11 May 2014

The beauty of Moths

Colin Miles

Tuesday 6th May 2014. Although it had rained overnight we were delighted to find that the Moth trap which John had set up in Trawscoed Meadow had at last yielded results. So for the next hour or so we crowded around a couple of tables in the courtyard and watched as Marigold carefully lifted out the egg boxes and captured the Moths in little pots – or not, as some made a bid for freedom.  Then there was the task of identifying them.  Not always easy as there are so many subtle variations between some of the species. Altogether there were 15, possibly 16 species, all of them classified as common, which means that they have been recorded from over 300 10km squares in GB since 1 January, 1960 – so nothing very rare.

Most of us only see moths at night, trying to get in the windows, or in the car headlights, so we never get the chance to see them at close quarters. The sheer beauty of many of these was a revelation. But as in any good show the best came last in the shape of the very large Poplar Hawk moth. The pictures do not give a true reflection of its size – it’s wing span is 7 – 10cm and this one got very agitated when confined in its box. However, lifting the lid off calmed in down and enabled us to get a really good look at it.

Of course the trap doesn’t only catch moths and we found Mayfly, some Caddis flies, a Spider, a Mosquito and a little black Beetle! Afterwards we had a brief walk in the Double-Walled Garden where the main find of interest was Cuckoo Bumblebees. There are six species of these in the UK and we aren’t exactly sure which one this was. They differ from the ordinary species due to the fact that their back legs that are covered in hair, with no pollen baskets – you will never see a cuckoo bumblebee with pollen lumps on its legs – and their wings appear dusky or dark.

The list of Moths is below – marvel at their wonderful names!
Pale Tussock, Brindled Beauty (3), Scalloped Hazel, Nut-tree Tussock (2), White-Pinion Spotted, Peppered Moth, Hebrew Character (2), Brindled Pug, Dark-Barred Twin Spot Carpet, Poplar Hawk, Coxcomb Prominent, Small Phoenix, Muslin, Campion, Grey Birch, Dotted Carpet or 2nd Grey Birch

A big thank you to Marigold for a thoroughly enjoyable morning and of course to John for these splendid pictures. If any volunteer or member is interested in joining us please send an email to Colin Miles – you DON’T have to be an expert in anything, just interested. If you click on the Wildlife Walks heading on the left-hand side under News you will see a list of the last 10 Wildlife Survey blogs.

If you find an injured bird, hedgehog or other wild animal and want help and advice then phone the Gower Bird hospital. on 01792 371630.