearwings to the garden and the fabulous Emperor Moth on Hartlebury Common.

And that’s pretty much a summary of the year – very quiet in the latter half, but some really nice wildlife moments in the first half.

So of last year’s New Year’s Resolutions, I think the only one we managed to fully achieve was to see 3 new butterfly species – we actually managed 4! Of the remainder:

  1. Video the blue tits fledging in the garden – well they didn’t use the nest box with the camera, so that drew a blank. But we did support a family of blue tits at Knapp & Papermill reserve through the rent-a-nest scheme, so that is something at least.
  2. Visit 5 new nature reserves – I don’t think we managed any locally, but we did do some on the Isle of Wight and we revisited a few of our favourite ones around here instead.
  3. The pond – well the pond in the garden hasn’t progressed at all, but the one on the allotment is doing great, so that’s sort of a result.
  4. Make a hoverfly lagoon and monitor it – well I inadvertently made one by leaving a large tub of garden cuttings out by accident. It filled with rainwater and is now probably ideal hoverfly larval habitat. I didn’t do any monitoring on it, but maybe that’s something I can do in the spring.
  5. A moth tattoo – still not managed that, but a new tattoo parlour has opened up in Malvern, so my chances of getting it done have improved.

So that brings me to 2019’s resolutions, hopefully I’ll have a bit more success with these ones than last year.

  1. Photograph 3 new British butterfly species – this would bring our total to 50 out of the 58 or 59 candidates.  We’ll probably have to travel some distance for this – the perfect excuse for a holiday.
  2. Visit 5 new local nature reserves – we’ve bought Worcestershire Wildlife Trust’s book with all their reserves in, so no excuse not to achieve this one.
  3. Go and see the red kites in Wales – I’ve been wanting to go and see the red kites near Rhayader for years, so 2019 is going to be it!
  4. A trip to the seaside to find some rockpools and try out the GoPro camera in them – fingers crossed for some hermit crab action!
  5. Finally sort out the garden pond.
  6. That moth tattoo!

Happy New Year everyone!!

 

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.

Spring Is In The Air (and in the Pond)

It is now a couple of weeks since the official start of spring, but it’s felt like it’s been a bit slow actually happening. But having looked at some of the animals we’ve seen in the last few weeks, maybe spring is slowly, tentatively, making itself known after all.

So first up, one of my all time favourites and the first bee of the year – the Hairy Footed Flower Bee. As is so often the case with these, I heard it before I saw it – a male buzzing energetically around the primroses. No sign of any females yet, I think they emerge slightly later.

March also sees the start of the annual Garden Moth Scheme. It’s been a particularly cold and wet start so I’ve not had a huge variety, but numbers are slowly picking up. Here’s a nice trio of the Orthosia genus – a Common Quaker, Clouded Drab & Twin-spotted Quaker.

The moths may be trickling in, but the butterflies have been very slow – not seen a single one in the garden yet this year. But we went for a walk in nearby Priory Gardens a week or so ago and spotted quite a few. A bright yellow Brimstone (way too fast to get a photo), several Commas and at least half a dozen Small Tortoiseshells – all basking in the sunshine.

One thing I’ve been particularly looking forward to is the arrival of frog spawn in our allotment pond. We put the pond in too late last year to get spawn laid, but this year we were good to go and the frogs didn’t disappoint. Here’s a quick video using the new GoPro camera. More froggy updates to follow in the next blog post as the tadpoles develop.

Frog Spawn

 

We didn’t see any frog spawn in the ponds at Priory Gardens, but there was plenty of bird activity. A couple of moorhens and lots of ducks, including this splendid looking mallard. There’s something about watching ducks on a pond in the sunshine that is not only really relaxing, but feels very spring-like to me.

The previous blog post was all about the peregrines up on the hill, but they weren’t the only birds we saw that day. This male bullfinch looked to be enjoying the spring sunshine sitting on a wild cherry tree (cherry blossom buds being one of their favourite foods apparently).

