Wednesday, 7 August 2013

Marvellous Moths From Last Night, And An Uncomfortably Close Encounter With A Hornet

So I have been lucky enough to see two Clearwing Hornet Moths and have learnt not to be frightened of them because they are Moths and not Hornets, and also how to tell the difference. I was warned that wasps and hornets can be attracted to a Moth Light Box and sure enough this week the wasps have started to arrive. They're sleepy first thing so are generally not difficult to pot and put outside. This morning, however, when I brought the box inside and peered in to see who was there, I got a Very Nasty Shock Indeed when I realised it contained an Enormous Hornet (about half the size of my index finger).


He began to walk around, shoving the moths out of his way in a very unceremonious and aggressive manner which made me cross, so I decided I would have to get him out before he started killing people. Now, my insect bible says hornets "tend to be less aggressive than other wasps" but they do have a powerful sting, so caution was required.

I got him in the pot without any problems and took outside where I decided to take some photos, which was fine until he started cleaning his antennae and then very shortly afterwards vibrating the lower half of his body which contains the sting. I moved to a different angle and it suddenly became obvious he was watching my movements very carefully. He began to posture towards me, so at that point I decided I'd got enough pictures and backed off sharpish. 

They are interesting creatures close up but I am very wary of them in a way I don't feel around bees.


Once I'd shifted the hornet I felt I could relax and enjoy going through the moth box which mercifully had far fewer moths in it than of late thanks largely to the cooler night time temperatures, so it was a Quieter and More Enjoyable experience.

There were a few new species, my favourite of which is this Chocolate Tip, which, from certain angles, I think looks like a furry sea creature. What do you think? (Suzie you will love this one!)

There were four Canary-Shouldered Thorns in the box

 Two perfect Blood Veins

Two beautiful Black Arches

 A Broad-Bordered Yellow Underwing

A Large Yellow Underwing

And a Lesser Broad-Bordered Yellow Underwing
(when you get all three of these underwings varierties in the box together they suddenly become remarkably easy to tell apart! There were 15 of these lesser versions in the box this morning, shooting up from only very occasional sightings previously so lots must have hatched out in recent days)

My first Straw Underwing.
Very pleased to see this one as I know others in the UK have been getting them in their boxes recently and we haven't, until now.

Early Thorn pretending to be a butterfly

Knot Grass
(who flummoxed me momentarily because the usually obvious "eyes" on the wings are pretty much absent, but I can't think who else it could be?)

A Scalloped Oak

A Sallow Kitten

A Ruby Tiger

A Lesser Swallow Prominent

A Silver Y
(a very common day-flying moth you will probably see in your garden)

Silver Y head-on

Another Sallow Kitten sitting on the cord that pulls the blinds. Moths can be Very Inventive in choosing their sleeping places,

A Willow Beauty

A Common Wave

A Drinker

By far the majority of the moths in last's nights box were perfect, which makes me think they must be new. Towards the end of last week we were getting a large number of faded and battered looking moths and I guess these ones now are fresh hatchings- the new generation has arrived!

As a final thought to finish with, I've been scooting through my new flower books and have found my new favourite flower name: Squinancywort. Marvellous!

Have a good day all,

CT :-)



  1. What a great name a Sallow Kitten is! More wonderful moth pictures and I love your Hornet but only at two county's distance thank you very much.

    1. He was rather magnificent in a "as long as you don't get too close to me" kind of way :-)

  2. HI CT Yet another wonderful post and great photos of the moths.

  3. Aaaaaargghhh....HORNET!!!!! (Runs away as fast as her little fat legs will carry her, flailing wildly and shouting, 'The bees, the the BEES!)

    1. And The Moths, although at a different time of day. I'd no idea hornets flew at night, or maybe they are Dawn People?

      ps- I think you're being a little hard on yourself about the whole fat leg thing...

  4. Wonderful photos of the moths again, your close-ups really do show their fascinating details. I'm no fan of wasps - or hornets, I'm afraid. If I had a weak bee colony, the wasps would destroy it completely. I've seen once busy hives that look like the Mary Celeste because the wasps have launched an attack.

    1. They are bloomin aggressive aren't they? You can hear it in their buzz. There were two hornets in the box this morning and the moths were noticeably distressed by them- usually all is quiet in there but they were whizzing about this morning so I knew before I reached them something was wrong. Anyway, got the hornets out and the moths settled down :-)

  5. Oooh the Chocolate Tip is like a teddy bear! Love love love it :) More great moth images CT and fabulous names, Sallow Kitten-which is also a furry little beastie and Black Arches which is certainly a great looking moth. Wonderful to think this is all going on whilst we sleep which is almost a shame. Squinancywort is a fab word. The hornet would have had me running far away, you did a marvellous job getting those images.

    1. Thanks Suze :-)

      It seems to be a Time Of Furry Moths, with more in the box today which I'll post later. I thought the choc tip was gorgeous, almost makes you want to stroke him, except he was a bit small for stroking without squashing! :-)

  6. Some great photos there CT :) Love the Chocolate Tip another one I've never trapped. I only get occasional wasps in my trap for some reason and I've never had a Hornet - my last close encounter was when I found one in my car!

    1. Me too re Choc Tip- gorgeous looking moth. God I wouldn't want to find a hornet in my car- were you driving at the time? Hopefully not! :-)

  7. The choc tip definitely looks like a little mothy seal!!

    eeeeeek I think I would run at least 10 miles if I came across a hornet! I think seeing it on your blog is by far the best way to see one!

    1. You'd hate it here at the mo Lou- we've had hornets in the moth box the last three times I've put it out and even had one come in the house and fly into us the other evening!


Thank you for leaving a comment. I always enjoy reading them. CT.