Minsmere's wardens and volunteers carry out regular moth trapping throughout the year. The most commonly used technique for moth trapping is to set up a special trap with a powerful light. The light attracts moths which are then caught, alive, in the box beneath. Later at night, or early the following morning, the trap is opened and moths are identified, counted and released.
Over many years of trapping at Minsmere, our Site Manager, Robin Harvey, has recorded a superb variety of moths, including rare migrants and scarce local breeding species. He has twice recorded new species for the UK, one of which he even named after the reserve - the Minsmere crimson underwing.
Despite more than 1000 species of moths having been recorded on the reserve, there are still regularly new species added to the list. However, it's not often that two new species are added in the same week, but that was the case this week. What's more, another species was recorded for only the second time.
On Friday, Robin opened the traps to find the first reserve record of Metalampra italica. http://ukmoths.org.uk/show.php?id=6291. Like many moths, this species doesn't have an English name. The first Suffolk record was one in his garden in 2010 where another in 2014 would suggest it is resident. It also seems to have been resident at Dunwich since 2013, so may be a recent colonist. The only record away from these areas was one at Woolpit last year.
Metalampra italica - the first Minsmere record, by Robin Harvey
Over the weekend, another regular moth trapper, Marc Botham, was given permission to trap at Minsmere, and incredibly he found another new species for the reserve - a six-belted clearwing. This is a day-flying moth and, like most clearwings, can be tempted to pheromone lures (special scents that mimic the pheromones given off by females), but it has not been relocated at a lure today. Marc kindly took the moth to show to Robin, who later released it close to where it was found.
Six-belted clearwing by Robin Harvey - the 1117th species of Lepidoptera (butterflies and moths) recorded at Minsmere
On Wednesday, Robin also caught only the second reserve record of the tree-lichen beauty. This beautiful moth was only recorded for the first time in the UK int he 1990s, but now seems to be resident in Suffolk, so we may begin to see it more frequently.
Tree-lichen beauty by Robin Harvey
Of course, most moths are nocturnal, so hard to spot, but sometimes you might find one resting by day. There are many day-flying species to look out for too. It looks to be a good year to find hummingbird hawkmoths, with many reported in gardens across the country, and it's always worth checking our buddleia bushes for this popular moth. The similar broad-bordered bee-hawkmoth is also a regular visitor to Minsmere's buddleias. In more open, grassy areas, such as the North Wall and dunes, look out for six-spotted burnet moths, or the black and yellow caterpillars of cinnabar moths too.
While on the subject of moths, it's worth a visit to the Canopy Hide to look for evidence of two of Minsmere's nocturnal residents. Brown long-eared bats are particularly partial to eating large yellow underwing moths, and you can see the discarded wings of the moth both in Canopy Hide and behind the visitor centre. It's unlikely that you'll see the moth though.
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