On Mondays in May we have moth mornings at Arne where visitors can have the opportunity to see what has been collected in the moth traps overnight. This week, I was treated to an introduction to this fascinating world.
Moths are a brilliant indicator of the health of a habitat. The greater the variety found, the greater diversity of other wildlife can also be supported as moths are often a vital food source for many birds and animals. They are also often very specific about their food plants and environment so getting moths particular to the kind of habitat you are trying to create shows that the land is being well managed.
This post covers a selection of the moths that we found this week.
Note – The moths were identified during the event and all other information I’ve mostly got from ukmoths.org.uk
Maiden’s blush – a pretty, delicate little moth, this is found in oak woodlands and the caterpillars feed on oak leaves. It is fairly common locally in the south and had two flying generations, first in May/June and then again in August.
Muslin moth – these show clear sexual dimorphism where the males and females have different appearance. We found several of these in the moth traps, all light grey/brown males with bright orange under the thorax. Females are white and fly during the day so aren’t usually found in the traps. They are pretty common throughout the UK and live in a variety of habitats.
Fox moth – terrible picture, sorry! In this species it is the females who fly at night and are caught in the moth traps. They are bigger and greyer than the males which are generally reddish brown (hence fox?!) These are common locally and open woodlands, moors and commons where the caterpillars feed on a variety of plants including heather and bramble. This moth seemed to have spent all night depositing her eggs around the trap and we found several clusters!
Pale tussock – an interesting looking moth with distinctive tarantula-like legs sticking out forwards at rest. Males are smaller with darker markings. These are pretty common in England and Wales.
Light brocade – a striking moth, it reminds me of those paintings you do in primary school by splodging paint on a piece of paper then folding it in half 🙂 These are pretty common in the south and there were several in the trap this week. They live near rough ground and heathland on calcareous soil.
Lesser swallow prominent – Prominents are a group of moths that share an upright, narrow resting position and often prominent humps or ridges on the upper surface. The larger white patches distinguish it from the swallow prominent which is also a fairly common in the UK.
Coxcomb prominent – typically a rich brown with a distinctive cream tuft on the thorax, they feign death when handled. Fairly common, they fly in two generations, in May/June and again in August. The caterpillars feed on deciduous trees.
Buff-tip – Another really distinctive moth. It looks very much like a small birch twig and is found in mixed woodland. It’s quite common in the south and found throughout the UK.
Great prominent – a dullish looking moth, it’s found mainly in the south but also in the Lake District. It is found in oak woodlands where the caterpillars feed on oak leaves. One of these took a fancy to one of the visitor hut staff and stayed on his jacket all day, bit of a conversation starter!
In addition we saw a couple of more moths that I didn’t manage to get a photo of.
Horse chestnut – uninspiring in appearance this was the least frequent of the moths we found this week. It doesn’t feed on horse chestnut, despite the name, the caterpillars mostly feed on heather. They are found on lowland heath and can be quite common locally.
Angle shades – very distinctive, it’s wings are held in angular furls at rest. They can be found from May to October throughout the UK but more frequently in the south.
Not the most interesting post to some I guess, but it’s a useful record for me! There will be more, sorry! (Not sorry)