Back in March, I blogged about the contents of my moth trap that month (and extolled the virtues of these wonderful little creatures that are so prevalent in gardens yet so little observed, and are such an important part of foodchains, too).
Well, two months on, what has changed?
I put my moth trap out last weekend, and not a single species that was present in March was still present. The cast of characters in this after-dark garden theatrical production was totally new.
Here are some of the players that have entered the stage.
First up, this rather attractive beast - the Alder Moth.
No other moth has this pattern of white head and then what looks rather like a chunky, cloudy black arrow pointing backwards.
It is widespread in England and Wales, but is spreading fast, and has pushed up into parts of southern and central Scotland, and Ireland, since 2000. It is always interesting to think about what plants the caterpillars feed on to get an sense of whether this adult might be a product of your garden - Alder Moth caterpillars feed on Alder, willows, oaks, elms and birches, all of which are in my garden, so this might well be 'one of my own'.
Then we have this little fella:
Again, if you thought grey, speckly moths were all hard to identify, this one again shows that many are totally doable. No other moth looks quite like this with each upperwing split into a dark grey speckly front half (with a cute little eyespot staring out at you) and pale grey speckly rear half. It, too, has caterpillars that feed on a range of native deciduous trees, but especially Hazel, the nut tree of its name.
Now here's a moth that shows some pretty impressive camoflage as it blends into the scenery. It is the Turnip Moth. It is no wonder that we don't chance upon moths very often by day when their patterning is such a brilliant mimic of natural surfaces like bark.
But I've saved the real diva until last. Look at this for a costume. Love the white stockings and handlebars!
This is the Small Elephant Hawkmoth. And the thing that amazes me with this glamorous creature and its slightly larger cousin, the Elephant Hawkmoth, is that they are widespread and relatively common garden insects. You won't find dozens in a trap, but many gardens including those in suburban and urban settings like mine are likely to host populations.
So, after all the grey and speckly moths, how come this is so stunningly pink? I have read that the colours are to attract a mate, but I'm not wholly convinced, given that nocturnal hawkmoths' eyes are adjusted to see ultraviolet, blue and green hues, and given that we know that smell plays a large part in that. I think we can at least be certain that they don't see the colours as we do.
However, what we do know is that hawkmoth eyes are so sensitive that they can see colours by starlight, in conditions where we are totally colourblind. Because they have to hover with precision in front of flowers to feed, their proboscis unfurled, it requires some astonishing manoeuvres on the wing, at speed, and it has even been shown that they slow down parts of their brain in order to be able to concentrate their energies on seeing.
Over the summer, the garden moth cast will change several more times as different species emerge, and I look forward to sharing those changes with you.
And remember to check out the wonderful app created by Butterfly Conservation, UK Moths and the Centre for Ecology and Hydrology which allows you to see which moths are most likely to be flying in your area tonight - What's Flying Tonight..
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