Tuesday, 6 August 2013

Moth Night, Worthy Societies and Look What I Bought Today

After Yesterday's downpours which arrived late here coming as they did in the afternoon, everything is looking refreshed and the ponds are topped up, which is all Good News for the resident wildlife.

I am planning to put the Moth Box out tonight and this thought has reminded me of two things I wanted to publicise for those of you who don't know about them and might like to take part. The first is that it's Moth Night this week. It runs from Thurs Aug 8th till Sat Aug 10th (so it's really moth three night) and is an annual event run by Butterfly Conservation and Atropos. This is a chance to get involved with all things mothy, and there are various groups round the country running events in support of Moth Night. Here's the web address if you're interested http://www.mothnight.info/www/ 

Butterfly Conservation (which is a noble cause not least because it helps safe-guard moths), currently have a special offer on for membership until the end of this month so it works out at £1.25 a month for a single membership. Here is their website: http://butterfly-conservation.org/

Along similar lines I also wanted to mention the Bumblebee Conservation Trust who do sterling work helping look after these dear creatures. Membership is about £20 a year if memory serves and you get an excellent newsletter at regular intervals packed full of great stuff  as well as Bumblebee ID charts  http://bumblebeeconservation.org/

On the subject of moths, I have now recorded my Hummingbird Hawkmoth sighting with the National Moth Recording Scheme (here).
These amazing moths come over from Africa and as the climate warms so their sightings increase.  1242 of them were recorded in 2012, and the number for this year currently stands at 232. How nice to have some Good News when it comes to wildlife (and how remarkable to think my HBHM might have come all the way from Northern Africa to our garden!).

Staying with the moth theme, I have been shopping today (not for moths, because it did sound a bit like that when I read it back), no- I have been doing My Favourite Kind Of Shopping (apart from  Champagne Shopping, which is really my favourite but I don't do it Very Often for obvious reasons ie we would be broke). I have been shopping for plants and not just any old plants either. 
Earlier in the year you may remember I was busy making the garden as bee friendly as possible. Well, since the construction of our second pond we now have another space available for planting and I decided I would make this one for moth-friendly plants (many of which also happen to be bee and butterfly friendly too which is v handy). 

I read a great quote the other day which said that where bees and butterflies leave off (ie at night) moths takes over. Because most of us sleep during the night and also our eyes don't work as well even if we are awake, I guess it doesn't occur to most of us to think that pollinators are busy working during the hours of darkness, but they are, and their work is every bit as crucial as the industry of the bees. In fact, I think we are going to see more in the way of Raising Public Awareness Over Moths in coming months and years. And to that end I decided to Improve The Moth-Type Plants in the garden thusly...

Moths are often attracted to white flowers (they show up more at night) and to night-scented varieties such as nicotiana and stocks, which we already have in the garden, but they also like things like thyme, marjoram, echinacea etc, so that is what I got today. Here they are, the New Additions....

 Cosmos (cosmic), Golden Marjoram, Pot Marjoram, Oregano, Another Marjoram, Verbena (lollipop) and Echinacea Purpurea Alba

They'd been on the Pre-Planting And Admiring Table for approximately three and a half seconds before the bees and butterflies discovered them, which was pleasing because I'd specifically chosen those plants that had masses of bees and butterflies on them in the garden centre. I even thought I was going to have to pay extra for a Particularly Large Bumble who was Extremely Busy on the Echinacea and refused to be dislodged. When I gave him a gentle prod with my finger he actually lifted a back leg and kicked me! This is the first time anything like that has ever happened to me, or to anyone, I should think. Never mind their stings: I shall be taking a good deal more care of bee's back legs from now on.

Once the plants were snug in their new homes in the earth around the pond I pulled up a chair and waited. It only took a few minutes before the whole place was buzzing with bumbles....

A ladybird with a squashed wing also arrived...

And a slightly less welcome visitor...

They do say you're never more than a few feet away from a rat. Our chickens hate them with a passion but to be honest as long as we aren't over run with them I tend to prefer to adopt a "live and let live" policy. In China it is considered lucky to have them in your garden, so I guess it's all down to perspective. Elsewhere in the garden Other More Obviously Nice People were busy....

If they carry on at this rate there will soon be more bluetits than fatballs...

And I think this means we're about to have our first Water Lily Flower, which will be very exciting. All I want now is to see a newt in the pond and a frog sitting on a lily pad and I will be content.

