When most people think of moths they think of drab, brown wee things that live in clouds of dust and eat holes in your carpet. This couldn’t be further from the truth, and I’m here to change your mind in one short blog post!

Moths are often overlooked in a budding naturalist’s quest for beauty in favour of their relative butterflies. Contrarily, many moths are as brightly coloured and patterned as butterflies and are much more variable in terms of shape, form and size. Furthermore the number of moths in which to study is far greater than that of butterflies – Great Britain is home to 59 butterfly species and over 2,500 moth species!

White ermine moth by Sally Dunbar

In addition to being beautiful to look at, moths play a very important role in our environment. Along with their caterpillars moths are a vital food source for birds, amphibians, bats and other insectivorous mammals - Blue tit chicks alone eat around 35 billion moth caterpillars each year! As a result they are key indicator species and are vital in telling us about the health of our environment. 

We also depend on moths for pollinating not only our wild flowers but our nation’s food crops, and a bad year for moths could potentially impact on our harvest. So all in all we owe a lot to our drab, brown wee buddies.

Lesser swallow prominent moth by Sally Dunbar

Garden tiger moth by Sally Dunbar

Unfortunately however, moths are having a tough time at the moment with studies showing an overall population decline of 28% since 1968. As they are such an important indicator species, serious changes to the population could have devastating knock-on effects.  It is therefore essential that we monitor populations, and we do this through moth trapping.

Over summer we have been doing a lot of moth trapping on the reserve and we’ve had some bumper hauls! From the mighty hawkmoths to the dainty waves, from the extravagant tiger moths to the unassuming wainscots we’ve had quite the variety turning up in our trap with our biggest haul seeing 129 moths caught in one night with 30 species recorded!

Elephant hawkmoth by Sally Dunbar

Poplar hawkmoth and elephant hawkmoth by Sally Dunbar

If you are interested in taking part in some moth trapping we will be holding a couple of moth events here at Loch of Strathbeg to see what Autumn has to offer. These will be running on Saturday 1st September and Saturday 8th September. Booking is not required and while the events are free, donations are always welcome and greatly appreciated. 

Sally Dunbar

NE Scotland Coastal Reserves Intern