Tag Archive | Moth trap

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.

 

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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

Wildlife update

The garden is still amazing us with the variety of wildlife that visits. The bird feeders are constantly covered in finches, and both sparrowhawks and kestrels come visiting to try and catch their dinner. Buzzards circle overhead every day, and tawny owls can be heard after dark. Today I was pleased to see a spotted flycatcher.

We are running our moth trap regularly, and still catching new species.

 

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This huge moth is a Poplar Hawk Moth, caught a couple of weeks ago. You can see the size of it as it clings on to the egg box that we place in the trap for the moths to hide in. These moths have a characteristic resting position with their hind wings pushed so far forwards that they protrude in front of the larger forewings. Below is another photo once it was released onto a tree, showing a flash of the rusty brown colour on the hindwing.

 

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Today we caught another new species for the garden, a frosted orange. This is an autumn flying moth, from late August onwards, so it is newly emerged, and very smart it was too. About thumb-nail sized.

 

Frosted orange

 

We haven’t had much time to look for other invertebrates, and hopefully will spend more time next year on beetles in particular, as we both made studies of them at university, many years ago. But we have see a few without trying, including this stunning Spotted Longhorn Beetle that came in and sat on our log basket.

 

Spotted Longhorn Beetle

 

The deer have been absent all summer, which the neighbours tell us is normal, and they should return in the autumn. But the rabbits have done what rabbits do best, and multiplied! There are now quite a few of them all over the garden , but they do seem to be mainly eat the grass at the moment, not my precious plants. Thank goodness! Must buy some chicken wire before next spring, to protect any new plants. (Or shoot all the rabbits…)

 

 

 

Who needs butterflies..?

…when there are moths as beautiful as this?

 

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Pink! And with white legs and antennae! It is an Elephant Hawk-moth, named after the caterpillar’s resemblance to a trunk, apparently. They are common, sometimes seen at dusk at this time of the year, feeding from honeysuckle and other flowers. Just look at the size of it, compared to the grain of the wood. It must be the length of my little finger. It was attracted by the light of our moth trap the other night, and settled on the side of the trap for the day, before flying off again at dusk.

 

Most moths are smaller than that, and less colourful, but that doesn’t mean that they are boring. Take this Buff Ermine.

 

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I love his fluffy shoulders, and the contrast of the elegant black antennae. But the pick of the catch had to be this huge Cream-spot Tiger.

 

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It is pretty enough at rest in the petri dish where we put them while we identify and photograph them. But when I let it go into the bushes, it settled with its wings open…wow!

 

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So much as I love butterflies, I like moths even more.

(See here for my other moth pictures from the garden.)

Learning moths

As part of our ongoing nature studies in the garden, we are catching moths about once a week, by attracting them to light overnight. They are not harmed by this, and are released in the morning once we have identified them. Different moths fly at different times of year, often depending on when their adult or caterpillar food plant is available, so we see different moths each time. They mostly have descriptive common names, and can be really pretty when you see them close up.

This little chap, about the size of a piece of macaroni, is a Foxglove Pug. The caterpillars will feed on foxglove flowers, of which we will have plenty soon.

 

Foxglove pug

 

Slightly bigger, about the size of my thumbnail, is this Small Phoenix, which feeds on rosebay willowherb.

 

Snall phoenix

 

This one is from a family of moths called the Noctuidae, which sit with their winds straight by their bodies. It is a Flame Shoulder.

 

Flame shoulder

 

This one is a flame carpet. All the carpet moths are called that because of their intricate patterns, not because they eat carpets!

 

Dark-barred twin-spot carpet

 

Less attractive on top, but with a lovely fluffy underside is this male Muslin Moth. You can tell it is a male because is dark, where the females are pale.

 

Muslin moth - male

 

The largest we caught last night was this Scalloped Hazel, each wing the size of my thumbnail.

 

Scalloped hazel

 

I really enjoy identifying moths, as there always seems to be something new that I haven’t seen before.