Autumn is a great time of the year for moth-trapping. Although the diversity encountered inferior to that of the summer months, the quality is often just as good, with a superb array of commonly-seen moths turning up in the traps. The species invariably sport a lovely colour combo that reflect the more muted and subtle tones of autumn. In addition to the resident and common garden moths, calm conditions with a good southerly airflow can result in large influxes of migrant lepidoptera, such as Silver Ys, Vestals, Rush Veneers and Rusty Dot Pearls. But scarcer species can include stunners such as the Crimson Speckled, Palpitta vitrealis and the lovely Hummingbird Hawkmoth.
Over the last few weeks I have been running my little heath trap outside the caravan most nights. Although numbers were very low a couple of weeks ago, this was primarily due to the full moon. The last week has seen some decent catches, ranging up to 30 individuals, and including as many as 13 different species. Some of the species are a little dull, admittedly, but for the most part they have been a pleasure to catch, bearing a delicate pattern and lovely suite of colours. The obvious stand-out from the crowd was that of a pair of Merveille du Jours that I trapped on the 10th – a first for me, and a species that I have always wanted to see! The Green-brindled Crescent is an almost equally stunning moth, which has only just appeared in the traps over the last few days.
In terms of the more commonly-occurring species at the moment, a typical selection on a daily basis includes Beaded Chestnuts, Square-spot Rustics, Black Rustics, Setaceous Hebrew Characters, Feathered Ranunculuses, Red-line Quakers, Bricks (yep, the names get better!), Lunar Underwings, Large Yellow Underwings, the odd Green Carpet and Common Marbled Carpet, and an Autumnal Rustic. These make up the bulk of each trapping session at the moment, although the increasing brightness of the moon at night is likely to decrease catch sizes in the coming weeks.
A selection of images of recent moths…
The superb Merveille du Jour. This translates more or less to ‘wonder of the day’, which I’d say was extremely fitting! They blend incredibly well into the lichens on tree trunks!
The Green-brindled Crescent, with an almost iridescent metallic green colouration to the scales of the upper wings. This species is distributed throughout the UK, the larvae of which feed on Hawthorn and Blackthorn in the spring
Pink-barred Sallow – one of a number of autumnal sallow moths that emerge and add a splash of colour to the moth traps. Most species of sallow begin their larval life stage feeding on Sallow catkins, hence the name, before diversifying into a wider range of herbaceous plants for nutrition
The Hummingbird Hawkmoth is a particularly delightful migrant species that you may glimpse darting from flower to flower in its constant quest to secure nectar. It has been superb to see this long-tongued (Macroglossum) species on campus, where this image was taken
Green Carpet- a species that can be encountered throughout the whole year, although many have been appearing in the traps over the last month.
One of the more common species that turn up in the moth trap on a daily basis: the Feathered Ranunculus. This is another very pretty species, albeit a little more subtly. Ironically, the preferred foodplants of the larvae are Biting Stonecrop and Thrift (amongst others), as opposed to Ranunculuses.
This species is one of two similar-looking moths that can now be found visiting the moth traps: this is a Red-line Quaker, and has only appeared in the traps in the last week, whilst its similar cousin, the Yellow-line Quaker, has not shown up at all as yet.