By Bob Foreman
Biodiversity Data Lead - Sussex Biodiversity Record Centre
Days 8 – 21: 24 March – 6 April
You start these things with the very best of intentions but something always conspires to thwart your plans – in this case; clear, cold and frosty nights. Unsurprisingly moths don’t like it when it’s cold. At this time of year, when the weather’s cold they’ll hunker down waiting for suitably mild conditions for them to fly in. If you have ever seen a moth preparing for take-off you might have seen it vibrating its wings at high speed, a process known as shivering, by doing this it is warming up its flight muscles to get enough energy into them to power it into the air. Studies have found that in some cases they can increase their muscle temperature by more than 15°C above the ambient temperature. When it’s cold, they have to start from a much lower base and have to use more energy to get going. Evolution hates wasting energy and consequently, among other things, moths have adapted to cold weather by not flying.
I only ran my moth trap three times between 24 March and 1 April and on only one of those nights caught any moths – three Hebrew Characters. The change of the month saw a bit of improvement and I have had a bit more luck with what’s been turning up. Until Monday (6 April) morning there had only been one new species to report, Brindled Beauty, which has appeared every night since. However, on the same morning I had a couple of species which were a little more pulse-quickening. My absolute favourite was this Purple Thorn, like a more spectacular version of its close relative, the Early Thorn but with more intense markings and an even more peculiar resting posture (on an unrelated note, its scientific name is Selenia tetralunaria, which presumably translates as Moony Four-Moons… but actually, at least in part, refers to the four moon-shaped crescent-marks on its wings). It’s not an uncommon species but one that I have only recorded a few times in my garden. Better still, on the uncommonness stakes, was the Water Carpet – the last time I recorded this species in the garden (or anywhere else, for that matter) was in 2008! From a moth-nerd point of view a much more exciting record but maybe not so smart looking. Tuesday morning saw the arrival of the twentieth species of the year, a rather lovely and very fresh Nut-tree Tussock, sitting on the greenhouse door next to where I have the trap.
Stats so far:
Trapping nights – 8
Moths recorded – 128
Species recorded - 20
Beautiful Plume, Brindled Pug, Brindled Beauty, Chestnut, Clouded Drab, Common Plume, Common Quaker, Double-striped Pug, Early Grey, Early Thorn, Hebrew Character, Lichen Button, March Tubic, Nut-tree Tussock, Oak Beauty, Oak Nycteoline, Purple Thorn, Red Chestnut, Small Quaker, Water Carpet