By the end of Moth Diaries episode six, I had confirmed a total of 48 species for the garden so far this year. Well, as predicted, with some 27c days and some 16c+ nights things have gone into overdrive (some would say chaos) and the total number of species for the garden now stands at an incredible 80. Owing to this drastic increase in number, forgive my lack of prose below and instead enjoy the gallery of some of the best new moths of the last couple of weeks. (Please note that most of the photographs below are stock photographs unless stated otherwise – much respect is given to those with the skill and patience to photograph such flighty, skittish creatures!)
Below is the Peppered moth at rest on my finger, a beautiful large moth it has been extensively studied thanks to malanism. Often referred to as ‘Darwins moth’ it is an evolutionary instance of directional colour change in the moth population as a consequence of air pollution. During the Industrial Revolution with the rise of smog, this moth turned almost completely black, evolving to better blend in with it’s industrial surroundings. It is only more recently that the moth has reverted back to the standard white with black ‘peppering’ although in the industrial north, populations of all black peppered moths still exist.
Below is undoubtedly one of my favourite catches of the year so far. The gorgeous Poplar Hawk-moth. My first Hawk of the year, the Poplar is the most common of all of our Hawk-moths and also the most easily recognised owing to the strange resting position with hindwing protruding beyond the forewing. This unusual position arises from the fact that the Poplar Hawk-moth does not have a frenulum (a structure which normally holds the wings together). Like the Swift moth, it has no functioning proboscis and so the adult moth does not feed, existing only to mate and reproduce. Adults are on the wing from May to July and the larvae feed on Poplar, Aspen and Sallow.
The moth below is actually a micro moth, though seemingly larger than a number of macros I’ve seen. It is called a Large Tabby moth and is in rapid decline, owing possibly to a loss of habitat; it is a Barn and outbuilding specialist where the larvae feed amongst straw and chaff in such buildings, as well as on sheep-dung. It’s not the most beautiful of moths but I’m chuffed to see one; they are extremely rare in Leicestershire making this a valuable record both for myself and the county. The adults usually fly from June to August and only occasionally visit light.
Finally, we have the arrival of the Large Yellow Underwing and it is ‘Large’ (though not as large as the Broad-Bordered Yellow Underwing). At rest, this moth looks fairly dull and innocuous, until, once disturbed, we get a view of the stunning Yellow hindwings. This can be said for all of the ‘Yellow Underwing’ family, most of which are rather abundant. In Fact, the Large Yellow Underwing is Britain’s most common moth (as our own inhabitants are joined in summer by a hude influx of migrants from southern Europe) and us moth’ers refer to them as ‘trap fillers’ and for good reason; they have an insatiable appetite for light and between July and September they can appear in the trap by the hundreds which can make them a bit of a pest in high-season. Adding to their sheer volume and size, their habit of rapid movement and ‘crawling’ can make for quite an intimidating experience, emptying the trap in the morning. This one is early, with the main flight period usually July to September though increasingly emerging in June and for now I’m content to see its beauty. Ask me how I feel again in August!