MOTH TRAPPING

Our latest moth trapping reports are given here. For our equipment and cumulative list of moths, please scroll to the foot of the page. Thanks to Stephen Locke for the text and all photos.

For a blog on ‘Rearing Puss Moth Larvae’ by Stephen Locke, please click on this link: http://northcurrywildlife.blogspot.com/2020/07/rearing-puss-moth-larvae.html

LATEST POSTS

Coronavirus restrictions, Spring 2020

We are not able to trap as a communal activity at the Community Woodland for the time being because of the restrictions during the coronavirus pandemic, but Stephen Locke is using the trap in his own garden and is sending us reports of moths caught locally.

Moth Trapping, 23 June 2020

I put the trap out in my garden on Tuesday night 23 June and trapped 33 moths of 21 spp. The full list was: Barred Straw, Brimstone, Broad-barred White, Brussels Lace (m, very dark), Buff Ermine (x4), Buff Footman? (very clear and strong orange margin), Common Footman, Common Rustic, Dark Arches (x6), Elephant Hawkmoth (x2), Heart & Dart (x5), Large Yellow Underwing (x2 trapped, but more blundering about), Leopard Moth, Minor, Mottled Rustic?, Orange Moth (x2 m), Poplar Hawkmoth, Puss Moth, Small Elephant Hawkmoth, Snout and Willow Beauty.

The Poplar Hawkmoth is a fine moth. For some reason, I never find a tatty, worn one: they always seem to be fresh.

Poplar Hawkmoth

The Leopard Moth is a common moth but the first time I have seen it. It is one of a family of moths of which the adults cannot feed and the larvae are tunnellers. So, three years as a caterpillar inside a willow tree, and a week or so flying around hungry looking for a mate!

 Leopard Moth

Orange Moth (so named for obvious reasons), again not rare, but local and another first for me. With two in one night, there must be a breeding population nearby. In contrast to the Poplar Hawkmoth, this is an extremely flighty moth, and the photo is of the slightly less tatty of the two.

Orange Moth

Moth Trapping, 27 May 2020

With the year moving on and an exceptional spell of warm and, above all, calmer weather, the moth count is increasing. On the night of Wednesday 27 May Stephen had 20 spp., 35 moths in all (as always, not including micro-moths or pugs, unless the latter are very easy!). This is not a high count but a good average for this time of year.

Moth numbers at traps can be very unpredictable and inconsistent. The full list was: Barred Straw (x2), Brimstone, Buff-tip, Common Carpet (x2), Common Marbled Carpet, Common Swift, Common Wainscot (x2), Cream-spot Tiger, Elephant Hawkmoth, Garden Carpet, Green Carpet (f), Heart and Dart (x6), Light Emerald, Lychnis, Marbled Minor, Pale Tussock (x2m), Puss Moth, Treble Lines (x5), White Ermine (x2m), Willow Beauty (x2) (plus Small Magpie, a micro-moth).

One interesting moth was the Light Emerald - strictly speaking not a ‘true’ Emerald in the sense that it is a different family from all the other Emeralds, which are stronger green. But green is an unusual colour for moths and the Light Emerald is nice to see, although common, with a larva which feeds on a wide variety of broad-leaved trees and shrubs.

Light Emerald

And, by way of contrast, a Lychnis, which initially looks a bit of a plain brown moth but has quite a distinctive ‘x’ pattern on its resting wings.

Lychnis

Another Puss Moth turned up and laid eggs - which look to be fertile so Stephen will try to rear them for the unusual and spectacular caterpillar.

Moth Trapping, 20 May 2020

Stephen put the trap out in his garden on Wednesday 20 May with good results. Honours were shared between three Cream-spot Tigers, a Puss Moth and a Buff-tip. The three Cream-spot Tigers were caught in quick succession when they settled on the backing sheet while Stephen was checking the trap at 10.30pm. This might indicate that there is a good population locally.

Quite a few moths are attracted by the light of a moth trap, but do not necessarily enter the trap. On a pleasant summer night, it is worth staying up and picking moths off the sheet as they arrive. Indeed, on a good night it might be worth simply shining a bright light on a white sheet and seeing what turns up.

Another nice moth was Puss Moth. It has the most spectacular larva, which a recent article in British Wildlife suggests is a snake mimic - a geologically ancient fear of snakes being genetically in-built in almost all animals. The food plant is willow so it may be common locally.

Puss Moth

The third moth, the Buff-tip, is an astonishing mimic of a broken twig.

Buff-tip

Altogether, there were 24 moths of 14 species, quite a respectable total for this time of year. The full list was: Buff-tip, Cream-spot Tiger (x3), Garden Carpet, Heart & Dart (x5), Hebrew Character, Knot Grass, Lychnis, Muslin Moth (m), Pale Tussock (m & f), Puss Moth, Shuttle-shaped Dart, Treble Lines (x4), White Ermine (m), Yellow-barred Brindle.

