Sunday, 13 September 2015

Moth night 2015

The last three nights have been moth night 2015, an annual event organized by Atropos and Butterfly Conservation to raise the awareness of moths and to get as many people as possible to record their mothy discoveries. The weather has been a bit chilly and it rained Friday night, so although we had the trap out all three nights, last night seemed like our best chance for a good catch.

We set up the moth trap, which is a homemade trap (made by my brother not me!) with an actinic bulb. The bulb is bright but not as bright as some moth trap lights, and is in the right spectrum to attract moths. Every day household bulbs will work, but won't attract as many moths as a specialist bulb. We placed it next to the trampoline, as many moths are attracted to the light but don't enter the trap and seem to like hanging onto the netting around the outside of the trampoline.

We also decided to put out a wine lure, where you soak some rope or material in red wine and sugar. Some moths are attracted to that instead of light. We tried this earlier in the summer and it worked really well, although it also attracted masses of wasps! We soaked an old t-towel and hung it over a tree branch in the garden.

We checked the garden a couple of times after dark and it looked like it was going to be a good mothing night. The large yellow underwings were bombing around the trap almost straight away. They're big, feisty moths that bash into everything and dive bomb you. There are masses of them around at this time of year! We also found some other interesting moths on the trampoline net and on top of the trap.
The brimstone moth looked very aggressive. I think it was having a
Jekyll and Hyde moment as by day they look like delicate little butterflies!

Centre-barred sallow

An old lady - a massive moth that always looks like a bat
to me when it's flying around

A large yellow underwing enjoying the wine and sugar t-towel
It wasn't only moths that were attracted to the light though ...

An earwig

An ichneumon - a strange looking type of wasp that doesn't sting

A sexton beetle - this one was literally crawling with mites which seemed to
glow in the light of the trap

By daylight, the sexton beetle has a very distinctive orange and black pattern
with bright orange ends to its antennae

They are a type of burying beetle - they bury the carcass of a dead bird or
small mammal for their larvae to feed on. Bit grim, but very handy for clearing
away dead creatures (they're sort of undertakers of the insect world)

This one didn't hang around for long!
In the morning we opened up the trap to see what was inside. We were secretly hoping for a convolvulus hawkmoth, a huge migrant moth that is around at the moment, but we weren't in luck this time. We did have a trap full of other moths though.

The vast majority were yellow underwings of all shapes and sizes. There are several different types of yellow underwing and several different colourations for each of these. We didn't try and sort them out as we had 144 of them in the trap and just counted them all as yellow underwings. They like to huddle together in the egg boxes and look quite funny peeping out!

Some of our other rather brilliantly named catches ...
Feathered gothic
Lunar underwings
Dusky thorn
Setaceous Hebrew character
Small phoenix - with it's bottom stuck up in the air
We also caught several common wainscots. This one was from the night before. I was holding it on my finger to check which sort of wainscot it was, when it hopped off and landed on the page of the id book that I was looking at. It's always nice when the moths help out with their own identification!

Our totals for the trap were 144 yellow underwings, 1 feathered gothic 5 setaceous Hebrew characters, 2 centre-barred sallows, 1 old lady, 1 small phoenix, 3 brimstone moths, 7 common wainscots, 1 silver Y, 7 lunar underwings, 1 common marbled carpet, 9 heart and darts, plus a couple of mysteries that I'm still to identify.

Mystery 1

Mystery 2
We've logged our moths on the moth night website and now we're looking forward to next years moth night!


  1. I think your mysteries are Square-spot Rustic and Marbled Beauty. I agree, Old Lady does seem very un-moth like in flight. We've had quite a lot locally this year with up to 4 in a trap quite regularly in the garden, and this is a moth that is renowned for shunning the light!

  2. Thank you for the help with the ids. Very much appreciated!
    We've seen more old ladies than usual this year, with a few in the trap and some on the sugar/wine mixture. One flew into the house last year and I was convinced it was a bat flying around!

  3. Nice set of moths. Funny that we both did a moth night on the same night lol.