Thursday, 21 July 2016

Mothing madness!

Sometimes the best way to acquire knowledge is not by reading from a textbook, like I've been doing for the past 4 or so months during my AS exams, but rather through experience. 

My moth ID skills were very poor, and still are, but they are improving. Instead of learning from my field guide I decided to curve round the obstacle of pricey moth traps by building one myself! It's not perfect, having made it from bits and bobs I found in our garage, but it's a start. I set it up for the first time a few nights ago in my wildlife garden - the overgrown vegetation providing shelter for the moths, luring them closer. There was an element of risk with the trap as hot bulbs, paper (which I used to construct the funnel) and rain don't usually mix well, but the results, clear to see the next morning, made it all worth it!

The basic principle of the trap is that the light attracts the moths, which collide with the three acrylic panels, falling down through the funnel into the box, where they rest on the egg boxes (which are said to represent tree bark) until the morning. This design is often used in Heath traps, but over the next few weeks I'm going to experiment with the other styles. 

Female Oak Eggar   |   Lasiocampa quercus

Swallow-tail Moth   |   Ourapteryx sambucaria

Ghost Moth   |   Hepialus humble

Other species I've trapped over the last few nights include: Common Emerald, (7) Drinker Moth, Garden Pebble, Large Yellow Underwing, Riband Wave, Single-dotted Wave and a few other micros I'm yet to identify.

Even though the trap is evidently working there are a few small adjustments I need to make to increase the yield, such as deepening the box and narrowing the funnel preventing escapees. Below is a table illustrating the species I have caught, with the columns representing different factors - family name, common name, latin name, frequency, observed or trapped, the date of capture and the specific location. 

Please keep an eye on my blog over the next few weeks for more moth updates, a blog about my day out with Springwatch at RSPB Minsmere and news about my up and coming trip to Sri Lanka!