Moth Trapping, 9 May 2020

Stephen put the trap out on Saturday 9 May in his garden as a still, warm night was forecast, resulting in a catch that was diverse, if not numerous (11 moths of 11 species): Brimstone, Broken-barred Carpet, Common Marbled Carpet, Cream-spot Tiger, Dark-barred Twin-spot Carpet, Heart and Dart, Hebrew Character, Pebble Prominent, Shuttle-shaped Dart (F), Streamer and Treble Lines.

Stephen was particularly pleased to attract the Cream-spot Tiger, which was placidly sheltering behind the backing sheet. While it is not rare (it is classed as ‘local’), he has no record of seeing it before in the UK, so it was a nice find. Like all Tigers, it is on the flamboyant side due to its typical warning colouration. 

Cream-spot Tiger at rest

Cream-spot Tiger flashing a warning with its yellow and black underwing

Cream-spot Tiger ‘playing dead’ (its second line of defence) and showing its gaudy underside

The Cream-spot Tiger is a moth which will rest quite visibly during the day, relying on its warning colouration to deter predators, so it worth keeping an eye open at the base of hedgerows.

Another Tiger which will rest in plain view during the day, and might at first glance be confused with the Cream-spot, is the Jersey Tiger which has been seen at the woodland and may be seen in gardens in summer.

Jersey Tiger at rest during the day

Moth Trapping, 24 April 2020

Stephen put the trap out in his garden again and trapped 5 moths of 5 species, including two moths characteristic for this time of year: the Muslin Moth (below left) and the Pale Tussock (below right ). Both are males as you can see from their fine antennae.

The female Muslin Moth has the same markings, but a totally different, white, ground colour. The Pale Tussock is showing his characteristic resting posture with furry forefeet pushed forward. Both species are often very placid moths which, if attracted to light and not disturbed, will rest like that for long periods.


Moth Trapping, 2 April 2020

Stephen put the moth trap out on 2 April in his garden for the first time since the autumn (conditions over the winter had been so wet and, above all, windy as to make it not worthwhile). Conditions were far from ideal and there was just one moth in the trap: a Hebrew Character, one of the early spring moths and a common one, but new to our list simply because of the time of year. The name derives from the apparent resemblance of its wing marking to a character in the Hebrew alphabet.

Hebrew Character

Later in the day, Stephen noticed another common spring moth, Common Quaker, which was probably attracted to the light but not trapped. Its name refers to the very plain, not to say drab, appearance of this moth, reminiscent of sombre Quaker dress. 

Moth Trapping, Winter 2019-2020

We had intended to continue setting the moth trap throughout the winter at the Community Woodland, but incessant rain and wind prevented this. Nevertheless, Stephen encountered his first ‘proper’ moth of the year in his greenhouse on 29 February, the very attractive Angle Shades. This is a moth which has been recorded in every month of the year, probably with two broods and some immigrants, but this one was pristine and very early.

Angle Shades

Report of moth trapping at the Community Woodland, 27 September 2019 (National Moth Night)

Text and photos by Stephen Locke

This was a quiet but worthwhile trapping and our contribution to National Moth Night at a time of inauspicious weather. We were grateful to the Met Office for the accuracy of their forecast which allowed us to choose the one reasonable evening of the three designated as Moth Nights. The wind died down and it was a clear night, chilly rather than cold (about 12 deg). Warmer and overcast would have probably encouraged more moths.

Nevertheless, among the small number attracted, we had several characteristic and distinctive autumn moths, including Sallow, Barred Sallow and, in the same family, Lunar Underwing, of which we had at least half-a-dozen specimens.

 

Sallow (left) and Barred Sallow  (right)

These join the Centre-barred Sallow which we had at the Community Woodland on 8 September (see below). All of them are moths of grassland, scrub, hedgerows and broad-leaved woodland and are autumn flyers, so they are just what you would expect.

Setaceous Hebrew Character, a very common and distinctive moth, was the most numerous moth of the night, although it was followed closely by the Lunar Underwing.

Setaceous Hebrew Character (left) and Lunar Underwing (right)

The full list was: Barred Sallow, Garden Carpet, Lunar Underwing, Sallow, Setaceous Hebrew Character and a Beauty (prob. Willow Beauty but too worn for confident id) (6 spp.), along with several very worn and unidentifiable LBJs.


