“Butterflies are beautiful but moths are boring”. This is the common perception of moths but how wrong we can be! The first photograph Patrick Clement showed the Malvern local group on Thursday night was of the emperor moth, bluish-grey on the forewings with bands of white, black and orange, yellow on the underwings, and brilliant black, yellow and blue eyespots on all four wings.
Admittedly, there are some rather boring brown jobs among the moth family, including the clothes moths which are never popular! However, many common moths are very attractive indeed and have equally beautiful names: brimstone, green silver lines, small elephant hawk, lilac beauty, clouded silver, large emerald. All these moths are attracted to lights and can easily be caught in a moth trap. Traps come in various designs but are basically a bright light over a box with a narrow opening; the moths enter the opening and can’t find the way out, so they can be studied the next morning and then released. A treacle mixture smeared on a tree will also attract certain types of moth.
|Elephant Hawk-Moth (c) Rosemary Winnall|
All moths and butterflies are Lepidoptera; wings covered with scales being one shared characteristic. It is commonly thought that all moths are nocturnal, but in fact there are many day-flying moths, like the chimney sweeper, humming-bird hawk moth and scarlet tiger. There are about 2,500 species of Lepidoptera in the UK but fewer than 60 of these are butterflies. There are 900 species of macro moth and 1,400 micro moths, some of which can only be distinguished by dissection of the genitalia. In the UK, butterflies have a club tip to their antennae, whereas moths generally have feathered antennae or a simple hair-like structure with no club tip.
Patrick Clement had many stunning photos of rare moths, secretive females with no wings, parasitised caterpillars, micro moths with amazing colours and a few surprises like the barn owl sitting on a moth trap. Even the leaf miners were fascinating, with each species leaving different mine patterns. The evening was a wonderful insight into an under-appreciated world.
The next meeting of the Malvern local group is at 7.30 pm on October 4th at Malvern Evangelical Church when we can't wait to hear John Robinson will talk about the Natural History of the Wyre Forest.
Alison Uren, Malvern local group