THE MOTHS OF LITCHAM

 


It was great to see so many people attending the open gardens event a few months back, and for me it was just as enjoyable to see the interest from others in the 'surprise guests' we had here at Penny Cottage, Pound Lane: - the moths!

Having had a keen interest in moths and all insects for many years, we were keen to share a few of the species which that grace our gardens after the sun has set. .   Often unseen and presumed only to be 'little brown things that eat your clothes', moths are often overlooked and under appreciated, living in the shadows of their much more popular 'cousins', the bButterflies. .   Both belong to the taxonomical order called Lepidoptera (from the Greek 'Lepid/Lepis' = scale and 'pteron' = wing) and both play a huge part in pollinating our native flora. .  

To Of the 59 species of butterfly known in the UK, there are a staggering 2,500 resident species of mMoth, - 1,800 of those have been recorded here in Norfolk, since records began in Victorian times.!

To further give an idea of how many moths are flying around the skies above your very own gardens at night, I can tell you this: we have run a moth trap in our small, paved garden, here at Penny Cottage on the majority of nights since moving in., .  Starting in December and now barely 10 months later we have recorded 358 different species! !  The variety is mind-blowing, from the tiny, tiger-striped micro moths like Argyresthia trifasciata (with the common name of 'Triple-barred Argent') at barely a few millimetres long, to the giants of our UK moths: the hawkmoth moths, which are truly impressive. .   You would be forgiven for thinking that our (bright pink!) Elephant hawk-moth was from a tropical forest somewhere in South America but it's not - it's here in the UK, in Norfolk, and in good numbers.

A moth trap is harmless and comes with several choices of light source, used to cover different light spectrums and attract the moths. .   The 'trap' part is either a wooden box type or plastic container, depending which you choose and both have small openings for the moths to fly in and for the most part, not get out until you inspect, record and release your catch the following morning. .   Although the equipment is designed to attract and catch moths, it is not essential for if you want to have a taster and see what flies around your garden at night. .   Much like you see moths flying around streetlights and signs, or in car headlights, they would also be attracted to the same light in your garden. .   A bright light bulb or lamp on a white sheet will definitely attract a few and most likely whet your appetite to catch more! !  Walking along hedgerows at night with torches, a net and a pot or two is great fun for children and also often produces good records for even the more experienced. too.

The mild and humid nights of summer are when most of the UK species are present and therefore so, the main moth- season is now winding down, but it never comes to a complete stop with certain moths only emerging during spring or autumn and even a handful of hardy species which choose only to emerge for the cold wWinter months!

The aAutumnal moths species are very smart looking and a good number of them match the autumnal hues around us all at this beautiful time of year. .   Look out for the yellows and oranges of the Sallow, Barred Sallow, Pink-barred Sallow and Frosted Orange moths. .   Or the bursts of other colours from the Green-brindled Crescent, Vapourer, Red Underwing, Canary-shouldered Thorn and the rather exquisite, Merveille du Jour moth - a real beauty, not uncommon in Norfolk, particularly if near to Ooak trees.

If anybody would like any advice or more information on how to get set up to run their own moth traps or help with moth identification etc, please feel free to ask. .   You can contact me at keithkerr@hotmail.co.uk or on Twitter: @akkwildlife or just come and say hi in the village! !  Also, if it's something that people would be interested in, it may be possible to run a 'moth-night' next summer, somewhere nearby to see what we could catch.

Keith Kerr