Report of moth trapping at the Community Woodland, 8 Sept 2019

Text and photos by Stephen Locke

We ran the trap between 8.15 and 10.30 pm, with most activity occurring between 9 and 10 pm, but the results were rather sparse with just nine species recorded. The strong, three-quarter moon in a largely clear sky may have been a factor. Moonlight is often said to reduce catches, but since results often seem inconsistent it is not really possible to say.

The list that follows, however, does include two colourful and characteristic autumnal moths: Canary-shouldered Thorn and Centre-barred Sallow. The Canary-shouldered Thorn is aptly named, and all the common species of Thorn have now been recorded at the Community Woodland.

Canary-shouldered Thorn

The larvae of the Centre-barred Sallow, despite its name, feed on the unopened buds of mature ash; those of the Canary-shouldered Thorn on a variety of trees.

Centre-barred Sallow

The full list of moths seen is: Brimstone, Canary-shouldered Thorn, Centre-barred Sallow, Common Wainscot, Dusky Thorn, Grey Chi, Large Yellow Underwing, Setaceous Hebrew Character (the name of this very common moth refers to the wing markings resembling a Hebrew letter), Square-spot Rustic (probably the most abundant moth of the night and a real LBJ!) (9 spp)

Report of moth trapping in a Queen Square garden, 24 August 2019

Text and photos by Stephen Locke

This session in a central North Curry garden produced a very good variety of moths. We ran the trap between 8.30 and 11.30 pm, with most activity being between about 9.15 and 11.00 pm, but there was plenty going on when we packed up.

Gold Spot (left) and Jersey Tiger (right)

The list of moths seen is: August Thorn, Blood Vein, Brimstone (many), Chinese Character (looks like a conventional moth with its wings open - small, white with black markings - but an excellent mimic of a bird-dropping when at rest), Common Carpet, Common Footman (many), Common (or Dark) Marbled Carpet, Common Rustic, Common Wainscot (many), Dog’s Tooth, Flame Shoulder, Gold Spot, Green Carpet (fresh - they lose their green colour as they age), Jersey Tiger, Large Yellow Underwing (many), Lesser Broad-bordered Yellow Underwing (many), Light Emerald, Orange Swift, Poplar Hawkmoth (a truly noble moth), Rustic, Setaceous Hebrew Character, Silver Y (an immigrant and a common day-flier), Small Blood-vein, Square-spot Rustic, Vestal (another immigrant and a nice moth to find), Willow Beauty, Yellow Shell (27 spp).

The note ‘many’ simply records those which were particularly numerous.

 Poplar Hawkmoth

 

Vestal

 It is extraordinary to think of the delicate Vestal migrating from Europe.


Report of moth trapping at the Community Woodland, 3 August 2019

Text and photos by Stephen Locke

The moth trap was set up in the south-east corner of the woodland just off the path near the bird feeders. We ran the trap from 9.30pm to midnight.

The list of moths seen is: Brimstone, Common Carpet, Common Footman, Common Wainscot, Drinker, Flame, Jersey Tiger, Large Yellow Underwing, Lesser Broad-bordered Yellow Underwing, Lesser Yellow Underwing, Magpie, Oak/Northern Eggar (female), Orange Swift (male), Rosy Footman, Ruby Tiger (x7 in trap - more were seen but not trapped), Scorched Carpet, Shaded Broad-bar, Square-spot Rustic (18 spp.).

Magpie

The ‘big moth’ of the night was Oak/Northern Eggar. The naming of this moth is complex and confusing. Northern Eggars are not confined to the north of Britain and for our purposes can be considered forms of the same species. There are differences in the larval life cycle related to what stage the larva over-winters and in colouration of the adult moth (the guide gives the darker colouration as Northern Eggar). But, whatever the name, it is a fine moth.

Oak/Northern Eggar (female)

Numbers of Ruby Tiger continue high. The larva of the Orange Swift lives underground on the roots of vegetation.

Orange Swift (male)

Report of moth trapping at the Community Woodland, 25 July 2019

Text and photos by Stephen Locke

The moth trap was set up just off the path at the front of the orchard at the far end of the woodland. We ran the trap from 9.30 to midnight.

The list of moths seen is: Broad-bordered Yellow Underwing, Cloaked Minor (f. bicoloria), Clouded Border, Common Carpet, Common Footman (very numerous), Common Rustic, Common Wainscot (numerous), Drinker (several), Dusky Sallow, Early Thorn, Elephant Hawkmoth, Heart & Dart, Ingrailed Clay (prob.), Jersey Tiger, Large Yellow Underwing, Lesser Broad-bodied Yellow Underwing, Lesser Yellow Underwing, Mocha, Purple Bar, Rosy Footman, Ruby Tiger (very numerous - we may have seen approaching 50 - there were a dozen in the trap), Scorched Carpet, Sharp-angled Peacock, Small Fan-footed Wave, Willow Beauty (25 spp.).

