Thursday, 18 July 2013

Moth-struck

People may question how I spend my Friday nights, but this is a perfectly healthy pursuit and I think you all just need to open your minds.

Genuine question moth-trappers get from passers-by... 'Is that for aliens?'

Ok, so maybe moths are not everyone's cup of tea, but you could change your mind after meeting Jacob Everitt; local countryside warden and fellow moth-appreciator. Last Friday Jake brought his large moth trap to Gatwick along with mercury vapour bulb, generator, collecting pots and bags of knowledge and enthusiasm. We picked our site carefully, setting up in the North West Zone on the path between the River Mole and Brockley Wood.

 All moths are encouraged to drink responsibly


Face-moth surveying (best to keep your mouth shut)

Common Toad which was passing by, possibly also wondering what was going on

It was a pretty successful night for trapping; warm with virtually no breeze. Many different moth species were drawn in from the bordering scrub, woodland and wetland habitats, along with every biting midge and mosquito within a 2 mile radius. No one actually knows for sure why the moths are attracted to the light; the theories range from them being attracted to the warmth, them believing it is the moon (which they might navigate by), or simply to make adult people scream in bathrooms. 

Trappings of success - Moths can be put in the fridge overnight to settle them down. I prefer taking amateur pics of wildlife in-situ but the light of day does these guys most justice.

Close-up of a Peppered moth - all were re-released close by to where they were collected

The next day was quite a job of photographing around 30 different moths! Some of the other species we saw were scarce or under-recorded, so of great interest to recorders like Jake. They can give clues about how our management is affecting their diversity and whether they are in good numbers; after all they are pollinators and an important food source for other wildlife. I have a put together a folder with all my shots and the species names here (NWZ Moth Trap) but you can see below for a selection of the best of Gatwick's moths!

Peppered moth

Drinker

Brimstone

Elephant Hawk-moth

Common Emerald

Peach Blossom

Angle Shades

Riband Wave (ab. remutata)

Buff Arches

 Swallow-tailed

 Coronet 

And finally, an adult male Glow-worm (Lampyris noctiluca). These guys were mistaking the green light on Jake's generator for a glowing female. We recorded a total of 9 this way!

There will be more Gatwick moth-trapping to come later in the season...