We also spotted jackdaws that had found some crevices in the rock face to nest in. The hole didn’t look that big, but they were taking quite sizeable twigs in there, so perhaps it opened out inside.

I don’t know if this dunnock was sensing spring or just feeling a bit odd, but it was behaving very strangely. It spent about 10 minutes sitting on top of the hedgehog house (not a safe spot since the neighbour’s cat often sits there), fluffing up its feathers repeatedly and shuffling about. It looked almost as if it was incubating eggs but there was no nest there (I did check it hadn’t laid anything). It stretched its neck out a few times and gaped its beak as well. I know dunnocks have some weird mating habits, but there didn’t seem to be another dunnock around for it to impress with the behaviour. Whatever it was doing it got fed up eventually and flew off into the bushes quite normally. If anyone can shed any light on the behaviour, it would be very much appreciated.

The dunnock may have been behaving strangely, but it was perfectly obvious what this blue tit was up to – gathering nest material. I saw someone suggest recently that you could provide nesting material by tying two hanging basket frames together to form a rough ball and filling them with moss and the like. Apologies to whoever’s idea it was, as I can’t remember where I saw it to be able to credit them properly – but it was a great idea, thank you. We had some old hanging baskets kicking around the garage and the “lawn” is full of moss,  so this was an easy idea to achieve. And the blue tits seem to appreciate it as almost immediately they started taking great beakfuls of moss and flying off with it.

Once it had got a beak’s worth of moss it would then stop on a twig to rearrange the moss a bit more tidily (presumably so it could see where it was flying), before taking off.

Blue Tit gathering nesting material

If only these blue tits had taken the moss back to the lovely nesting box with camera in that we’ve now had up for 2 years in exactly the spot where they used to nest! But no, they must be nesting elsewhere and all we’ve got on the nestcam is a spider’s web! Still at least we know they are nesting somewhere and that we’ve helped a little bit.

And finally spring must surely be on its way because our hedgehog is back! Whether it is Fat Sam from last year emerged from hibernation or a completely different hog, I have no idea. But it looks big and healthy and has a good appetite.

First hedgehog of 2018

None of these signs of spring maybe big newsworthy events,  but sometimes it’s spotting the small things in life that gives the most pleasure. And we’re certainly very happy that spring is finally on its way to Malvern.

 

30 Days Wild – Day 22 – Summer Moths

It’s Day 22 of 30 Days Wild and by the time I got home from work (via the allotment to pick yet more raspberries and blackcurrants!), it was a bit late to get out and about to do something wild. So for today’s act of wildness, I decided to do a much needed update and review of this year’s moth records. I’ve been so busy with other things, that I’ve not updated my spreadsheets for the Garden Moth Scheme and I’ve still got loads of photos taken but not identified. So sitting on the sofa with the laptop may not be the conventional idea of wild, but anyone who knows me, will know how much I love my moths – so I think I can get away with this as my nature fix for the day.

So far this year I’m just short of 100 species; this is about 10 less than the same time last year. It does feel like it’s been a generally quiet year for the moths, maybe because the weather hasn’t been great. The hot weather this last week though has started to bring them out in numbers, so hopefully things will pick up. For the Garden Moth Scheme I have to trap at least once a week in the same spot in the garden and submit the results quarterly. No great hardship as I love doing this and often trap more than once a week (although I do like to give the moths a rest so they can go about their business most nights!)

Most of the moths have been the larger macro ones, but about 20% have been the micros. I’m not so good at identifying the micros – much harder usually because they are just so small. But some of them are easy and also really beautiful, like this pretty Small Magpie moth.

Moths come in all shapes and sizes – for some reason the most striking ones tend to be the less common in our trap. The current most numerous visitor is the Heart and Dart – a relatively plain moth apart from its dark markings that are supposed to look not surprisingly like a heart and dart. There is a 3rd blob, but I guess calling it the Heart and Dart and Blob would be a bit much!

