30 Days Wild – Day 26 – So Many Moths

The night of 25th-26th June was one of the best for moths for many years, it was ideal, warm and calm. Moths fly for longer on warm nights, unlike day flying insects they cannot use the sun to warm up for flight, so are dependent upon the air temperature being high enough. This is why, on most nights the main flight will be at dusk and numbers decrease through until dawn.

I knew it would be good from the forecast and from the fact that sleep was difficult, one advantage of this was that I was awake at dawn so could go and close the trap before the birds could clear any moths that had not got inside. In my garden I run a small, low power actinic moth trap, the light is less bright and doe snot disturb neighbours, the lower light output means it catches fewer moths. I could see immediately that it was full of moths, the eventual tally was a remarkable 79 identified species, with one or two more unidentified.

Meanwhile at Blashford I had put out two traps in slightly different habitats, if my small trap had that many species how many would there be in the bigger traps? The answer turned out to be about the same, one around 75 species and the other just over 80. I suspect that some of the micro moths, which make up a lot of the catch on calm nights, get out of the trap if it is not covered and taken in soon after dawn.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Many of the micro moths are stunning to look at, if you can see them well enough! This is where macro photography and especially digital photography comes in so handy, the images can be enlarged on the screen.

My home trap did yield one new species for the garden and not a micro moth either, it was a red-necked footman. These are curious moths, I will not see any for ages and then suddenly see a whole swarm of them, perhaps 100 or more flying together around a tree top in bright sunshine.

red-necked footman

red-necked footman

A number of the micro moths have similar patterns, even if they are not closely related, one recurrent pattern is white with dots, this is a common pattern in the Yponomeutidae, but then crops up again int he distantly related thistle ermine, which is a Pyralid and of course in the white ermine itself, which is one of the tiger moths.

Not everything that gets attracted into a moth trap is a moth, other night-flying insects also arrive. I was very interested to catch a fine beetle that I had not seen before and which I did not remember seeing illustrated.

Diaperis boleti 4x3

Diaperis boleti

When I first tried to identify it, thumbing through some general beetle books, I did eventually found it, the text said “rare in Britain”. Having identified it, at least tentatively, I looked it up on the web and found a rather more contemporary account of its status. I confirmed it was indeed Diaperis boleti, one of the darkling beetles that feed on bracket fungi, it used to be rare, but now it seems it has “become quite widespread and is locally frequent”. It is probably another species that is benefiting from a warmer climate, a reminder that there are winners and losers when things change.

At Blashford the micro moth theme continued, but with a mostly different caste, a few of which are below.

Out on the reserve the breeding season progresses, the common tern chicks are growing fast and a good few of the black-headed gull have fledged.

black-headed gull juv

black-headed gull (juvenile)

 

Calling, Calling

Bird News: Ibsley Watercommon sandpiper 1, yellow-legged gull 1. Ivy Lakemute swan 21, common tern c15 flying juveniles.

As it was Sunday and the start of another month there was a volunteer task this morning, typically the Sunday tasks draw many fewer volunteers than those on a Thursday, so I was pleasantly surprised when seven people turned up. We set about tidying up the entrance areas either side of the road, improving visibility, cleaning the signs and generally sprucing things up a bit. I set about some fo the brambles with the hedge trimmer, unfortunately in the process I dropped my mobile phone. There was a time when I would not have had one even if I had been given it, let along thought it indispensible, however times change. We spent a while looking for it, phoning it and listening without success. After putting the tools away I decide  to have one last try, I called it as I retraced my steps, still no luck, then I spotted it lying on the grass verge. It is not a stylish phone, in fact it is old and battered, but I would not have wanted to have to replace it.

In the afternoon I was leading an “Insect Bioblitz”, basically a bug hunt. We started by looking through the moth trap, which was actually quite disappointing for the number and range of moths but was saved a very splendid privet hawk-moth. We then headed off into the meadow and fortunately the sun came out. We saw several butterflies, including marbled white, meadow brown, red admiral and small skipper. There were three species of grasshoppers now adult: meadow grasshopper, mottled grasshopper and field grasshopper, we also saw nymphs of speckled bush-cricket and long-winged conehead. On the way back to the Centre I caught a little micro moth, like a lot of them it had an almost metallic sheen, it was a common species, although you need to magnify it to  really appreciate it. The species is Argyresthia brockeella, the larvae eat birch and alder, both of which ar every common at Blashford.

Argyresthia brockeella

As I went about the Centre to lock up I came across a green lacewing on one of the windows of the building, the black of the window allowed the veins in the wings to show up really well and I got a picture I was rather pleased with.

lacewing, possibly Chrysopa carnea

I also spotted a zebra jumping spider with a caddisfly, I think one of the longhorn sedges on the sign board just outside the Centre, there were some depth of field problems getting a picture, especially with the “long horns”.

jumping spider with caddisfly

Locking up the hides I was pleased to see that there are about fifteen common tern chicks now flying around the rafts on Ivy Lake. There were also 21 mute swans, the most I have ever seen on this lake, the reason for this is that until this year the occupying pair were so vigorous in defense of the water that other swans rarely stayed more than a few minutes. The new pair, although they try just don’t have the same power to drive away intruders.

At the Tern hide I saw a common sandpiper and a second summer yellow-legged gull, the season is certainly turning now and we will start to see more and more birds heading back southwards over the next month. Our cuckoos have already departed, I have not heard one singing for about a fortnight and only expect to see juveniles now.