 Ruby Tiger

The moth of the night was Ruby Tiger for sheer numbers, but probably the most interesting moth was a Mocha, classed as nationally scarce B, the third highest category of rarity. The Mocha is very distinctive and so the identification unambiguous. Although a small moth, it has exquisite markings, and its occurrence at the woodland is exactly right both in general and in habitat.

Mocha


Report of moth trapping at the Community Woodland, 16 July 2019

Text and photos by Stephen Locke

The moth trap was set up in the south-east corner of the woodland just off the path near the bird feeders. We ran the trap for about two hours from 9.30 to 11.30 pm.

Many species of moth came to the light, but it was surprising that few species were caught in the trap during this time. Those caught were 6 Drinkers and a Common Footman, but the full list of moths seen in the two hours of trapping was: Broad-bordered Yellow Underwing, Common Footman, Common Wainscot, Coronet, Drinker (x>9), Elephant Hawkmoth, Lappet, Oak Hooktip, Riband Wave, Rosy Footman, Satin Wave, Scorched Carpet, Sharp-angled Peacock and Swallow-tailed Moth. 


Swallow-tailed moth

We also saw micro-moths but did not record them. The Lappet proved to be a female and laid eggs overnight.

                 

Lappet moth

Our results can possibly be explained by the fact that moths fly at different times of the night as well as different times of the year, and we might have trapped more moths had we trapped for longer. Some of the more common moths we might have expected are perhaps late flyers at this time of year. It is also possible that our torches distracted the moths from the trap as we saw a good variety while we were at the woodland.

The number of Drinkers was a surprising result. Their larvae feed on tall, coarse grasses and rushes and they prefer damp areas so the woodland is presumably a good area for them.

Drinker moth

MOTH TRAP

Thanks to our award from the National Lottery Community Fund, we have been able to buy a moth trap so that we can discover which moths are visiting the Community Woodland and other areas of the village.

The group is very grateful to Stephen Locke for researching the most suitable moth trap for our needs and for obtaining a Skinner trap which is lightweight and portable and comes with a rechargeable lithium battery so that we can use it in places such as the woodland without a source of power. We set it up with a white backing sheet behind it as moths will come to rest on the sheet as well as fly into the trap and can be inspected if the trap is attended or if they are still resting there in the morning.

Skinner moth trap in situ with battery beneath it and backing sheet behind

We are planning to trap at the Community Woodland on a regular basis and at different times in order to ascertain the full range of species throughout the year.

MOTH LIST

The cumulative list of moths recorded since trapping began in mid-July 2019 is:

At the Community Woodland: Barred Sallow, Brimstone, Broad-bordered Yellow Underwing, Canary-shouldered Thorn, Centre-barred Sallow, Cloaked Minor (f. bicoloria), Clouded Border, Common Carpet, Common Footman, Common Rustic, Common Wainscot, Coronet, Drinker, Dusky Sallow, Dusky Thorn, Early Thorn, Elephant Hawkmoth, Flame, Garden Carpet, Grey Chi, Heart and Dart, Ingrailed Clay (prob.), Jersey Tiger, Lappet, Large Yellow Underwing, Lesser Broad-bodied Yellow Underwing, Lesser Yellow Underwing, Lunar Underwing, Magpie, Mocha, Oak/Northern Eggar (female), Oak Hooktip, Orange Swift (male), Purple Bar, Riband Wave, Rosy Footman, Ruby Tiger, Sallow, Satin Wave, Scorched Carpet, Setaceous Hebrew Character, Shaded Broad-bar, Sharp-angled Peacock, Small Fan-footed Wave, Square-spot Rustic, Swallow-tailed Moth, Willow Beauty (47 spp.)

Additional in the village: Angle Shades, August Thorn, Barred Straw, Blood Vein, Broad-barred White, Broken-barred Carpet, Brussels Lace (m, very dark), Buff Ermine, Buff Footman? (very clear and strong orange margin), Buff-tip, Chinese Character, Common Quaker, Common (or Dark) Marbled Carpet, Cream-spot Tiger, Dark Arches, Dark-barred Twin-spot Carpet, Dog’s Tooth, Flame Shoulder, Gold Spot, Green Carpet, Hebrew Character, Knot Grass, Leopard Moth, Light Emerald, Lychnis, Minor, Mottled Rustic?, Muslin Moth, Orange Moth (m), Pale Tussock, Pebble Prominent, Poplar Hawkmoth, Puss Moth, Rustic, Shuttle-shaped Dart (F), Silver Y, Small Blood-vein, Small Elephant Hawkmoth, Snout, Streamer, Treble Lines, Vestal, White Ermine, Yellow Shell, Yellow-barred Brindle. (45 spp).