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Thursday, 30 July 2015

First experience of moth trapping!

I know I said I was going to wait until next year to get a moth trap, but during my break from chemo whilst feeling a lot better, and seeing what Amanda from The Quiet Walker blog was catching with her recently purchased trap which is the same one I was thinking about, I thought 'oh what the hell, I'm getting one now!'. And so I spent the last day of my break (last Weds) photographing and learning a lot about moths.

It's taken me this long to sort through the photos (not helped by the chemo getting its own back on me for daring to take a break) - I brought about 45 moths indoors to look at/photograph so had several hundred photos! I left many smaller ones and drab ones sheltering in the egg boxes in the potting shed and encouraged them out at dusk. There must have been about 100 moths which really surprised me. The most numerous moths were what I think are Common and Scarce Footman, but I didn't get a photo of either as they flew off as soon as I tried to take a pic! But being shallow ;-) I was far more interested in the big and/or colourful moths.....

I'll be adding a second post with my unidentified or not sure moth pictures in the hope you guys can help me with ID, and I have a few questions too. 

This first time I put the trap here near the potting shed where I could run electricity out and the veg patch with all the flowers in is behind where I am standing taking the picture. There are no trees particularly close and the next time I'm going to put it under trees in a different place to see if I get some different moths. 

This trap is the Skinner trap with twin 30w Actinic bulbs which cost me £213 total including a moth book and some specimen boxes and tubes for putting the moths in, and P&P to France was £25, which I thought was pretty reasonable, given it's £12.50 within the UK. I bought it from Anglian Lepidopterist Supplies.

After photographing the moths I put them into a big plastic box with a mesh lid, which is the one I used for my pupating Swallowtails, and at dusk we went around the garden putting the moths outside. A number escaped into the living room whilst photographing them, so we spent a couple of days catching them and putting them out!


Not surprisingly, there were moths on the outside of the box and in the grass all around it too.


This was the biggest excitement and a moth I have longed to see for years - an Elephant Hawkmoth (Deilephila elpenor). There were two of them in the box and now I just have the larva to see. I'm not giving info about each individual moth but if you click on the link it will take you to an info page.



And another hawkmoth! At first I thought this was a Poplar Hawkmoth but then I saw the eyes. This is an Eyed Hawkmoth (Smerinthus ocellata) and you can see why in the first photo. The third photo is the mesh on top of the large box where I put them after photographing - I was trying for some better photos of the hawkmoths outside but the light was too dull and they were flapping their wings a lot. I love the curvy abdomen.




It took me a while to ID this one which is quite a large moth but not as large as the Oak Eggar which follows this one. It doesn't appear in either of my books but eventually I realised it was probably part of the Lasiocampidae family, so googled that - et voila, up came my moth. It's a Plum Lappet (Odonestis pruni) and I love its hairy legs. 




I met this moth last year as it flew inside my house but I mistakenly identified it as a Grass Eggar (I blame the photos on google.....). It's a female Oak Eggar (Lasiocampa quercus) and she's really quite a big girl. I've met the male outside and they fly during the day but the females fly at night - yet I guess they find each other somehow.... :-)



This was another squeal with excitement moth as I've wanted to see a Buff Tip (Phalera bucephala) for ages, as I've found their caterpillars here several times. They are one of the most gorgeous moths and so well camouflaged when on a tree, as they look like little twig stubs. There were four of them in the trap and they were the most laid back of moths, never flapping, never moving, not remotely bothered when I opened up their wings like in the photo below. In fact at dusk they had to really be encouraged to budge!




A smaller moth but very pretty, this is a Rosy Footman (Miltochrista miniata). I was fascinated to read that their larvae feed on lichen on trees, which I hadn't heard of before.


This one foiled me for a while; if it had opened its wings up I might have guessed the family. When I did find out what it was, I wasn't too surprised as I've seen similar red legs and the hairy reddish underneath before when I found a Garden Tiger in my veg patch. This is a Ruby Tiger (Phragmatobia fuliginosa) and it's unusual because tiger moths are usually very colourful and showy. But sometimes you have to look beyond the wings for the colourful, showy bits.



