Tuesday, 8 July 2014

A Day Of Moths And Hunting For Glow Worms

It's taken me most of the day to go through the 210 moths that were in the box this morning, although the majority of that time was spent trying to puzzle out what the numerous micros were (in line with my resolution to learn more of them this year). They are fiddly, frustrating, and often only reliably told apart by genital dissection, but we won't go there.

Some of the moths are now arriving in large numbers. For example, there were thirty Buff Arches in the box this morning, and twenty seven Uncertains. There were also some eagerly-anticipated New Arrivals, such as the gloriously-marked Black Arches (Jess, if you're reading this they have arrived! - keep your eyes peeled on your study wall) and the teddy-bear like Drinker moth. The latter we also saw late last night when Dave and I spent over an hour walking round a nature reserve staring at the ground trying to find and record non-existent glow worms. We haven't given up and will be back out next week trying another site where we have at least seen them before.

Glow worms are adorable creatures (although perhaps not when seen in the cold light of day, or indeed the brash light of a camera's flash). They are adorable rather because (unlike fireflies) they can't really control their lights, so they switch them on at the start of the mating season in June and leave them on until they've been mated and have laid their eggs, at which point they turn the light off and they die. Only the girls light up (and the larvae, who feed off small snails).

Here is a pic of a pair mating that we saw when doing Roding Woodcock surveys last month. The green glow of her light was lost in the flash, but at least you can see what they look like. The girl is the bigger of the two. The boys have wings and fly about looking for the tell-tale green glow of the girls.
Incidentally, glow worms are currently under-recorded in the UK, so if you live here and fancy doing your bit for biodiversity and conservation you could do worse than go round your local wood or along any stoney paths after dark and record the grid reference, location and any other relevant details of places you spot them and send the info HERE

male and female glow worms mating
Right, back to the moths. 

Here is the pick of today's Papillon Du Nuits....

The ever-fluffy Yellow Tail (this one is a male because he has the diagnostic black spots and very fluffy antennae)
The ever-handsome Black Arches (who is a wee-bit early if truth be told, but then almost everything seems to be this year. This is also a male -note the fluffy antennae)

The creamy Buff Ermine

The master of camouflage Buff Tip

The impressively golden Burnished Brass

Who gets two pictures to show off his amazing bronze sheen

The delicate and butterfly-like clouded border

The always adorable Drinker (another boy- the girls are bigger and lighter in colour, more lemon than chestnut)

Who also gets two pictures because he reminds me of a fluffy teddy bear

Just one of the egg boxes from inside the trap covered on both sides with moths. Look at all those Buff Arches!

The ever impressive Elephant Hawk

The squiggly-lined Fan Foot

The interested Heart And Dart

The sleepy Iron Prominent

The petticoated Large Yellow Underwing

'Me and my big friend'

The darkly alluring melanistic form of Peppered Moth

The shimmering Mother Of Pearl

The graceful Riband Wave

The all-time favourite Rosy Footman

The elegant Minor Shoulder Knot (a new arrival to the garden- not seen him before)

The striking Rustic (ditto as per above)

The unusually-shaped Scalloped Hook Tip
The diminutive Single Dotted Wave

The inquisitive and leggy Small Magpie

The striking Small Phoenix

The? Small fan footed wave OR Treble Brown Spot. I can't decide. What do you think?
The tightly wrapped up Scarce Footman (I think. But please feel free to disagree if you know different)

So, all in all a good day's work and one which will take my total of different species found in the garden here so far this year up to around about 200, which is not bad, considering we're only half way through. There are still a lot of Interesting Mothy People to come, and I am STILL waiting for a Large Emerald to turn up....I only saw one last year. They are Pretty Close to being my all-time favourite moth, which, if you read this blog regularly, you will know is a Big Accolade Indeed for one moth to have :-)

Incidentally, I am aware that lots of people are becoming interested in moths (which is great), so I thought I should probably point you in the direction of an organisation that can help give you access to them and information about them. They also run regular moth-themed nights (ie trapping) all over the country. If you don't already know about it, you can do a lot worse than joining Butterfly Conservation. Alternatively, your local Wildlife Trust will probably also have a moth expert and may run similar night events.

Hope you're all having a Good Week?

CT :-)


  1. I can't speak for anyone else, but your moth box and wonderful pictures are very inspiring. As is your own knowledge and enthusiasm. It's infectious. I send people over to have a gander at your blog regularly. And for the moment I am living vicariously through your moth box and beautiful butterflies.
    Leanne xx

    1. Thanks Leanne, that's a lovely thing to say and I'm really pleased you're finding the blog interesting and informative. Bless you for sending folks over too- as you know, I am a Bit Fond Of Moths, so the thought that other people are learning how wonderful they are fills me with happiness :-) xx

  2. I had no idea there were so many and so varied, lovely photos

    1. 2500 species of moth in the UK, compared with just 59 butterflies :-) When you see moths up-close they are just as varied and beautiful :-)

  3. What a haul CT! Some of those names are so funny and so brilliant. You're a better time manager than I doing all that AND looking after children and dogs and everything else. I admire you greatly! xx PS - looking forward to Pops!

    1. I love moth names too- M and I make up new ones but he's better at it than me. I'm knackered tonight so tomorrow is a 'quiet' day (bar two hours out on chalk downland tomorrow evening looking at plant ids!). Won't forget the pics- Pops currently in training to be a terrier who doesn't eat moths. It's a slow process but I think we're getting there... xx

  4. Hi CT, starting to recognise some of the moths you have recorded, great photos, did manage to put the moth trap out Sunday, only got two moths, one was a Large Yellow Underwing, it's a large moth, had to pop him in the fridge to calm down, got some good photos, the other was smaller one, might be the same or a Lesser YU. Think I would freak out if I got as many as you.
    Amanda xx

    1. Excellent! It doesn't take long once you start looking regularly at them. This time last year going through 10 moths took me hours, which is why I didn't buy the professional trap until a month later, by which time I could recognise 50 or so. Large Yellow Underwings are notoriously feisty and hard to photograph, particularly with their petticoats on display, The fridge is an often-used option here too! xx

  5. I see no Arches.. but it's been quite chilly down here the last couple of nights. Study window has been shut early!
    I'd also like to see some ermines and that very fluffy Yellow Tail this year.

    1. Perhaps they are working their way down to Devon from Hampshire :-)

  6. Wonderful selection of moths - there are a lot there that I have never seen here. Going on moth nights with local Wildlife Trust and Butterfly Conservation when D and E were little first gave me an interest in moths and led to the eventual purchase of a trap. They are both great organisations and well worth going along to their events - well done on giving them both a mention :)

    I haven't seen a glow-worm for years - since I was a child!! They used to appear in the garden of my aunt's cottage in Cornwall - totally magical :) I do know a local location about 45 minutes from here - you've made me want to go searching :)

    1. Doing well moth-wise here now :-)

      I know the guy who runs the national glow worm survey database is really keen to get people out surveying, so he would be thrilled if you were able to help. They aren't well recorded as a species and at least if he can build a decent nation-wide picture it will help with their conservation.

  7. Great collection of photos! Thanks for information you gave in your second comment - I do already look at ukmoths but hadn't heard of other site.


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