|Beautiful Golden Y|
This year, I have resolved to make the garden even more wildlife friendly, paying particular attention to our night-time pollinator friends. Someone said to me last year that the best way to appreciate the importance of moths is to think of them as doing the work that bees and butterflies do during the day, only moths do that work at night.
Here are a few moth-related facts that you may not know:
1. Moths are not all small and brown. Some are half the size of your hand (Poplar Hawk-Moths), some are bright pink and green striped (Elephant Hawk-Moth), some are the colour of fresh green grass (Emerald moth), some look exactly like twigs (Buff-Tip) and others are bright yellow (canary-shouldered thorn).
2. There are over 2500 species of British moth, but fewer than 70 British butterfly species.
3. Moths are drawn to white flowers in particular because they can see them more easily at night.
4. Night-scented flowers like Nicotiana, Jasmine and honeysuckle have evolved to be night-scented specifically to attract moths.
5. Some moths species migrate over enormous distances to reach our shores. For example, the Hummingbird Hawk-Moth (whose arrival here on the 2nd of August last year caused near-hysteria in my house -well, for me anyway), may well have flown all the way from North Africa.
|Hummingbird Hawk-Moth, at home, summer 2013|
|Silver Y, at home, summer 2013|
7. Moths like native trees, plants and flowers, and their caterpillars like native grasses. All the pillar people below were found in our garden last year, and you can bet they are probably in yours too if you are UK based, as all these moths are regular garden visitors here.
|Dagger Moth Caterpillar|
|Cinnabar Moth Caterpillar|
8. Moths can be attracted to light, to sugar, to nectar and to alcohol.
|White Plume Moth|
9. Some adult moths, such as the Poplar hawks, have no mouths and therefore do not feed when in the adult state.
10. Moths don't breath in the same way humans do. They have no lungs, instead they have 'spiracles' which are tiny holes in the side of their bodies.
11. Most moth species have two broods a year. Older moths look 'moth-eared' and tatty.
|The Chocolate Tip is an Autumn moth|
13. Different moths hatch out at different times of the year. The Sallows, for example, look like autumn leaves and come out in the Autumn, as do the Thorns.
14. Moth numbers have declined sharply in recent years, which is not only bad news for them, but for all the other species that rely on them for food, including us! BUT there is plenty we can do to help them, and adding moth-friendly plants to your garden is a simple way to make a really big difference. There will be hundreds of moths in your garden over the year, regardless of whether you live in the town or countryside. Try going out at night with a white sheet and a torch and see who comes to land on it. You could easily get any of the following- in fact, this Privet Hawk-Moth came down to the sheet and torch trick within 5 minutes of us putting it out.
|The Flame (looks just like a face, no?)|
|Garden Tiger Moth|
Plants to put in your garden to attract and support moths
Spring-Flowering For Nectar:
Aubretia, bluebell, clover, cuckooflower, daisy, dandelion, forget-me-not, honesty, pansy, primrose, sweet rocket, wall flower
Late Summer/ Autumn Flowering for Nectar:
White buddleia, french marigold, knapweed, lavender, marjoram, michaelmas daisy, mint, red valerian, scabious, thyme (and for Oct/Nov flowering Ivy).
Jasmine, honeysuckle, evening primrose, sweet rocket, night-scented stock, Nicotiana alata (other varieties are no good for moths- either low nectar content or the petal shapes prevent them getting at it).
Moth Caterpillar Food Plants:
Hawthorn, Blackthorn, Hazel, Barberry, Spindle, Beech, Oak, Birch, Apple, Privet, Plum, Cherry, Currant, Rose, Clematis, Native Honeysuckle (Lonicera), Hop, Ivy.
|True Lover's Knot|
|Clearwing Hornet Moth|
Other Useful Tips:
Leave native grasses long, both as food sources and places to shelter, also for the pupas. Moths and their caterpillars also need docks, plantain, bramble, dandelions, nettles, bedstraw, foxglove, primrose, thyme, mullein, saxifrage, verbascum, knapweeds and the elephant hawk-moth likes fuchsias.
Allow hedges to grow a little longer if possible and also leave a patch in the garden with leaves/ long grasses etc over winter so they have somewhere to hibernate. Try not to use pesticides as these kills moths very quickly.
If you particularly want to get Hummingbird Hawk-Moths in your garden, their food plants include phlox, jasmine, petunia, buddleia, viper's bugloss, red valerian, honeysuckle, lilac, and (in our garden last year) runner bean flowers.
They have excellent memories and will return to the same plant day after day. Their pillars like lady's bedstraw, hedge bedstraw and wild madder.
Most of these plants will also bring butterflies into your garden, so you'll be helping all these fantastic creatures in one go (not to forget bees as well of course :-) )....
|Ringlet, at home|
|Chalkhill Blue on Magdalen Hill, Winchester|
|Chalkhill Blue at Magdalen|
|Common Blue, Mottisfont|
|Painted Lady, Devon|
|Red Admiral, at home|
|Small Tortoiseshell, Ampfield Woods, Romsey|
|Speckled Wood at Ampfield|
|Wall Brown, Devon|
|High Brown Fritillary, Mottisfont|
|Brimstone, at home, summer 2013|
I really hope that's inspired you to add even one moth-friendly plant to your garden. It doesn't matter how small or large your plot is, changing the plants around will bring different insects to your garden and it will make a difference to their survival. I've finally managed to locate a White Buddleia, which I've been after all winter. It's a patio variety and as such it will sit in a small space but it will be great for the moths and butterflies, and I know we'll see lots of insects using it this year.
If I've inspired you to get a moth box and start trapping for yourself this summer (I always pot the moths first thing, remembering to put them somewhere cool out of direct sunlight, then let them go as night falls once I've recorded them) I'd really love to hear how you get on.
I'll leave you with one of my all-time favourite moths, and one which sends many moth'ers into paroxysms of joy when it finally turns up in the autumn. The beautiful and aptly named Merveille Du Jour (which I know many of you will have already seen, as I remember doing a slightly mad post when it did finally arrive here. I also know many of you already garden for wildlife so I hope you'll forgive any teaching-to-suck-eggs aspects of this post!)...
Well, I don't know about you all, but I'm about ready for summer to get here now, having looked at all of these beautiful creatures again. I've also just turned round and discovered a very small moth sitting on the window behind me, so perhaps the moth world is putting its seal of approval on this post!
Wishing you all a good evening,