On a greyish Saturday morning in June, with the air fresh from overnight rain I joined a small group for a moth-trapping session in my neighbour’s garden. Although this was my first time, I knew roughly what to expect – moth trapping isn’t as brutal as it sounds. It involves leaving a specialist box-like contraption out overnight. This contains a bright moth-alluring light and egg boxes to provide shelter for any tiny winged visitors.
There was an air of eager anticipation as we met. Some had brought books, others smartphones, to help to ID, photograph and learn about what we would find. We were led by our local guide, Ann Stuart, who carefully revealed the trap’s overnight inhabitants with infectious enthusiasm. Although most were familiar to her, we found beauty in contemplating the tiny details of their markings.
We compared the Heart and Dart with the less common Shuttle-Shaped Dart. The Silver Y has a strong silver(ish) Y(ish) shaped mark on each forewing and gave us a nice display of shivering to wake up its flight muscles. The Scorched Wing was a new one for Ann, but the Footman and Common Wainscot are more frequent trap visitors.
We had a couple of stars of our show (with many “Ooh”s and “Aaah”s)… starting with a Peppered moth. This is famous from A-level biology as Darwin’s often quoted example of natural selection: Industrial Revolution soot changed the environment and blacker individuals survived to become predominant.
And our ‘best moth’? A wonderful fresh specimen of Elephant Hawk Moth, in its olive green and fuchsia pink livery. We pondered colour schemes in nature and learned about food plants and elephant’s trunk-like caterpillars with predator-scaring false eyes, all whilst having tea and cake in Chris & Christine’s lush green garden. A lovely hour spent in good company.