Tales From The Trap - December 2013

Clifden Nonpareil

With the mothing year drawing to a chilly close Butterfly Conservation’s own moth man Les Hill puts 2013 into context.

Cool weather and a persistent north-easterly breeze dominated spring and early summer, so much so that it wasn’t until mid-June before I recorded more than 50 species in a night with a count of 74. The daily average before this was a measly 12 species – the low counts dramatically demonstrating how poor the first six months of 2013 actually were.

But in contrast July and August proved to be a moth bonanza. During this period I recorded an average of 77 species a night. My highest total was 130 species on 17 July. So, summer was all-in-all pretty productive.

Rosy UnderwingAutumn brought some show-stopping visitors. The highlight of my mothing year was recording three Rosy Underwing (Catocala electa) the first from my garden trap and the other two from the trap here at Butterfly Conservation HQ, all in East Lulworth, giving rise to speculation that it may have recently colonised our neck of the woods. I was also lucky enough to be blessed with the presence on three occasions of the equally spectacular Clifden Nonpareil (C. fraxini).

If that wasn’t enough, by a chance fluke I saw and confirmed the fourth Rosy Underwing of 2013 while on holiday in Cornwall.

We’re now approaching the winter months when it seems only the hardy (or foolish) moth recorders still run moth traps. Most people by now have put their traps away until spring next year. Yes, it’s true and likely the opportunities to record moths over winter is limited, but there’s still a great selection to record when the weather is reasonable. And let’s not forget, we still need to gather data on these species as they’re just as important December Mothas all the others. December Moth (Poecilocampa populi) is quite abundant at the moment, with some recorders including myself recording over 30 individuals a night. A number of species overwinter and hibernate as adults and during the milder days may emerge to find their way into moth traps, Grey Shoulder-knot (Lithophane ornitopus), Satellite (Eupsilia transversa) and Red-green Carpet (Chloroclysta siterata) to name just three for example. It is not unknown for exotic, migrant Hawk-moths to appear during the winter, Striped Hawk-moth (Hyles livornoca) and Silver-striped Hawk-moth (Hippotion celerio) are recorded this time of year.

So, if you’ve put your trap away, do consider running it when there’s a period of milder weather, you never know what may turn up!

Les Hill

Senior Data Manager, National Moth Recording Scheme and Dorset County Macro-moth Recorder

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