It’s a common myth that moths are all boring and brown. There are plenty of colourful moths – some that even fly during the day – which are often hard to distinguish from butterflies. There are also several moths that live up to the drab stereotype. But don’t be fooled into thinking that they are dull. These moths are actually masters of disguise.
Moths that fly in autumn not only have to contend with cold and wet weather but they also have to work harder to find shelter from predators. Branches are much more difficult to hide in than a bush and bare ground is far more unforgiving than long grass. Despite what your eyes might tell you, evolution has been kind to these ‘boring brown’ moths. Their best chance of survival comes from looking like a dead leaf.
There are scores of species of moth still on the wing in November. The Chestnut the Red-green Carpet, the Mottled Umber and the Yellow-line Quaker are all, as their names suggest, perfectly matched to the subdued shades of autumn leaves.
With the days drawing in earlier you have a good chance of spotting these and other night-flying moths that are attracted to light. They may appear at your window when the light is on and the curtains open. Leaving a light on in an open porch is another easy way to entice them in for a closer look.
The Angle Shades is a great autumn moth. Despite being a subdued olive-green and pinkish brown in colour, the arrow-shaped markings and distinctive furled wings of this species make it difficult to misidentify. A frequent visitor to gardens, you can attract them in with light or look for them at rest, on walls and fences, in daylight hours.
The Herald is another unmistakable moth resident in parks and gardens across England, Wales, Ireland and lowland Scotland. It will come to light but can also be found feeding on ivy berries if you take a torch out after dark. This moth overwinters as an adult and may also be discovered dormant in sheds or under piles of fallen wood.
The best thing you can do to help moths at this time of year is to leave leaf litter undisturbed and provide a log pile hideout. These simple acts will help a multitude of wildlife in November. You may even end up harbouring a hedgehog too!
Senior Media Officer