They also come in all sorts of colours; this one is an Orange Footman

and this one is a Ruby Tiger. If these ones are really fresh specimens and the light catches them right, they really do look bright red.

The rubies are not the only tigers I’ve had recently, these 3 Scarlet Tigers turned up in the trap a couple of days ago. They are supposed to be day flying moths and we have occasionally seen a group of them flying round the garden in bright sunshine. These 3 also flew off soon after I photographed them. I think the “scarlet” bit comes from their underwings, which you can just about glimpse peaking out from under the black upper wings.

Another favourite that turned up in the last week was this exotic looking Swallowtail moth. These are large moths with thin, delicate wings that seem to flap slowly, although they put on a fair turn of speed when they are trying to escape me and my camera!

With a completely different body form is this Pale Tussock moth, with its furry legs sticking out in front in characteristic pose. This species is generally much less flighty and happy to pose for photographs.

I’ve had a couple of “new for the garden” species (or NFG as us mothy nerds call them) this year. I was thrilled to get this Ghost Moth a few weeks ago.

I was really excited to see a Hummingbird Hawkmoth on the red valerian flowers a couple of weeks ago – needless to say it wouldn’t stop for a photo shoot. These 2 Lime Hawkmoths were much more obliging and were also NFG.

I couldn’t do a mothy post without mentioning everyone’s favourite the bright pink Elephant Hawkmoth. Normally I’d post a photo, but I recently had a go at videoing one as it warmed up its wings – so here’s a short film instead.

Elephant Hawkmoth

Last year I got 211 species of moth, it would be lovely to top that this year, but I fear it might be a struggle. I’ve never made a definitive list of all the species I’ve ever recorded in the garden – some turn up one year only to never be seen again. I suspect the total list would therefore be much higher than 211. A project for a quiet winter night perhaps to tally them all up.

I love the surprise element of moth trapping. I never know what I’m going to get (if anything) when I open the trap in the morning. There’s always that sense of anticipation – maybe I’ll find something new, or an old favourite will appear. Until I started trapping, I had no idea of the diversity of moths we got in our average garden, I suspect most people are the same.

Beautiful Pea-Green Moths

The end of the annual Garden Moth Scheme is nigh, so I’ve been checking my moth records ready to submit them to the scheme coordinator. I’ve posted previously about the autumn colours of moths – how the various Sallows mimic piles of dead leaves etc. But looking at the moth list from the last few weeks, the colour that stood out was green. When people think of moths, they don’t tend to picture green ones, but there are some stunning ones out there. So this week’s blog is in praise of the beautiful pea-green (and other verdant shades) moths I’ve found in the garden.

I’ll start though with my most rubbish photo – the Green Pug. I’ve caught these several times, but all the Pug moths tend to be really flighty and as soon as you open the collecting pot, they fly off. So despite repeated efforts this shot through the plastic pot is the best I’ve managed for a Green Pug. You can at least see that it is green and, if you’re into moths, you’d see that it is the typical pug shape.

green-pug

There’s a whole group of moths called the Emeralds – a great name for these gorgeous green moths.  We’re lucky to get at least three species in the garden. The palest green one is the Light Emerald (a name that does what it says on the tin!) This is the largest of the emeralds we get here and has reddish tips to the end of its wings (although this one has lost one where something’s taken a bite out of it).

light-emerald

Next up is the Small Emerald, which is the brightest green of the three. For some reason the best photo I could find of this one was of it sitting on my fingers. (not to self, get manicure before posting photos of scruffy finger nails!)

small-emerald

The third one is a Common Emerald which didn’t actually put in an appearance in the garden this year (perhaps it’s not that common?), but we’ve had it previously. Confusingly it is smaller than the Small Emerald!

common-emerald

From a “Common” moth that didn’t appear this year to a “Scarce” moth that did – the Scarce Silver Lines. This is a stunning moth with pales lines across a green background that are presumably intended to resemble veins on a leaf.

