Night Time Nature
National Moth Week begins on 18th July, a global citizen science project focusing on the fascinating world of moths. This week long event celebrates the insects belonging to the same group as butterflies, but because many emerge at night we often overlook them. Moths are most known to us for their clothes munching larvae, and most people think they’re all brown and boring, and they’re wrong! Only a handful of moth larvae actually eat clothes and these are often the tiny micro moths, not the macro moths that most moth-ers focus on. In the UK we have around 60 species of butterfly and for those of us that live in the North of the country many of these species are out of reach, much preferring the warmer climate down South. Moths on the other hand are in abundance with around 2500 moth species found in the UK, in Scotland we probably have around 500 species of large, macro moths – plenty to keep us interested! You can join in with National Moth Week if you have your own trap but if not look out for events being held around the country, this is a great way to get an introduction to the underestimated world of moths. You can join myself and Emily on Wednesday 22nd July for a morning of moths.
Moth trapping is a growing nature based hobby in the UK and I started moth trapping this year after first trying whilst volunteering for two weeks on an RSPB reserve. My trap is homemade and was much more affordable than some traps you can buy online, so don’t be put off by the price if you’re thinking of starting out. My trap cost around £60, you just need someone who is handy with a hammer and nails! Because of work commitments I only trap on weekends at the moment, and even then we’re very dependent on weather conditions, but beware, it can become addictive. The trap works by using a light bulb to attract moths which are then caught in the bottom of the trap (harmless and they’re released), and so the following morning you can investigate what you’ve caught. This can be daunting when you first set out because of so many species, but having a good book will help enormously. Plus, there are many facebook groups and twitter users to ask for help and your county recorder will always be happy to assist, just take photos of any you aren’t sure on.
I’ve been using my trap whenever weather and time allows, so to get you excited for moth week I thought I’d share some of the moths I’ve caught. At the beginning of July I caught around 35 different species in one night, this was my largest catch so far and took me a while to sort, but it was brilliant all the same. Here are some images I’ve taken whilst I’ve been trapping throughout the season so far:
I’ve been trapping in my garden in Bunessan this week too. It’s amazing the beautiful colours and details out there to be discovered, of which we’re often unaware unless they come to our windows at night, like this Riband Wave did.
This is the rather lovely Burnished Brass, and my photographic skills don’t do justice to its green iridescence…let’s hope we catch another one to show you on Wednesday!
The pictures below show the unmistakable Garden Tiger, which displays its surprisingly bright orange underwings if disturbed.
Bright colours in nature are often a warning, for example ‘Don’t eat me I’m poisonous’! Day-flying burnet moths can produce their own cyanide from the plants they eat as caterpillars. Here’s a newly hatched 6-spot burnet I found during a walk at Burg last week, which has just emerged from its pupal case and cocoon, and is letting its new wings dry before flying off.
As Rachel mentioned there are lots of ways to get help with identification, another useful website is iSpot where you can upload photos and descriptions of any wildlife you find and experts will give you their opinions on what it might be! Give it a try here: http://www.ispotnature.org/communities/uk-and-ireland