Thursday, 11 July 2013

The New Moth Box, 144 Moths, A Message To You All From Ma, and My Ecology Degree Application Outcome....

Crikey it's been a busy old week here. I'm looking forward to a (hopefully) restful weekend!

The New And Improved Robinson Moth Box arrived as promised on Tues (thank you Jon at ALS), and of course I had to put it out that night. Weather conditions were pretty much perfect for moths: warm, overcast, not much in the way of a breeze, so I was expecting great things.

The Robinson runs a 125w Mercury Vapour system which means the light is way brighter than my 15w Actinic Skinner. It also has a different design- essentially it's a tub shape with a plastic cone hood that has a circular hole at the top which the bulb is suspended above. The moths are attracted to the light, fly down through the hole and settle on and underneath the egg boxes which are placed inside the trap so they have somewhere to rest and hide. It works similarly to a lobster trap in that once the moths are in it, the design makes it difficult for them to get out until they are released. The Skinner in comparison is basically an open-topped four-sided wooden box with two sloping perspex sheets as a roof and a 3cm ish wide gap where they meet, so the more resourceful moth has no problem finding his or her way out.

The Robinson Moth Box full of moths

The best position for the Skinner in terms of moth yield proved to be on the patio near the flowers, so that's where we put the Rob. It Was Very Bright Indeed to the point I semi-blinded myself looking at the bulb and could see multiple moth boxes every time I blinked for about three hours afterwards. Teddy had to have his night time wee in the front garden away from it because it was either that or put sun glasses on him. 

L, who tends to roll his eyes at the merest mention of moths (unlike F who is almost as interested in them as I am) examined the new set up with a critical eye. 

"If moths sleep during the day then why do they want to be near light at night? Wouldn't it be more sensible for them just to be awake during the day when the sun's up?" 

The mother half of me was impressed with this simple but to the point and well reasoned question, the adult squirmed because I couldn't answer him. So I looked it up and was relieved to discover there is no consensus answer. The general understanding is that the Moon is used for navigation purposes to orientate flight, not as something to actively try and reach.

I got up at 6.30 and bounced downstairs to discover the patio, the side wall of the house, the greenhouse (inside and out) and the moth box crammed full of moths. I counted over 250, which was just slightly up from my usual nightly haul of 25. It took me 12 hours to process them all.

This moth trapping lark is turning out to be a full time occupation.

There were 39 new species (probably more- I didn't get all the micros and there are still a couple of the larger moths I have yet to ID). This takes my Total Of New Moths since I started Mothing in Mid June up to 144.

Here are a selection of my favourites. As usual, if you spot a glaring error, please let me know....


Common Emerald (For Jessica at Rusty Duck)
Barred Yellow
Small Angle Shades. A Very Busy Little Moth Indeed, even when fridged for a few hours he was still zooming about.
Angle Shades (been wanting one of these for ages- why has this gone green??)

Blue Bordered Carpet

Beautiful Hook Tip (this was a new species for me and there were lots of them both in and outside the box so it must be their time of year)

Bird's Wing (never seen one of these before so very excited to get one)
Single Dotted Wave
Common Footman (love this little moth and had long wanted to see one so very glad he turned up)
Common Marbled Carpet
Elephant Hawk (4 of these in the box). Preparing for take off. His wings vibrated for ages on my finger before he finally lifted up into the air and flew off. The way he did it reminded me of a harrier jump jet taking off, slowing rising up then off he went.
"I can see you with my Big Green Eyes"

Poplar Hawk (3 of these in the box). The Big Daddy of Moth World
Burnished Brass (really glimmers golden in the light which doesn't come out so well in this pic)

Fan Foot (this one is a male- they have hairy legs!)
Mother Of Pearl (beautiful, been wanting to see one for ages)
Peach Blossom Moth (yay! another one I'd been wanting to see for a while)
Riband Wave. There are two types, this one with the dotty lines, and the one below, with a block strip of colour
Riband Wave II
Rosy Footman (another one I'd been wanting for ages)
Spectacle Moth. You can see why. I absolutely love these little moths.
Swallow Tail. Gorgeous. Keep an eye out for these on your windows as they like to sleep on them during the day.
Now this moth flumoxes me. I've had one before and incorrectly labelled it as a red twin spot or large carpet. The closest I got after hours of pouring through books and the internet yesterday was a Tissue or possibly some kind of Umber. I think I'm going to post it on the Garden Moth Challenge Blog and hope someone there will know what it is, unless Caroline or David have any thoughts here? NB- Matt at the above blog has now ID'd this one for me. It is in fact a Mottled Beauty ab.conversaria, which I would never have found if I looked for a million years! Thanks Matt.
The Uncertain (31 of these in the box. It must be their time too!)
Common White Wave
Buff Arches
Coronet (they have a slightly green tinge which is very handsome)
Green Pug (the photo makes him look huge but in fact pugs are tiny moths- about 15mm)
Barred Red
Small Blood Vein
I loved these two Lobster Moths sitting quietly side by side on the wall. When the sun grew hotter and moved over them they toddled off into the shade. They have furry legs and I find them rather adorable.

