Creatures of the Night

Warm summer evenings are good for more than just sitting around the barbecue with a glass of prosecco – they are great for catching moths.

We set our moth trap at least once a week, sometimes twice, and the moths it catches vary hugely through the year, as many moths have a very short flying season of only a few weeks.




It is basically a very bright light over a funnel, which leads to a roomy box full of egg cartons. The moths are attracted to the light, fall down the funnel, and end up in the box, where they can hide in one of the many egg boxes. In the morning, I open the trap and identify all the moths, and then release them by placing them carefully into a suitable hiding place around the garden.

Moths are really beautiful, and very varied. Even the brown ones often have very complex markings, and many of them are prettier than our native butterflies. Take this beauty – a Garden Tiger. Its wingspan is the length of my finger. I was really happy to find it in the trap yesterday!


Garden Tiger 2


Summer is the time for yellow underwing moths, which have , as you would imagine, a yellow hind wing which hides under the forewing when they are at rest, but can be seen when they fly. The most common species is the Large Yellow Underwing, but this week I caught a Broad-bordered Yellow Underwing, which has very attractive subtle markings. It is about the size of a monkey nut.


Broad-bordered Yellow Underwing


The next one is called a Pebble Prominent because of the round, pebble-like marking on the end of the wing. It also sits with his wings folded vertically against his body, rather than horizontally.


Pebble Prominent


The Scalloped Oak makes a very wide triangle when resting, and while subtle in colour, is very distinctive. Its wingspan is about the length of a little finger


Scalloped Oak


The green moths are particular favourites of mine – this July High-flyer is a little worn, but still colourful. Not as large as the others above, it would sit on a 10p piece.


July Highflyer


Some of the names are very descriptive and helpful, and some less so. This one is a Triple-spotted Clay, but I tend to see only the two pale spots.


Triple-spotted Clay


The buff-tip is well-named and very distinctive, with its buff patch on the wing and a buff face. It is well camouflaged as from a distance it looks like a broken twig.


Buff Tip


This one is a Dark Arches, named for the zig-zag pattern at the base of the wing. It is quite big – maybe half a thumb.


Grey Arches


These are just some of the 60 moths I caught yesterday, so it is a fascinating hobby. All the records are sent off to the county recorder, to add to our knowledge of moths in Devon.

I leave you with a small moth, the size of a fingernail, but one of my favourites in the summer – the Rosy Footman.


Rosy Footman

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