Monday, 28 July 2014

Tiger, Tiger, Burning Bright, In The Forests Of The Night....

A cooler night last night, which was a relief for two reasons:

1. It meant we could all sleep (although L, who had been poorly yesterday and was therefore sleeping in our room, woke me up at 4 because he was thirsty, and then again at a smidgen before 6 because he was hungry, with the immortal words: I don't suppose you feel like getting up, mum, do you?).

2. There were fewer moths in the box this morning (184 as opposed to 400 on the previous outing, when there were also 91 different species as opposed to 66 today). This meant I could enjoy going through them at a leisurely pace, instead of resembling a deranged woman frantically scribbling moth names while at the same time attempting (and failing) to prevent a mass exodus from occurring.

I had cleared all the egg boxes bar one this morning, and found some new and interesting moths along the way, before I turned over the last one. Inadvertently, I had saved the best for last, because, sleeping right at the bottom of the last box was one of nature's most colourful creatures: The Garden Tiger Moth.

The black splodges on these moths vary so much that no two individuals are ever the same. They used to be common as common can be, but they have decreased significantly since the mid 1980s. This is thought to be partially due to spraying with pesticides and over-tidying of hedgesrows, both of which effectively remove the larval foodplants of nettle, docks and many common garden plants, but the larvae also don't cope well with mild, wet Januaries followed by cold Februaries, so if Climate Change does bring these kinds of conditions as a regular thing that isn't great news for this particular moth.

They are striking enough looking with their wings folded, but their real flash of brilliance comes when they get annoyed and flash their knickers. It's enough to make a bird think twice, and even I, who know they have this trick up their sleeves, still jumped and grabbed the camera when it happened on the kitchen table this morning......


There are only three other Tiger Moths that you will find in the UK: the Cream-Spot Tiger (now local rather than common), the Jersey Tiger (declining overall and extinct in Kent as a native moth) and the Wood Tiger (declining in certain areas such as the South East and Hampshire).

As well as the Tiger, there was a little moth in the box that I have wanted to see for ages. Mothy Friends around the country have been posting their pictures of this little chap for the last fortnight so I knew it was about, but as we've never had one here before I didn't know how likely it was to turn up. I very nearly missed it, because it is small and was very well camouflaged against the mottled grey background of the egg box it was perching on. I had to put it on my natty notebook to get the picture I wanted...

This one is slightly Tatty Round The Edges, but you get the idea of how pretty their markings are. It's a Marbled Beauty, and in the next picture you can see how tiny they are as it's sitting beside a 5p coin....

There were a number of other moths with evocative names gracing the box today. Take, for example, this delicate Bordered Beauty, which overwinters as an egg on its food plants of Sallow, Poplar and Hazel, all of which we have in abundance here...

It's cousin, the Dark Bordered Beauty, is a Red Data Book Species now only known in three separated areas in Scotland and Northern England.

Continuing the evocatively-named theme, there was also a moth in the box today whom I think has my favourite name: The Maiden's Blush...

Along with one who is rather unfortunately named: The Coxcomb Prominent. He doesn't look especially dandified to me- what do you think?

Coxcomb Prominent, or not, as the case may be :-)
Beside the Coxcomb was an equally fluffy-looking moth, the Drinker. One of these came in through the window the other night while M was reading the exploits of the adventurer Ben Fogle to me. For some reason the moth was strangely attracted to his ear. M wasn't all that pleased about this and I probably didn't help matters by falling about laughing as he attempted to swat it and it buzzed about, banging into the light and then re-doubling it's efforts to reach his ear....

The Drinker

Another Splash Of Colour was offered by the arrival of Canary-Shouldered-Thorns, four of whom were in the box this morning... 

And more elegance was offered by the Peacocks, both Normal and Sharp-Angled....

Sharp-Angled Peacock

I have struggled to tell them apart in the past so it was Really Jolly Decent of them to turn up together like this and make their differences obvious. From now on I will refer to this post :-)

Ruby Tigers are here in reasonable numbers. They never get any Better Tempered though...

Particularly when considered beside this genteel Scalloped Oak, who is a True Gentleman and never wobbles his wings at you in annoyance when you're trying to get a picture (or flashes his scarlet pants. He doesn't have scarlet pants actually, but you know what I mean....).

