Recording moths is never a lonely business. This little feller in his red jacket (above) joins me most mornings and is the reason that I now have to net all the moths in the trap before he/she has them for breakfast.
(All photos: Gordon Redford)
What a strange month this has been for weather conditions and consequent moth turnout. The catches, which are all released unharmed, began with around 250 or so each evening rising to 450 when the temperatures soared and then the wind and rain which sent numbers visiting the traps plummeting so that on the 30th August just 27 moths dared to show their faces. It was just our bad luck that we had arranged for 25th to be the day for the Society to video the opening of some traps at the Reserve. (See separate news item: Emptying the moth traps at LLNR.)
I think 58 moths and 19 species was our haul for that evening. Nationally it was not too good either as 27th-29th August was designated this year’s National Moth Night. All 3 nights were wet, cold and windy.
That said all the records for the month of August have been entered in the data base and the numbers show that 6,695 moths visited the traps and that is the best August total ever at Linford Lakes Nature Reserve (LLNR). This is almost 1,000 moths more than the previous high total for August which was in 2019. The number of species recorded was 178 and curiously that number is 12 less than the 190 species that were recorded last year. 12 species were added to August list for LLNR of which 1 was new to the site. The other 11 species had been recorded on site before. The new one for the site was a micro moth named Golden Argent.
There are 25 species in the Argent genus with the largest having a forewing of 6.5mm. Most rest in a declining posture with head close to the surface and abdomen raised. The caterpillars feed on Birches and Alders of which there are many at LLNR.
The macro/micro division among moths can be confusing because some micro moths are very large indeed and some macro moths are very tiny. One such tiny macro is the Pinion-streaked Snout.
The forewing is between 9 and 11mm and 13 were recorded during August this year. It has 2 generations in the south and this, the second generation, was good to see because only 1 was recorded in the first generation. It overwinters as a caterpillar and remarkably, its food plant in the wild is unknown.
The most abundant moth in the month of August this year was the Common Wainscot with 1,394 appearances.
Michael McCarthy in his very readable The Moth Snowstorm describes how 60-70 years ago driving at night in summer sometimes was just like driving through a snowstorm because of the large numbers of moths. The Common Wainscot would almost certainly have been a major constituent. They have 2 overlapping generations in a year and their caterpillars are grass feeders.
There are around 40 species of wainscot moths arranged in 2 groups and their colours help to conceal them in their marshy habitats and, if I have done my sums right, 19 have been recorded at LLNR. Webb’s Wainscot has been recorded every August in each of the past 10 years and the 145 counted this year is the best ever.
The Twin-spotted Wainscot was recorded in August, 2016 for the first time and then not again till this year when 9 were recorded.
The caterpillars feed on Common Reed and the moth overwinters in the egg state. The adults do not feed.
August, 2020 was a good one for the Blood-vein with 29 being counted. The previous highest number was 16. The moth is well named.
The Blood-vein enjoys 2 generations usually and the caterpillars feed on Docks, Orache, Sorrel and Knotgrass.
It was good on the 11th August to record a Jersey Tiger. This is the 3rd year in a row that this moth has been recorded at LLNR.
It has undergone/is undergoing a huge increase in range and has been seen regularly in Hertfordshire and Bedfordshire in recent years. The food plants of the caterpillars include Nettles, Plantains, Ground-ivy and Brambles and are abundant at LLNR so who knows.
My final August moth is the magnificent Clifden Nonpareil which made an appearance on the 24th . This is the third record for LLNR, the other 2 being last year.
The Clifden part of the name is in recognition of the moth’s discovery at what is now Cliveden House by the Thames near Maidenhead in the 1740s. It became extinct in the UK in 1964 but recolonised southern England from about 2007. Evidence suggests that it is slowly spreading north from that coastal base.