I am more confident handling moths now. You develop a knack and learn how to move around them and handle them so they don't get harmed. I now bring the box inside and shut all the doors before opening it, because with the best will in the world, a number of them are busy people who escape the second you open the lid. The ones who don't fly off are quite happy sleeping in the box until night fall and so now I tend to leave them there (if I know what they are I don't need to disturb them by moving them and they are safe from birds and protected from heat in the house). When night comes I put the box outside and off they go when they are ready. 

The ones who have escaped inside tend to land on windows, the ceiling, tables, photographs, L's box of beanos, me (I accidentally took one with me out walking in the woods with Teddy earlier this week. He had a nice car journey and came home again too), so I can usually collect them with a pot and a piece of paper fairly easily, get their photo, make my record and release them into the flower bed where the birds can't get at them. Having said that, there were a few yesterday who I couldn't find but I knew they were in the house so last night once darkness fell I went into the breakfast room and discovered them all buzzing around by the door. I put the outside light on, opened the door and off they went.

A couple of non-moth-related things to finish with.

Firstly, Ma has asked me me to say a big THANK YOU to all of you who left kind get well soon messages after P's accident. He is now home and hobbling about on crutches, and your lovely messages cheered them both in what has been a difficult week.

Secondly, I had some good news yesterday- my college application has been accepted and I start the BSc in Ecology and Conservation Management this autumn, so it's full steam ahead. I am VERY pleased, VERY relieved and VERY excited!

CT x


  1. Glad to get good news on the accident victim.

    And congrats on the degree application! Very exciting - I considered something like that at one time . . .
    Your moth project is remarkable and absolutely fascinating - love the amazing creatures you find!

    1. Hi Kate :-)

      Yes I think it'll be a really interesting course and right up my street.

      I am totally in love with moths, they are amazing creatures, so varied and so beautiful.

      Hope all is well with you and the horses.

  2. Well to say I am envious of all your moths would be an understatement!! I am DEFINITELY going to look into doing a bit of moth trapping myself soon! The mother of pearl is stunning and your photo head on of the ele hawk moth is superb!!

    Congratulations on your degree application!! Fantastic! I wish I had studied that course instead of biomedical science! It would be much more useful for the kind of career I want to pursue!!

    Glad P is on the mend :)

    1. You will love seeing the moths that you get and I expect you'll get completely hooked too. Moths seem to have that effect on people :-)

      Thanks re the degree. I think it's v hard to have to pick one course at 18 that sees you through your whole life. Our daughter is just going through that process now. I read History and English at that age and don't regret it but I do feel very lucky to be able to do another one in a subject that really interests me at this point in my life.

    2. I've been researching how to make my own but it all looks a little complicated! Might just have to save up once my overdraft is paid back!

      I don't regret doing my course either, it was a great experience and I learnt loads but maybe if I had taken a gap year I would have realised what I really wanted to do and would have chosen a more appropriate degree! I'll do a masters one day maybe if necessary.

    3. Maybe one day. Dr Lou would be quite cool!

  3. Perfect ID of my moth CT, and the one below is my other one.. Barred Yellow. The latter stayed the night, I don't know what happened to the green one.

    Many congratulations on the course, I really hope you enjoy it.

    1. Ah glad I got it right, that's very pleasing :-)

      I shall write up parcels of the course as it goes on.

  4. Pretty, pretty, pretty moths! (And in answer to the question about moths not being out in the day if they love light so much...well, it's because they get sun burned very quickly and unfortunately sunblock clogs up their fluffy little bodies. Also, a lot of moths can trace their ancestors back to Count Mothula....say no more, watch out for the fangs.)

    Whoop, whoop, whoopy congratulations about the degree. I can understand your excitement and I hope you are planning a trip to Paperchase or WH Smiths in order to stock up on matching stationery and notebooks! And ring binders. And pencil cases and satchels and a lunch box and plimsolls and a Head Girl badge...(oh, shut up, Denise!)

