I am grateful to the friends of the Arboretum for inviting me to organise a number moth events at the Arboretum during 2014. Three such events were organised throughout the Spring and Summer, all of which were very well attended. A “moth evening” during June was attended by 18 people, despite earlier heavy showers. Conditions were not very favourable as moths do not like clear, cool nights, especially after rain. Nevertheless, four moth traps were set up around the Nature Reserve area and a number of stalwart attendees remained until midnight, periodically inspecting the traps for new arrivals.
The problem with moth evenings during the summer is that moths do not start flying until quite late as it remains light for so long, with the result that by the time the moths really got going, many of the attendees had gone home to bed.
By the time we started dismantling the equipment around midnight a total of 40 moths from 20 species had been recorded – better than expected! Nothing remarkable was recorded but most of these are new records for this site.
The remaining two events were “moth mornings.” Two very powerful traps were left overnight and the public were invited to come at 10am to see what had been caught overnight. Notethat most of the moths are asleep inside thetraps and after being counted are released unharmed into the environment.
26 people attended both of the moth mornings and were treated to a wonderful array of moths which had arrived overnight from the surrounding area. Most were astounded by what is flying around at night and which would not have been seen without the aid of a moth trap. By the end of the three sessions we had recorded some 630 moths and around 116 different species. This number would have been much higher but some moths invariably escape and many need very specialist help to identify and there was not time to do this on this occasion.
The highlight of the events has to be the Four – spotted Footman moth which is a migrant and turned out to be the very first county record for this species. In fact, I’ve never seen this moth in over 50 years of recording!
The photographs show just a small selection of the moths seen. I think you will agree that moths are definitely not “small, brown and furry.” In fact, I prefer to call them butterflies of the night.
Moths are one of the most important components of our food chain and are very sensitive to small changes in the environment. For this reason they are used by many organisations as important indicators of what is going on in the environment. And it is not a happy situation. Moths and butterflies are some of the most threatened species and many are in serious decline. In fact a number of moths have declined by an amazing 90% over the past 30 years.
It is vitally important that we look after these insects but to do so we need to monitor what we have around us – hence these moth surveys. More surveys will be undertaken this year –watch this space – and as there are some 2,500 species of moth in this country there is still plenty of work to be done!
Peter Hugo, Moth Officer, Butterfly Conservation, Gloucestershire.