I bought a couple of wildflower books while L was having a hair cut this morning. Usually an arduous event, ever since we Reached A Compromise that he could keep his hair long but have it styled (instead of drooping yob-like over half his face and frightening old ladies with it who frown disapprovingly at him) this is Less Of A Traumatic Experience for both of us. I had a giggle with Sparkle, our hairdresser (so named because J, Mrs Massey's son, once had a hamster of that name and I got the two muddled, which is a Perfectly Reasonable Thing To Do in my mind. It doesn't sound remotely funny now but Mrs M and I laughed like drains about it for ages and the nickname has stuck). Anyway Sparkle and I had a giggle about how all teenage boys look like they've developed identical twitches which are in fact the result of flicking the hair out of their right eye without having to stretch themselves and actually use their hands like normal people would.

Thanks for all the suggestions re the Wildflower Books which were a great help. I would like to get the Phillip's "Wildflowers of Britain" but at the moment Amazon are asking £86 for a 1977 copy (!) and although ebay has second hand ones available that cost less than that, it'll still have to wait for Christmas (along with the micro moth ID bible that I also want). In the meantime these looked pretty good and were a tenner for two, bargain! I am now dying to get out into the countryside and Start Looking At Wild Flowers, and you've no idea how pleased that makes L. F is back on Friday and he likes the countryside so maybe he'll come with me and be Really Interested and not just Pretending.

I hope you are all having a good day, whatever you are doing. I am now off to investigate a bee who is very large and stuck somewhere in the house if the sound of the buzzing is anything to go by. I can't see him anywhere. I wonder if he's got into an empty wine bottle? Lord knows there are enough of them lying around....!

Till next time,

CT :-) 

PS- I have just located the bee. He turned out to be a wasp who's buzzing was magnified because he had somehow got inside here...

Through this improbably small and oddly-placed-for-a-wasp-to-be-interested-in-hole...

I had to turn the cat upside down and prise open the hole at the bottom to release him, and as anyone who has a money box will know, those little plastic covers are not designed to be removed without a great deal of swearing and several nail snags. What a palaver! 

By the way, this is not actually, as it says on the front, a saving kitty for choccies, but rather it is our Family Swear Box for any Inappropriate Dinner Table Conversation. It lives on the Welsh Dresser next to the dinner table and the fines are 5p for a single misdemeanour (10p if the word or subject matter was particularly unpleasant and/ or it made me feel sick to think about it while I was eating). You get repeated 5ps for every time you say it in one sitting too so one misdemeanour does not buy you immunity for the remainder of the meal. If we are in a restaurant or at a friend's house the fines can be as high at £1 for each infringement. 

Inevitably, it is M who incurs the highest quantity of fines per annum, the worst of which was a particularly bad incident where he wiped ear wax on the table and then pretended he hadn't. That was a Five Pound Moment. He seems to think he can buy himself immunity by winging a fiver in the kitty every few weeks. I have tried to explain that it doesn't work like that but he just grins. The children of course encourage him because a) they think it's hilarious and b) if dad is getting told off then it means they aren't. L has adopted an irritating habit of declaring "well if you said it, then I can" recently too which extends to absolutely anything and everything, so M really should be doubly wary of letting slip any fine-worthy words but of course isn't.

The kitty is emptied out at Christmas and the pennies within are given to a charity tin. It has worked wonders on the children, who now shout "5p!" at the top of their voices in Great Glee at any Poor Unfortunate Guest who happens to mention something lavatorial/ disgusting/ rude at the table (but let that be a lesson to Poor Unfortunate Guests Who Should Know Better I say). They've even been known to do it to strangers eating at the next door table in restaurants. Oh well, if it works.......

I really am off now :-)


  1. Love your verbena. How tall does it grow?

    1. Ermmmm....I'll just nip up the garden and check..... 60cm by 60cm. Bees are loving it, it's covered still.

  2. I concur that, as a member, the Bumblebee Conservation Trust magazine is an excellent little read. I am, as you know, very keen on bumbles, and am therefore very pleased to know that moths take over for the night where bees leave off, especially as all my garden planting is done with bees in mind, and the aforesaid bees have studiously avoided the lovely white edible lavender I planted last year, so p'raps the moths are enjoying it post-twilight, it being white. The lavender, not the twilight.

    Also, I should like to nominate you for the Longest Ever P.S in the History of Blogdom if such an award exists and if it doesn't , I hereby officially exist it! Congratulations!

    1. Ah well, I got the idea from the Exceedingly Long Bracket you did the other day.

      Be great if the moths are eating the lavender, can't remember if it's one of their food plants but it's certainly the right colour :-)

  3. I had no idea I had such a valuable book! I'm sure it cost about £9.00 but that was ten years ago.

    Interesting about the marjoram. Mine is always covered in butterflies and bees once it flowers.

