Moth trapping is one of those things you stumble upon, and when you do, you never forget it!
My first experience of moth trapping was when I was about 16, I’d been birdwatching at Northumberland Wildlife Trust’s Holywell Pond Nature Reserve, and on my way out noticed a group on people setting up a trailer with a white sheet and a lamp stand, all standing around with nets. One of those situations where you’re not sure if you should walk over or not, but my curiosity got the better of me. I was welcomed by Tom Tams, who was the Northumberland County Moth Recorder, responsible for collating all Northumbrian moth records and submitting them to organisations such as Butterfly Conservation. He explained what they were up to, and that the light and white sheet attracted the moths so that they could be caught, identified, recorded and then released unharmed back onto the nature reserve.
I hung around, and what I saw had me completely awe-struck. A whole myriad of species, all sorts of different shapes, sizes and colours. Intricate patterning, metallic sheens, fluffy faces, and jazzy legs, butterflies have always been sold as beautiful, but moths smashed them out of the water! There are over 2500 species in the UK, so even in our gardens, we can discover different species almost every evening!
Moth trapping isn’t just a great way to find out who’s flying at night in your garden, witnessing incredible colour and diversity, it’s also essential for conservation. Moths, like much of our wildlife, are suffering steep declines. Populations of our larger moth species (macro moths) have crashed over the past 40 years, with three species becoming extinct since 2000. These statistics are saddening, but we wouldn’t have them without moth recording, and couldn’t act to try and prevent these declines.
(You can read more about the declines and causes in Butterfly Conservations ‘State of Britain’s Larger Moths 2013’ report)
Moths are vital to healthy ecosystems, with recent research highlighting their importance as pollinators. Unlike daytime pollinators like bees, they visit a vast range of different flowers and plants, creating large and complex pollen transport networks.
If you’re intrigued by our nocturnal pollinators, and fancy giving your local moths a helping hand, stay tuned. Over the next week we’ll be bringing you some moth focussed blogs, from gardening for moths, to the best (and cheapest) ways to catch and record moths in your outdoor space.
Unfortunately our planned Moths & Muffins Mini Expeds are cancelled for obvious reasons, but we’re already looking forward to our next opportunity to host them!