The amazingly shaped Pebble Hook-Tip is a similarly Peaceful Chap, quite happy to be tipped onto a blue spotty notebook and photographed....

There were a couple of Hawk Moths in the box today, the pink and green Elephant and the Grey but Enormous Poplar. L can't pick the Poplars up because they give him the heebie jeebies, which I can sort-of understand...

Beside the Poplar, the next moth looks positively diminutive, but makes up for the lack in stature with some Pretty Impressive markings (well, I think so anyway)....

Water Carpet
As does the next moth, which is called a Common Rustic. These moths vary in colour drastically. There were twenty of them in the box today, in an assortment of colour schemes ranging from very pale such as the one below, to so dark you could barely make out the markings. They all have those white crescents on the wings though, which helps with Ids.

Common Rustic
Beside the Common Rustics, this Lesser Treble bar was easy-peasy to identify (or perhaps not, given its similarity to its Big Brother, the Treble Bar)....

And continuing the Theme Of Confusion, the Cloaked Minor (below) looks a lot like the Rosy Minor minus the pink hue. It also comes in a range of colour tones, just to keep things exciting....

IDing moths is largely a matter of practice, possession of a good book and access to a useful web site, unless you're dealing with Dun-bars that is. They are relatively straight-forward thanks to the diagnostic central markings which can't really be confused with anything else. However, this central marking also comes in a range of colours from very pale to jet black, and there is also a dark brown form of the moth...


Among the eleven new species who were in the box this morning was another one I haven't had here before: the European Corn Borer. This moth gets its name from being a serious pest to Maize on the continent. It wasn't native here but has established itself in the Southern parts of the UK in recent years and in this country its larvae feed on Mugwort. I can't think where there is any mugwort locally, but there were two of these moths in the box so there must be some somewhere within reasonably flying distance...

European corn borer
Part of the allure of Mothing for me is the detective side of things (put academically I guess I mean research). Those powers were called upon two days ago to determine WHO exactly had nibbled their way through all my Lady's Smock flowers, the ones I have been carefully nurturing since finding a single plant in the late spring and growing on more babies off the basal leaf.

Lady's Smock is the food plant for the Orange Tip flutter, but they've all laid their eggs already, so WHO COULD BE RESPONSIBLE FOR THIS DEVASTATION ....?????

Oh yes, these little people, who look so small and innocent....

Small White Flutter Pillar
It's taken me THREE DAYS to find them all and transfer them to the Nasturtiums. I only hope the Lady's Smock will recover :-(

My Yellow Tail Moth Children are coming along nicely. They are continuing to munch their way through hawthorn leaves and have more or less all joined up now into one big group instead of the two smaller ones they hatched out into. Caterpillars usually do this for protection as it makes them look like one large creature to predators...

You can just about make out their poisonous hairs in the next shot. Even though the pillars are only a few mms in length the hairs are already in place so I won't be touching any of them any time soon....

I also found another empty dragonfly nymph case up by the pond today. That's six that I know of. I'm glad I found it because the water levels have dropped alarmingly and I was wondering if that would affect the nymphs. Apparently not! I love the eyes in this pic....


I've waffled on longer than I meant to- thanks for sticking with it to the bitter end (if you have). 
I'll leave you with a piccy of Poppy, who has had a rather severe hair cut because we discovered she's been harboring hundreds of grass seeds in her fur and we were worried they would work their way into her skin, as happened with M's parent's Springer who needed an op to get them out. She loved it and lay flat out on the picnic table while I snipped away with the scissors (because the clippers have broken). As a result, she looks quite a lot like a shorn sheep and I am embarrassed to take her out for walks because I'm quite sure someone will challenge me about what the hell has happened to my dog. But at least all the seed is out now and she can run about without getting hot.....

