Saturday, 18 June 2016

Moth Post June 2016

It's not been a great year for moths so far. The cold, uncertain weather has meant numbers and species are down comparative to previous years. This is good news for a friend of mine, who is writing his dissertation on moths (looking at whether different species have different optimal flight heights) and is yet to start recording them, but not so great for the moths. 

All lepidoptera are down. There have been few butterflies in the garden here. I'm up to ten species but have seen few individuals, and the Small Pearl Bordered Fritillary recording project I'm part of in the New Forest this year has so far failed to record a single individual. It's all rather worrying, especially for those species that have relatively short flight seasons. But then Nature will always balance herself (if we get out of her way sufficiently to let her do so).

Here is the moth list for the photos, starting at top left and going clockwise. I've added info about each species, including when and where to see them and what you need to have nearby or in your garden to attract them food-plant wise. There is often a difference between the food plant (which refers to what the larvae or caterpillars need to survive) and the nectar source (which is what the adult moth needs). 

First Photo Collection:
1. Elephant Hawk. Needs willowherbs (food plant) and honeysuckle (nectar source) so leave a few in your garden and you'll get these moths coming in as they have a wide distribution across England and Wales and fly from May to August).

2. White Ermine. These need nettle and dock to breed in and are found all round the UK, they fly May to July abnd are wizards at playing dead when disturbed.

3. Many Plumed and Friend. Technically listed as a micro moth, the Many Plumed feeds and breeds in honeysuckle, flies every month of the year and is widespread. We often get them coming in to the house in winter. They seem drawn to sit on the TV!).

4. Ingrailed Clay. Is on the wing in June-July in the south and July-August in the north and need a wide range of herbaceous and woody plants including primrose, violet, bramble, heather, sallow and hawthorn. Widespread so you'll more than likely have these in UK gardens).

Second Photo Collection: 
1. Buff Tip. The master of camouflage, adapted to look exactly like a silver birch twig. When L was little he wouldn't believe me that these were moths, until one moved, so the camo really is perfect. These moths fly from late May to July and over-winter a pupa in an earth chamber the caterpillar makes underground. We dig them up sometimes and raise them indoors as you should never rebury a pupa because it will suffocate. They need sallow, birch, oak, hawthorn, rowan, beech, alder, lime, sycamore or elm and exist all round the UK where they are common so many UK gardens will have them if there are trees nearby.

2. Privet Hawkmoth. There are 1050 species of Hawkmoth worldwide with the majority of these large, impressive moths found in the tropics. We have nine resident species here in the UK and eight others who come in as migrants. The Privet has one generation which flies June-July and requires privet, ash, lilac or guelder rose. It has also been reported on snowberry and honeysuckle. This is also a widespread species and if you want to see one you can try shining a torch on a white sheet in the garden- we had one visit this way last year.

Third Photo set:
1 Cinnabar. Flies mid May to early August and the foodplant is ragwort, which makes the larvae toxic and safe from birds.

2. Treble Lines. May to early July, this moths likes knapweeds, greater plantain and dandelion and is widespread through the UK. It comes to light so try the torch trick :o)

3. Elephawk Hawk.

4. Poplar Hawkmoth. May to August, common across the UK and the larvae feed on poplars, aspen, goat and grey willow.

Fourth Photo Set.
1. Nematopogon swammerdamella. What a mouthful for a moth who only measures a few mm in length! One of 15 UK species of Longhorn moth, this little fellow is common all round the UK and breeds on dead leaves on the ground.

2. Cinnabar.

3. Buff Tip.

4. Spectacle. Possibly the most aptly named moth ever, this is another moth who needs nettles to breed. It nectars on flowers (red valerian and sage are favourites) and is common throughout most of the UK.

Fifth photo set.
1. Orange Footman. On the wing late May to June and overwinters as a pupae in a cocoon among lichens. Tends to live among mature oaks, blackthorn and beech. Evidence suggests they've recently started breeding in gardens. Since the 1990s has extended its range across the UK upt. o Yorks and Lancs.

2. Pale Tussock. Flies May to June and needs a wide variety of broadleaved trees and shrubs, including hops which gives it its country name of Hop Dog. Frequent in gardens up to Cumbria.