The only really green moth which I trapped is a continental species, the Orache Moth (Trachea atriplicis). Some of the larval foodplants are weeds in my veg patch.



Another one with a hint of green - in fact this was one of my favourite moths which I hadn't met before. I love its green furry top and stripey socks! It took me a while to ID this one as so many pictures in books are just looking down on the wings, rather than seeing them from different angles. It's a Lesser Broad-bordered Yellow Underwing (Noctua janthe).



This is an Oak Hook-tip (Watsonalla binaria).



First time I've seen a Buff Ermine (Spilarctia luteum) although I am familiar with various Ermine moths of the white variety. It's really rather beautiful!



I got the ID for this from Amanda's posts so it's either a Grey Dagger (Acronicta psi) or a Dark Dagger (Acronicta tridens). Apparently you have to examine their genitalia to tell the difference, although on the UK Moths site it looks like the Dark Dagger has circular spots mid forewing which this one doesn't, which doesn't make a lot of sense. I've seen the larvae of both species in the garden.


This one I may have identified from Ragged Robin's posts but I can't remember! I believe it's a Scalloped Oak (Crocallis elinguaria).


I believe this is a Poplar Grey (Acronicta megacephala).


I'd heard the Yellow Tail (Euproctis similis) moth played dead and it does that very well! It ought to be careful when lying on the floor though as I found one that was actually very much alive and I could have thrown it in the rubbish bin or out the window if I hadn't been interested to look at it closer - luckily for it I had already looked at the one in the moth box the day before so I was aware of what it did. However it's possible this is a Brown Tail (Euproctis chrysorrhoea) but I think I also had one with a more yellow tail in the trap.... it's easy to get confused!


I've seen this Peppered moth (Biston betularia) on various blog posts and was aware of it anyway because of its amazing evolution, where a darker form evolved to camouflage itself on soot darkened tree trunks during the industrial revolution - you can read more about it on the link above. However it's good to see the light form as you know you live in a clean environment where the moth can camouflage itself on lighter coloured tree bark covered in lichens (not surprising here in the countryside really)!


Last but not least, a Silver Y moth (Autographa gamma), which are (sometimes) seen during the day nectaring, so I have photographed them before many times.


I also had two Jersey Tiger moths (Euplagia quadripunctaria) in the trap, but as I see them during the day and have taken tons of photos of them over the years, I didn't bother!

Next post will contain the not sure about moths which is shorter than this post, you'll be glad to know! Also if I've got my IDs wrong please tell me. I've enjoyed trying to ID moths myself as you learn so much more that way, but it can be very time consuming.

26 comments:

  1. I'm in love with all of them - wonderful photographs and a great experience. So much yet to see as well....I look forward to further posts.

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    1. Aww cheers Ian, it was a great experience and I'll be doing it again very soon, as the weather is warming up again and getting sunnier. :-)

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  2. Absolutely stunning! You've certainly got your use out of the box already.

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    1. Haha I have to use it many more times to get my money's worth :-) Thanks Debrazzaman. I will be getting the box out again soon as I'm after more hawkmoths!

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  3. Brilliant post! You have become an expert in a very short time and the photos are great. x

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    1. Thanks so much Sandra - I have learned a lot this last week! xx

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  4. I can see, your going to be one of these boring Moth Shooters now arn't you. {:))
    (Oops! Sorry Amanda)
    Seriously Mandy, they are amazing colours and there are far more colourful moths than there are butterflies. So, I look forward to seeing what you catch. Honest.

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    1. I wouldn't turn into one of them, Roy! lol - actually I don't want to keep shooting the same moths over and over again anyway, unless it's a hawkmoth and I can get a better shot. You are right about the colourful moths - if they all flew during the day we'd be after many of them rather than the 'boring old' Browns and Whites, wouldn't we? :-)

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  5. I like the Orache- never seen one before :o) x

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    1. Thanks CT, you may get lucky as they do cross the channel sometimes and hit the south and east coasts, mainly in July and August, according to the UK Moths site. I presume my IDing was correct, then? :-)

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  6. Now these are such fabulous shots and looks like a lot of fun. Such amazing captures as always my sweet friend

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  7. Great post, super photos Mandy. The moth trapping was clearly a success.

