Welcome to ‘What’s in the box?’, a regular feature that looks at what has been recorded over the previous month.
My moth trap is homemade (albeit not by me!) and contains egg boxes for moths to huddle into and a bright light to attract the moths. I set it up as and when the weather permits and the usual plan is to position it in the garden at Bubble HQ using the mains electric. I then run around like a mad woman with a net and pots catching everything flying to the light (except bats which can be a bit of a problem sometimes!). The neighbours do think I’m a little odd! When bedtime calls, the trap is then left running all night and everything that has fallen into the box is recovered early morning. And when the box is opened….I never know what I’m going to get.
I do take the trap further afield using a generator. I have permission to use the trap in certain local areas and always release the moths back to where they were found.
All records will be from Bubble HQ here in Dalby Forest unless otherwise stated.
A cold start
March started slowly. With clear skies, it was cold but never quite freezing. The first record for March was a lonely Satellite. I say lonely because that’s exactly what it was. It was the only moth to the trap that night. Always a memorable moth for me as the tiny ‘satellite’ dots describe what it is and I like moths with names that describe what they look like. It makes life so much easier or maybe it’s just because I’m lazy! Anyway, it was the first and only Satellite in the box all month.
Satellite (Eupsilia transversa)
I trapped again a week later. The temperature was up at a heady 9 degrees so hopes were high. Unfortunately, it plummeted to 0.5 degrees overnight. Still, the Pale Brindled Beauties (both light and dark forms) headed on in as well as a March Moth. The Pale Brindled Beauties put in thirteen more appearances over the next few sessions whereas the March Moth, which I would have expected be the most common, with it being March and all, only appeared twice more.
Pale Brindled Beauty (Phigalia pilosaria) both light and dark forms
On the 16th, the first Hebrew Characters flew in and then averaged 35 per session for the rest of the month. They really do nestle themselves all cosy in the undersides of the egg boxes in trap. The second part of their latin name, Orthosia gothica, comes from the ‘gothic arch’ on the forewing. I can see why. It is a chunky black arch, very distinctive. It’s a bit wonky on all of them but I can see where they’re coming from!
Wonky arched Hebrew Character (Orthosia gothica)
Drabs, Chestnuts, Greys and Stripes
Shoulder Stripe (Earophila badiata)
The Clouded Drabs were plentiful from the middle of the month closely followed by the Chestnuts and Red Chestnuts. The Greys put in an appearance, that is the Mottled and the Early. A lovely Shoulder Stripe, the one and only for the month, flew straight out of the box, landing not far off a cobweb. Rescued from the looming grip of the said cobweb, it eventually found its way out of harm’s way into the undergrowth.
I was fascinated this month by antennae and got increasingly frustrated when moths wouldn’t show me what they’ve got. Both the Oak Beauty and the Yellow Horned were the winners in the antennae competition even though the Oak Beauty’s looked more like a hipster moustache!
Oak Beauty (Hypomecis roboraria)
Now, the Quakers. I’m sure that they’re so named as I quake at the thought of identifying them! Anyway, the Small, the Common and the Twin-spotted all came to the light.
A Dotted Border and the first Carpet of the year flew in. A Water Carpet. I can’t find anywhere that explains why the common name refers to water. The latin name, Lampropteryx suffumata, refers to bright, glossy wings and a smokey colour. No water mentioned. Habitat includes woodland, heath, hedgerows, gardens and moorland. Where’s the water? I wonder whether the ‘gloss’ on the wings can be thought of as water? Anyway, if anyone out there knows why the Water Carpet is so-called, then please let me know!
Water Carpet (Lampropteryx suffumata)
On the last session of the month, which was a mild 14 degrees, a nice surprise was waiting in the box. Nestled underneath an egg box, amongst all the Hebrew Characters was….a Red Sword-grass. Not common here at Bubble HQ at all! A great record to finish the month.
Red Sword-grass (Xylena vetusta)
What’s in the box? March stats (totally unscientific!)
Number of sessions – 6
Temperatures – ranging from 0.5 to 14 degrees
Total number of moths – 301
Most common – Hebrew Character (total 73)
Hebrew Character – nine in this egg box
Most lonesome – Satellite
Most confusing species – the Quakers
Most confusing name – Water Carpet
Best antennae – Yellow Horned
Yellow Horned (Achlya flavicornis)
Moth of the month – Red sword-grass