    1. I'm scouring charity shops for it but to no avail. That's one of the things I love about books- unlike so many things they are just as lovely if not more so second hand. I get most of L's books either from the library or buy them second hand - he reads them so fast we'd very quickly be broke if I bought them all new!!
      I know you already plant wildflowers for preference and I'm going to do more of that next year too, just wondered if you knew of any good websites for seeds if I can't find them locally? I particularly want lady's bedstraw which is v popular with moths.

    2. The only ones I've ever bought from a web site was a woman on ebay who specialised in dry shade plants. The things like the Woundwort, I've either transplanted from 'our' drive (it belongs to another household here)and let them self seed, or collected seed from the hedgerows before they do the trimming. It's a bit hit and miss but I just scatter and hope for the best! The Red Campion has been the most successful in the scattering department. Sorry I can't be more helpful than that....

    3. I remembered you mentioning collecting seeds before so now I've got my book and can tell what it is I'm looking for I'll try that too. It would be great if garden centres started selling wildflower seeds properly.

  4. You've bought some great plants there CT - we've got Verbena, Cosmos and Echinacea and bees, hoverflies and butterflies just adore them :)

    Glad you managed to get some wildflower books :)

    Thanks for the reminder re: Moth Night(s) I missed last year but I usually take part. Butterfly Conservation is a great organisation - their magazine is just brilliant. Bumble Bee Conservation Trust is next on my list to join - great cause :)

    Good luck with the moth trapping :)

    1. I was thinking of you when I bought the Cosmos, remembering you'd said your bees love it :-)

      We've got various small children coming to stay this weekend so I may have to do the Moth Night on Friday before they all arrive: don't think moths and small children mix terribly well! And it wouldn't be good if I shouted at guests!!

  5. Hi CT What a lot of information and photographs. I love the shot of all the Blue Tits on the feeder and the dented ladybird. I have no room in my garden to plant anymore and in recent years have resorted to putting plants in pots although this is not totally satisfactory as they dry out very quickly and a bit of a problem when I go away for any length of time. But the herbs you suggested might be good in containers.

    1. Herbs are pretty durable things- we have them in pots too and they are quite forgiving! I love the idea of moths visiting them at night when we're all tucked up in our beds fast asleep.

  6. Ah CT we have bought the same book... I am waiting for the Collins Guide to British Wildflowers and another one of the same type on insects to arrive and some plants for the new pond! My garden was full of bumble bees yesterday I counted 20 or so just in one flower bed and lots more bees and butterflies as we had a cracking sunny warm day here. Anyway....great post and thanks for the info on the web links, I shall take a look.

    1. Great minds think alike! (we'll ignore the fools seldom differ version). The Collins Flower Book is great, I think you'll like it. I've just discovered we have bird's foot trefoil now growing in the lawn where we've left it long around the pond which I'm very chuffed about. If the Collins insect one is the "Complete guide to British insects" I also have that and it's super, it's one of my two moth bibles.
      Great news about your bumbles- I think they've had a better year than honeys so far.

    2. Books arrived this afternoon and yes it is the Collins Complete Guide to British Insects....oh they are going to keep me busy. Moth plant collection looks great.

  7. A thanks from me too re: weblinks. I didn't know moths were attracted to white flowers and will now go through my garden to see if I have planted enough for moths. As I plant for pollinators I would expect the moths to love many of my plants, but I will keep them in mind when I next go shopping. Lovely photos, including the poor ladybird with a squashed wing (although at least you can identify it if it keeps visiting your garden)

    1. I didn't know about the white plants either till I read it somewhere but I guess it makes sense with night time vision. Moths seem particularly fond of herbs and shrubby plants as well as grasses and trees- in other words, not fancy flowers. Native honeysuckle, jasmine and clematis also go down well with them. I think next year I will try and get more native and wild flowers in the garden, having watched the benefits of having these around our pond :-)

  8. I really like the Colins complete British Insects - I love how it is set out :)so maybe one day I shall invest in the wild flower one.

    It is great that your garden pollinators have already taken to your new plants. I saw a fairly modest lavender the other day with at least 30 bees on it! Amazing how some plants have evolved to attract insects more than others :)

    Talking of wasps, I performed the classic Lou-wasp-dance while I was at work the other day, much to the customers amusement! A wasp had found it's way into the bar and made me very nervous and wary! So much so that when my hair brushed my arm I pranced about (not very elegantly) thinking a wasp had landed on me! Silly!

    I love your bee on the big yellowy flower with the white petals! :)

    1. You can often find the collins books on special offer in discount book shops- worth checking periodically.
      Would love to see your wasp dance- you must be doing it quite often now! Bet the customers found it very funny :-)


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