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    1. Thanks very much, Ian. Yes, I think we can say that! :-)

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  8. Wonderful, wonderful, have been checking daily to see when you post your moth photos. What amazing selection many I have not seen (very jealous) love the Lesser Broad-bordered Yellow Underwing and Brown Tail moths.
    Seeing moths on other peoples blogs has a lot more meaning now I am trapping them, so so pleased you have started.
    Are you just going to record them on your blog or write it down in a book ? Do they have a recording scheme in France for your area ?
    Hope you are feeling up to putting the trap out again as I think things will start to get a little quieter soon.Hope you are feeling a little better too.
    My moth trap has not been out for over a week now due to the bad weather :( but fingers crossed it might go out to night.Thanks for the mention X
    Amanda xx

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    1. Thanks Amanda! I know what you mean, I have been through yours, RR's and CT's and now a lot make more sense, even though most of them I haven't ever seen. But beginning to recognise some now. I couldn't make notes of all that I caught as there were too many and many duplicates that I didn't recognise at first of course. I think what I'll do is start afresh next year when I know more species and keep proper records. For now I'll just observe and learn and have fun! I've no idea about recording schemes, somehow I doubt it but I'll have a look.

      Yeah the weather has been naff up until now too, very cool in the mornings. But sun coming back again and the butterflies are out so hopefully the moths will be too. Happy hunting! xx

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  9. Well I feel very enlightened now Mandy as I thought moths all looked the same brownish or greyish colour. We don't see many round here and if we do they are usually expelled rapidly as they are fluttering around lampshades making a lot of noise.
    Some of the moths you've photographed are really beautiful.

    Philippa x

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    1. Many of them are just grey or brown and I do know what you mean about the ones that annoyingly flap around the lights - I always think they are on a suicide mission. But if you get a chance to look at some of them close up you find they are not all dull coloured! And many big colourful ones fly during the day like the Jersey Tiger moth, which you may have seen in Brittany or even in London. And don't forget the Hummingbird Hawkmoths which you must have seen in Brittany during the day! Thanks Philippa. xx

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  10. Oh goody, goody, goody, you've done a moth post - have so been longing to see what you caught :) What a really wonderful selection and some great photos :) So many of those I have never trapped but that Eyed Hawkmoth has to be my favourite :) I am so glad you trapped the Elephant Hawkmoth too :)

    I love the Orache moth too - such wonderful colours :) Thanks for the mention and yes it is a Scalloped Oak.

    I wish I caught more of the more colourful moths here - I get so many of the drab, brown noctuids - many a nightmare to id :( Anyway, I have put the moth trap out for the first time in about a fortnight as its been so wet over night here recently.

    I am so glad you are enjoying it all so much and look forward to seeing more of the pictures.

    I do hope you will feel a little better soon .

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    1. Thanks so much Ragged Robin - you have helped inspire me along with Amanda and CT. I was quite amazed to find so many big beauties in my box but it may be because I'm right in the middle of the countryside and there are loads of different kinds of trees on my property which of course are food plants of many of the moths' larvae. So I was hoping for quite a variety. I hope you find some more interesting ones this time, and thank you, I am slowly getting my strength back - it's annoying but it's not for too much longer (finishes mid Sept). :-)

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  11. I don't know much about moths, but your post is fascinating and great photos too. I hope you're feeling better after your last bout of chemo.xx

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    1. Thanks Deb - I ony knew about the fancy big moths and ones that flew around during the day so was interested to delve deeper! Slowly getting my strength back as this time the chemo hit me hard, but I had a good time during my break so can cope with it. It affects me differently each time anyway. xx

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  12. You really are the David Attenborough of Breton Moths and the David Bailey of photography.

    May I call you David?

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