Wishing you all a peaceful evening,

CT :-)


  1. Gorgeous picture of Poppy m'dear

    1. She is tres photogenic (unlike me) :-)

    2. You and me both then m'dear :-)

  2. How glad I am to have found your blog. I would never ever have seen all these wonderful moths. The Garden Tiger Moth is simply amazing and I get the urge to embroider one, they are that beautiful.
    It makes me hopping mad when I think of all the spraying going on destroying wildlife.
    On the subject of Poppy's seeds, the cats are coming in covered in seeds at the moment from next doors jungle garden but they are easily brushed out. This may be the last year for them in the jungle sadly as the house has been sold and I'm sure that the first thing the new owners will do is to chop all the bushes and trees down, as they all do now adays, so not only will the cats suffer but the birds and insects too but there's nothing I can do about it.
    We noticed a dragon fly flitting to and fro the front window tonight but there is no water around so I'm not sure what it was doing, any ideas?
    Bit cooler here today thank goodness.

    1. Ooh, I would love it if one of the moths inspired you to do some embroidery! If you do, will you promise to post a piccy of it on your blog, please?
      I agree wholeheartedly about spraying. I think folks still don't realise the damage it does. Education, education, education- it's my mantra at the moment. If people aren't given the opportunity to understand they can't change anything, so I'm on a bit of a mission :-)
      Perhaps if you get new neighbours and they chop things down they might replace them with native plants and a pond rather than decking and gravel? Hopefully....
      Dragons will patrol and hunt away from water, although they never go too far. I've seen them in woodland rides before.
      ps- the storm you were talking about looked terrible- it was all over the BBC news. Hope you managed to avoid any floods and hail? And that the cats were all safely indoors xx

  3. Gorgeous moths. The tiger moth is exquisite.
    Leanne xx

    1. Lovely isn't it? I'm hoping we get a Jersey as well - we had one last year if memory serves xx

  4. Another great collection of moths. I'm glad the babies are doing well!

    1. Growing so fast they are- they will be coming on holiday with us though as I doubt they'll have pupated before we leave! x

  5. Poppy doesn't look so bad! I love that ruby tiger and the other tiger moth that you showed, they are beautiful aren't they!! Good to hear that your newest crop of babies are coming along well. xx

    1. She's got some very-nearly-bald patches that didn't show in the pic :-) She looks like a small puppy again- very cute. xx

  6. A great selection of moths - I love the Garden Tiger - sadly I've never seen one here. Good to see the baby moth caterpillars growing :) Hope L feels better soon.

    1. We had a few Garden Tigers last year and I'm sure we had a Jersey too, but this is the first one this year. Fingers crossed for more-- such beautiful moths.

      I will be thinking of you when I pack the moth children in the car for our upcoming holiday and grinning to myself because this year I know I'm not the only person who takes their caterpillars on holiday! x

  7. My fav of course is The Maiden's Blush and the Poplar. Wonderful photos. We were out on the river a few days ago, fishin n canoeing and of course this is Black Fly and Dragon Fly season. The Black Fly's love the rushing water and the Dragon Fly's lov the Black Fly's. It was so neat to be canoeing by and have many Dragon Fly's land on my arm, leg and knee, using them as a resting point for a second before leaving and hunting - we never did see or get bit by black fly's, as the hunters were doing their job very well. I did think of you at one moment and think you would have enjoyed this wild Dragon Fly crowd - they were all so pretty, delicate and there was a static buzz in the air from the sound all their hundreds of wings were making. It was a really neat day.....and yes, we did catch some fish (Striped Bass) :)

    1. That does sound like a magical experience. I would love to see hundreds of dragonflies hunting along the river. Fantastic to have them land on you too- you'll have to take your camera next time and post some pics. Was the fish supper? They do taste lovely fresh like that x

  8. Why did you move those caterpillars to the nastursiums? Do they like them better than the other plant?

    1. Nasturtiums are a food plant for the small white caterpillar and I needed to save my lady's smock from them :-)

  9. Another stunning set of moths, the tiger moth is something else..
    Amanda xx

    1. They're worth keeping an eye out for xx

  10. Fabulous set of moths, and great to see that Tiger Moth. I keep hoping I'll learn more by looking at all your moths, but I probably won't. I keep finding out names of wildflowers from the blogs I read then promptly forgetting what they are!
    Poppy looks cute and you've reminded me we had a cocker spaniel when I was a kid who had to have an op to remove grass seed heads too. Not nice. :-(

    1. I have to keep on looking at names and species in order to remember them- there are just so many :-)


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