Greetings from north Dorset and welcome to our first Moth Monday! This is a new weekly blog about the moths and hopefully butterflies that I can find here at home, and I’ll be looking for your input too so please do get involved.

Although I’ve been working to improve it, my newish back garden isn’t a haven for wildlife (yet). Let's just say it's lacking in plant life and there isn't even much grass at the moment. Oh and there is also a rabbit that will eat anything it can reach (not limited to vegetation), including the one shrub I've bought so far. On the plus side there is countryside within 100m or so and the garden next door is home to a huge oak tree that overhangs ours. I’ve been keen to discover the moths that visit the area and I’ve had a moth trap for about three years now but for the past 12 months or so, and since I moved here, the trap hasn’t been working! Luckily I managed to figure out what was wrong and get it working a couple of weeks ago.

It’s only a small heath style trap, connected to a 12v battery with an actinic bulb (one of the 'neighbour friendly' bulbs rather than the very, very bright mercury vapour ones). It has a light sensor, so I can set it up in daylight, leave it and the bulb comes on when darkness falls. However, although the trap is up and running again the underused moth section of my brain needs a bit of work so please forgive me if anything is misidentified and feel free to comment if anything looks to be wrong!

On Thursday night it went out for the first time and amazingly I found two moths Friday morning, even though it got pretty chilly in the early hours of the morning. One was inside the trap within the egg boxes and one had crawled up under the tub I’d put on the battery. Very exciting!

The first two photos show the Common Quaker, who was inside the trap. The first photo is of the moth in the collecting pot used when identifying the moths, and the second photo when the moth had been released again. The large, rounded oval and kidney mark on the forewing with a pale outline are quite clear and although you can’t see it in the photos it did have a grey hindwing. It has a flight season of March-May and larval foodplant including oak trees which fits with the neighbours tree.

For the other moth we’ve gone for Small Quaker, there was an obvious difference in size between this and the other Quaker. The forewing has a rough texture and plain appearance but you can see a narrow kidney-mark. Again the flight season of late February-May matches and the larval foodplant is mainly oak.

Now I’m not sure about the rest of the country but here in north Dorset (aside from Monday and Tuesday) it's been pretty cold overall with a couple of morning frosts and really quite windy, especially over the weekend. The trap didn’t make it out every night but finally last night the wind dropped enough to get it back out. I checked the trap in anticipation this morning and………nothing.

So the two from Thursday are it for the week I’m afraid. We’ve got a couple more cold nights to come judging by the forecast but hopefully by the time more moths start appearing my brain might also have warmed up a bit!

There are however three more moths that still need identifying. Take a look at the Moth Monday image at the top of the post and copied below, beautifully designed by a young person in the household and you’ll see three moths (based on the amazing illustrations of Richard Lewington of course) – can anyone identify them? And is anyone having any luck with moths in their own garden? Let me know!

Ali

Anonymous