Saturday, 20 October 2012

A year in mothing

It's now been a year since I moved into my house in central Bedfordshire. Within a few days I'd unpacked the moth trap and started populating my garden list. Early catches were promising, including the first Autumnal Rustics I'd ever seen, and the spectacular Merveille-du-jour.

Autumnal Rustic - 2117
Autumnal Rustic
Merveille du jour - 2247
The marvellous Merveille-du-jour

With the new year came an added incentive to trap, in the form of a mothing competition with several friends. The rules are simple, whoever can catch the most species of macro-moth in their garden in a year would be crowned the victor. Having trapped in a fairly haphazard fashion in my previous garden, I was unsure as to what a good score would be, but 100 seemed like an achievable target.

The year started well, with classic early year moths such as Spring Usher, Oak Beauty, and even better the locally scarce Small Brindled Beauty. As march progressed the total was ticking steadily along, but then came the wettest April record, and astonishingly, a blank month.

Oak Beauty - 1930
Oak Beauty

May and June weren't much better, but in the dry patches some good moths were tempted into the garden, including only the 23rd Bedfordshire record of Chamomile Shark.

Chamomile Shark - 2214
Coxcomb Prominent
Mohican moths, Chamomile Shark (top) and Coxcomb Prominent (bottom)

Things really picked up in late July, with one balmy evening producing an impressive 48 species, including the remarkable Leopard Moth and Drinker.

Leopard Moth
Two of the more odd looking moths caught this year Leopard (top) and Drinker (bottom)

The total continued to climb through August, breaking first the 100 barrier, then powering past 150. with several moths I'd never seen before, such as Scorched Carpet and the locally scarce Webb's Wainscot.

Scorched Carpet
Scorched Carpet
Webb's Wainscot
Webb's Wainscot

Fast forward to October, and the competition has narrowed to a two horse race, with both trappers locked at 184 species each. Surprisingly the two lists differ by 30+ species, showing just how diverse moths are in this country. Several species caught last year are yet to make an appearance, in particular Autumnal Rustics have been notable by their absence; although given that the species has declined by over 90% in recent years, perhaps that's not surprising.

I've certainly enjoyed the added spice the competitive element has brought, I never thought the arrival of the first common marbled carpet of the year would bring so much excitement! Hopefully the pictures in this post show how remarkable and attractive moths in the UK can be, and might tempt one or two people to get involved themselves, I thoroughly recommend it!

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