scarce-silver-lines

The Red-Green Carpet moth below is quite common in our garden right now. These carpet moths have nothing to do with the ones that eat your carpets indoors. They are definitely outdoor moths and are named because the patterning supposedly reminded the Victorians of their intricate carpets.

red-green-carpet

The base colour of the Green-brindled Crescent is a fairly dull mottled brown. But is has areas of metallic green scales (close up below) that shimmer in the right light to give it a beautiful green sheen. There have been a few of these in the trap recently, the new ones almost glitter green, but later in the season they lose the green scales and become much duller.

green-brindled-crescent

moth-scales

I have saved my favourite to last – the absolutely stunning Merveille du Jour. I love everything about these moths – their marvellous (or should that be mervellous – sorry!!) name, their fabulous colours and even the fact that they tend to be really docile and patient while I try and take photos. This gorgeous moth mimics lichens on tree branches, which means I’ve spent an awful lot of time trying to get the perfect shot of one doing just that. The following are by no means perfect, but they do at least hopefully show what I’m on about.

Merveille du Jour moths

 

merveille-du-jour

merveille

There are lots of other green moths out there, so hopefully I can add to this collection as the years go by. There is even one called the Scarce Merveille du Jour – I can but dream!!

Moths Reach Double Century!

When I first started on my mothy learning curve, I never dreamt just how many moths we would get in our garden. The first year I kept a serious count (2014) we hit 127 species, which I thought was amazing. In 2015 we got 155 species and I thought we’d never beat that. This year as we reached the upper 180s, grim determination set in that we’d reach 200. Of course as soon as you set your mind to something like that, everything seems to slow down, but gradually the numbers edged closer to the magic double century. We finally reached number 199 last week with a species I’d been longing to see – the delightfully named Vestal Moth. This is an attractive migrant species, that I’d been envying on other people’s twitter feeds for a while, so I was really chuffed to get one in the garden. Shame it didn’t hang around long enough for a better photo.

vestal

Following the excitement of the Vestal, there were then a few nights trapping with nothing new to add to the list. Lots of interesting moths, but nothing to take me to the magic 200. Lunar Underwings were particularly abundant and very varied. Both the examples below are Lunar Underwings, but they look quite different.

dsc_2817

Lunar Underwing

Finally last night in flew not only number 200, but numbers 201 and 202! Number 200 was this – a Blair’s Shoulder Knot. Don’t know who the original Mr Blair was (presumably not Tony), but I was very happy to see his moth. Funnily enough it had been a Blair’s Shoulder Knot that took me to my final figure of 127 species back in 2014. A lucky species for our garden perhaps?

blairs-shoulder-knot

No. 201 was a Black Rustic – which actually looks a lot glossier and blacker than this photo suggests.

black-rustic

No. 202 was the autumnal looking Sallow. You can see how easily it would blend in with piles of autumn leaves – as would the Centre Barred Sallow below.

sallow

centre-barred-sallow

So I’m very happy to have reached 202 species of moth and we’re not even in October yet. Hopefully we’ll get a few more species before the year is out.

Why have we recorded so many more this year? Well I think it’s partly because of the Garden Moth Scheme. Having to make sure I trap at least once a week over the summer months, has clearly paid off in terms of overall species count. I did run the traps quite a lot last year, but there were definitely weeks when it was too wet or windy or I just didn’t feel like getting up at the crack of dawn to check it! Secondly I’ve made more of an effort to identify the micro moths. Previously I’d ignored a lot of them as being too small to identify or even photograph, but I realise now I was missing out on a whole range. Many of the micros are very beautiful when you get close enough to look at them properly (I feel a micro moth post coming soon!)

Of course all this will leave me with a problem for next year. Realistically moth numbers in our garden can’t keep increasing at this rate. I know there are several species that we’ve had previous years that have been no shows this year, but then some that we’ve seen this year maybe won’t appear next. Will I be disappointed if we don’t get more next year? Maybe, but then I could always start compiling a definitive list of all moths species seen in the garden to date since I started trapping. Or of course I could start obsessing about another group – anyone know anything about hoverflies?