Michael's Moth Webinar Q&A

14 February 2021 | Posted in Michael Blencowe
Michael's Moth Webinar Q&A

Thanks for all the lovely comments that have been sent in after my moth talk last week. It is available to view again for a limited time here.

Despite being the person who nags everyone else to keep their talks to 45 minutes I managed to talk for over an hour and didn't have a chance to look through the 293 comments and questions I received. 
Most if them were nice comments about the talk (thanks!) and some of them were comments about legendary actor Danny Kye (thanks Susan, Maura, Caroline, Jamie, Hilary, Tash, David, Jeanette, Charlotte, Janet, Sue & Carla).

And thank you for everyone who let me know that Schmetterlingschutz is German for 'butterfly protector' (thanks to Lucy, Karin, Barbara, Tor, Alan, Anne, Christine, Kelly, Dennis, Helen & Louise)

And there were some moth questions too:

Roy: What happened to the Lewes Wave? The Lewes Wave was only known to exist in the UK in the Vert Wood complex near East Hoathly. This was once a wonderful open woodland of glades and heather patches. However during the last century it was sold, ploughed up and re-planted with regimented rows of pine. These pine plantations destroyed the woodland and the specific habitat required by the moth. It hung on in a small corner of the wood where the habitat remained but eventually vanished in 1961. There has been a lot of great work undertaken by Butterfly Conservation and other local conservation groups in the past few decades and the wood is slowly being restored. Sadly the Lewes Wave is long gone. 

Nick: How frequently do you encounter people with a phobia about moths? My ex wife was phobic about them.  I do sometimes have people come to moth trapping events who have a moth phobia. I often wonder why they turn up. Inevitably any moths that fly out of the moth trap land on their faces. Which sometimes cures their phobia. Sometimes. 

Alice: What has been the decrease in moth over the past 30 years? From Butterfly Conservation: "Moths are declining in the UK. Studies have found the overall number of moths has decreased by 28% since 1968. The situation is particularly bad in southern Britain, where moth numbers are down by 40%. Many individual species have declined dramatically in recent decades and over 60 became extinct in the 20th century". Read more here

Heather: When will we see the first hawk moths? What month? Poplar, Pine, Eyed and Lime Hawk-moths should be on the wing in Sussex in May.

Angela & Maria: What do Sussex Emerald caterpillars eat? They mainly eat wild carrot. You can read about the hopeful return of 'our' Sussex Emerald to our Rye Harbour reserve here

Kelly: Where can I see a Merveille du Jour in Sussex? This beautiful moth can be found in oakwoods across the county. There's a map here.

Joe: What are the ethics of using fake pheromones? Surely not great for the insect to be lured towards something that won't benefit them (like using recorded birdsong to lure a bird?)  This is a good point Joe. When surveying or observing wildife first rule should be that we are not negatively affecting or disturbing it. We have seen increased use of bird song to lure birds - generally by twitchers and photographers and this can disturb species on their breeding grounds. Pheromone lures for clearwings are used as a means of discovering whether species are present at certain sites and can therefore inform our conservation actions and benefit the species. However there are guidelines for pheromone use which we observe to ensure that these surveys do not impact populations. You can read more on this guidance note here

Martin: What tree species do Goat Moths feed on? They feed in the heartwood of many tree species. I was searching in a willow.

Marion: Do moth traps damage the moths? In the many years I have been moth trapping I have seen very little harm done to the moths. They all fly away next morning. I cause more moth fatalities driving to and from a survey site. If I felt that light surveying was at all damaging them I certainly wouldn't be doing it. At worst moth trapping does take a night out of a moth's life and prevents it from getting on with its sole purpose of mating. It has been suggested that trapping on consecutive nights in the exact same spot can be detrimental for that reason and it's something I avoid. 

Lois: Do you ever open a moth trap without your lucky green checked shirt? No, never

Jen: Since moving to Bexhill in 2017 I have had some wonderful moth visitors to my flat. However one I could not identify was a quite large one which looked like it was wearing a deep russet red furry bolero. Any ideas? Hmmm. Bolero? Could it be the Cream-spot Tiger?

Bolero

(Photo by Bob Eade)

Robin: Did you know that Danny Kaye's father was jazz musician Max Kaminksy? No, I didn't. But when I looked it up it appears that he isn't. Danny Kaye was born David Kaminsky in Brooklyn in 1911. Max Kaminsky was born three years earlier in 1908. So I can already see a problem with this story!

Cami: Were you the naked man? I wasn't the naked man referred to in the talk. Despite Amazon describing me as a 'nature specialist' the rumours that I am also a 'special naturist' have yet to be confirmed.









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