Sixth photo set.
1. Silver Ground Carpet. Flies mid-May to late July and feeds on herbaceous plants including goose grass. Common throughout the UK.

2. Peppered Moth.  Early May to late August, requires trees to breed and is found all round the UK. A rarer melanistic (black) form was once ubiquitous when pollution was as its height. It was used to demonstrate Darwin's theory of evolution as a response to coal-dust darkening conditions.

Hope you've enjoyed those and that the info was useful.

Hope all are well?

CT :o)


  1. The white ermine is absolutely gorgeous and very well named I think. I do so love moth names. They didn't hold back when they were doling them out did they? I shall look forward to the appearance of a clifden non pareil and a frosted orange. Something enormous crashed into one of our windows last night (moth not bird). Would have been interesting to know what it was. I haven't seen a huge amount of butterflies here either. Is it time for chalkhill blues yet? I shall have to go up to the ridge and have a look for them. CJ xx

  2. Wonderful to see you have been out trapping, very low numbers here too, but still a good selection. Love the little Longhorn moth.
    I've been building up my selection of plants for bees and moths, the slugs love me....
    Amanda xx

  3. Here in Missouri, near St. Louis, I used to see so many beautiful moths and butterflies. The most amazing moths I used to see were big green Luna moths, and big (I believe they were called "Polyphemus" moths). I haven't seen any of those big moths in decades. There are a lot of Monarch butterflies flying through in late August, but not as many as there used to be. I don't know if I am correct or not, but I suspect that the spray that is sprayed from trucks weekly to fight against mosquitoes, is a possible partial cause of the comparative scarcity of our beautiful moths and butterflies. We still have plenty of mosquitoes around, though.

    That white ermine moth in your photo is a pretty one.

  4. I really must learn to be more observant. Your moth photos are absolutely beautiful but the only moths I remember seeing recently are the wee brown jobbies. How I would love to come across a fluffy white ermine or a cinnabar. Thank you for the wonderful information; it's time to find my glasses, I think! xx

  5. Gosh you have been very busy trapping moths and yes the information is excellent adn your images are great.

  6. I am sure these photographs are interesting, but as I have a moth phobia I am giving them a miss.

  7. I used to be a bit wary of moths - when I was young I didn't like them landing on my bare wet skin while soaking in the bath on a warm evening with the windows open. But nowadays I appreciate them for their beauty and the important role they play in the food chain and as healthy indicator species. I remember the days of driving down to the south of France in the summer and the windscreen would be smothered with dead moths. I'm going to print this post and see how many I can spot this summer CT. Last summer I had a Lime Hawk moth feeding on my lilies for days and a White Ermine hung around in the kitchen for a while too.

  8. Hey CT,
    Your wonderful moth photos have clarified a moth id for Olly. We found a peppered moth in the garden last week. Sadly it's wing was damaged, and it looked rather sorry for itself.
    Leanne xx

  9. Such interesting names. We have three honeysuckles in the garden so I do hope to see an elephant hawk moth. I've seen a caterpillar in the past so the must be close x

  10. A lovely and interesting post and one I'll keep referring to, as I'd like to learn more about moths. You have a great selection there with some super photos. It certainly isn't a good year for moths and butterflies here with all the cold and wet weather in spring and now summer. I always think of July as the month for butterflies so I really hope it warms up for them soon.

  11. Amazing! It's cold and wet here too, the weather forecast doesn't look brilliant either. x

  12. Moths never seem to get the same credit as butterflies, but their markings are just as beautiful. White Ermine is my favourite...probably because I love spots and a bit of glamour. The lovely moth has a Cruella Deville quality about that cape.
    Love and good wishes. Sally x

  13. I am VERY excited to tell you that I identified several moths before you said what they were!! See, all that moth training is gradually paying off!!!

  14. Beautiful photos and some useful info about the plants that each moth needs. Another good reason for not weeding too vigorously!
    I bought a Country Life this week as there are several pages of gorgeous moths inside.

  15. Thank for for this information I will be looking out for them. I did see a Ingrained clay in the garden this afternoon! Sarah x

  16. It is great to see the species you have been trapping CT :) Numbers of moths and butterflies very low here also (bees and hoverflies in low numbers too) :(


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