Saturday, 5 July 2014


Tonight (July 5th) I intend to run the moth-trap for the sixth time this year (or thereabouts). It’s a miniature Robinson trap, which looks something like the end of a plastic barrel with a conical lid, out of which someone’s chopped the centre so that a second, inverted, cone can sit inside, on top of which is a mercury-vapour lightbulb. Sounds more complex than it actually is: in essence it’s a way of attracting moths to the bulb, baffling them and then funnelling them down into a nice dark place full of old egg-boxes, where they can wait out the rest of the night in safety.

Moth-trapping is something which appeals when you have small children in the house. They can get involved catching the moths in little pots to identify them, finding the right species in the book (OK, not too exciting when it’s a boring brown one, but pretty whizzy when it’s big and spectacular like a Privet Hawkmoth), and then have the fun of releasing the moths into some suitable cover when they’ve been tallied. It’s building an interesting picture of the Lepidoptera inhabiting the small patch of woodland and grassland immediately adjacent to our garden and it’s also keeping me working at learning something new on a regular basis.

We started out with an overnight session in mid-November 2013, with just a single Feathered Thorn in the trap to show for the night. The second session in early December was even less rewarding: not a moth to be seen. The neighbours made some appreciative noises about how the oak looked when floodlit from below, but that wasn’t really the purpose of the exercise. Late autumn and early winter moths are obviously harder come by even if the conditions seem good…

By the time the weather had improved sufficiently to encourage me to try again it was early March. Sixteen moths of six different species seemed like a proper catch after the winter doldrums - and all of them were new species for the garden. A March Moth (how appropriate), a Pale Brindled Beauty, six Oak Beauty, five Common Quaker, two Early Grey and a Satellite. Not too bad for a beginner!

The season progressed from there. Bar the odd blip like one night in mid-May, where only eleven moths bothered to show, the catch has got larger and more diverse: last session was 91 moths of 39 different species, and each time another handful are new for the garden: we’ve recorded about 120 species now and there’s plenty to be found, I’m sure.

I’ve fallen into the habit of running the trap every couple of weeks if there is suitable weather. That prevents me from overloading mentally, becoming a moth bore, making it all too dull for Bina and running up an extortionate electricity bill. So, let's see what tonight may bring... Some pictures may follow.

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