    1. I'll relay the information about the sun block, and add that you are a teacher so should know about these things.

      Thanks for the whoopies, and I hadn't even thought of all the stationery opportunities! Matching sets here we come (you forgot gym knickers btw, not that I'm planning on doing any gym or indeed wearing big blue pants over my other pants at any point).

    2. New stationery is very de rigeur if you are a girlie starting a new school year in September. Not so much if you are a boy, because my experience of boys and stationery is that other people's biros and chewed pencils will do because it's only school, innit?

      We had big brown PE pants at our school. Pants over pants is wrong on many levels. Wrong and hot, but not in an ooh la la kind of way.

      You will also need a set of novelty erasers - preferably scented. Oh, and some pink and glittery stickers. And post-it notes. And highlighter pens. Many different colours.

  5. What a superb collection of moths - can't believe how many the new moth trap caught. One day I'll update mine!! :) There are several of those moths I would love to trap - e.g. Lobster,Barred Red and Rosy Footman. Glad someone helped with id on the one - I would have been struggling!!

    Well done on getting on the Course - hope you enjoy. You are so right about the subjects you want to study changing as you get older. My choice at 50 was so different to that at 18!!!

    1. The big problem nowadays is having to pay to do another degree :-{ I shall be paying it off for the rest of my life probably, but I think it will be worth it :-)

      I could not believe the amount of moths that were in the box. Never mind about it being best for the moths to only put the box out every 2-3 days, I'll need that long to ID them at this rate!

  6. Fantastic moth haul! Some of them are absolutely exquisite. HUGE congratulations on your course. How will you have time for everything??? I guess the moths can be a specialist subject within the course. I'm about to publish a post with a little very common moth who I found on the kitchen floor that I don't know the name of, and would appreciate your expertise.....should be on line by about 8.00pm, bedtime routine allowing. x

    1. Have left you a reply for your moth :-)

      Thanks re the course, I've cleared out a lot of excess baggage to find the space for it which has been an interesting and useful process in itself. I'm quite sure there will be times when I wonder how I'm going to get through everything but I quite like a challenge!

  7. Fabulous selection of moths. I can understand why you have several favourites; they're all lovely. Glad to hear P is better and fantastic news about the course. It'll be interesting to see how different studying is in 2013 to yester-year! And it's such an interesting degree.

    1. The moths were every bit as good as I'd hoped, I have a real soft spot for them :-)

      Re the degree, apparently it's a course that attracts a reasonable number of mature students (hope so!). Will keep you posted.

      Poor old P is pretty much restricted to being downstairs as even single stairs present a challenge for him at the mo. We do take our mobility for granted until it's compromised. Thank goodness the Ashes is on the radio at the mo to keep him from going stir-crazy! Even tho it's no substitute for the tennis as far as I'm concerned :-)

  8. Hi CT Congratulation for getting into college. That is what you wanted and have now achieved. Great selection of moths. Margaret

    1. Hi Margaret :-)

      Yes I'm really pleased to have got on the course. The hard work starts in September!

      Glad you enjoyed the moths.

  9. Hi CT, I hope your studies will be everything you want them to be and more-congratulations! Great moths-I think they are all brilliant and super photos too, but the prize goes to the two Lobster Moths, for looking so handsome and being so furry. Delighted P is back home.

    1. Thanks Suze :-)

      I love the two lobsters too, it was something about the way they were sitting quietly side by side I loved.

  10. Hi there! Fantastic moths - what a selection. You'll find the Robinson trap very good if my experience is anything to go by, so all the very best of luck in future. The warm weather is turning up all sorts of goodies here in Oxfordshire; after last night's Garden Tiger, my daughter-in-law (who doesn't care for moths specially) summoned me to look at one on a neighbour's plants and it was a perfect Scarlet Tiger. And we found Bee Orchids. Nature's flourishing round here.

    All warm wishes


    1. TWO tigers in as many days- lucky you. I shall be keeping an eye out for one here... Looking forward to seeing more of your moths in due course.

      Thanks for casting an eye over the small angle shades. I had another look and decided it probably was one, the only other thing I thought it could possibly have been was a double lobed but it didn't really look enough like it to change the ID with any confidence (says she who has only been doing this for a month!) CT :-)


Thank you for leaving a comment. I always enjoy reading them and will try my best to reply to every one. CT x