Sunday 26 February 2012

Recent Trapping

The table above shows the my recent traps (click to enlarge), certainly starting seeing some spring species, along with good numbers of the usually for this time of year. Fairly good numbers of micro for this time of year also.

The highlight of the week was caught last night: Acrolepia autumnitella; a very pretty micro moth which turned out to be a county first. I believe the moth is a leaf mine species and is fairly well distributed across the UK, it seems to fly most of the year round which is interesting.


Monday 20 February 2012

Visit to the Natural History Museum

Last week, during my half-term, I took a trip down to London. Among other things I visited the NHM with my parents. I had organised the visit so we were able to go 'backstage' and see the collection - which isn't on public display.
Biggest moth in the world!
It was an excellent experience and I learnt loads about how the whole collection works and the scale of it! It's split into two parts: British and International, where they are ordered taxonomically. The moths come from a huge range of sources, from ancient personal collections to specimens from recent expedition trips. This is why, especially in the British collection, there are vast numbers of individuals for each species.
It was amazing to see some species, although dead, that I would never see in the wild - certainly not in mid-Wales anyway!
Another exciting aspect was seeing some of the international collection, including some absolutely beautiful moths with amazing patterns and colours. It was useful to learn about some of the species present in France and Brazil - places I'll be doing some mothing later this year.
It was also fascinating to learn about the work being done in the museum. For example the weekly changes in taxonomic order and the discovery of new species, previously thought to be conspecific to another.
A thoroughly interesting day out!

Spot the butterfly(s)! - HINT: there are none!

Thursday 16 February 2012

2012 moth events programme

The 2012 moth events programme has now been posted in the 'events area' of the web site. Make a note of the dates in your diary.


Monday 6 February 2012

2011 in Dernol

I started the year full of enthusiasm, determined to set the trap more often than my feeble efforts in previous years - and sadly failed to achieve it! However, there were some interesting results along the way.

I added 19 new 'firsts' - 18 macros and 1 micro - for my garden, taking my grand total there to 128 - not so 'grand' by some people's standards, but quite satisfying to be going on with. I had 11 Double Darts one night in July, which is apparently an unusual number in one session, so I assume that they like it round here. After having little success over the last few years, I also managed to photograph a micro before it escaped from the range of my camera - an Udea ferrugalis (Rusty-dot Pearl); I have very little ability to identify micros, and also have difficulty in keeping them still enough to photograph so that Peter Williams  can do his usual sterling service of identification. They don't seem to respond to a few hours in the fridge like their larger relations.

I'm pleased to say that my photography has improved quite considerably this year, and I've been putting the photographs to good use. I've lived where I do now for 24 years, and have been saddened at how much the local environment has been unwittingly damaged by farming practises, many of them of dubious value - hedgerows removed, trees cut down (one field had every tree, mostly silver / downy birch and rowan removed from its periphery and replaced with a wire fence and posts), fields 'improved' (a field that used to be full of orchids now has none), and every nettle plant on local verges and field edges sprayed with something that turns them brown and crisp within a day. The local farmers doing this, with one exception, are not deliberately doing harm, and have been quite interested in hearing about my interests in wildlife; the moth photos (particularly those of  the more spectacular ones, such as hawk moths, thorns, Puss Moths and the like) have been  useful as they have been quite amazed at what is out there that they don't know about, and at least nowadays they do actually leave my nearby nettle patches untouched - when I first asked one of them about not spraying them, and explained that it was because the butterfly caterpillars fed on them, he commented "You don't see so many of them these days"! It's no use people like me trying to lecture them on such matters, much better to engage their interest; a couple of them now regularly talk to me about such matters when our paths cross, a definite small step in the right direction.

On a similar theme, my partner Sue, an artist, was running a children's workshop at the Royal Welsh Show a few years ago, and had decided to use a theme of 'Butterflies' (nowadays she would do moths as well). In advance we made up and laminated some A4 printouts, each one featuring a species of butterfly that the children might have seen locally, along with illustrations of their caterpillars and food plants, which were hung on the wall of the marquee at the show. These proved popular with the children, and their parents too, and hopefully some, if they don't already do so, will think about the wild plants on their farms a little more. It's always good to take the opportunity of doing a little awareness raising at local events, and I recommend it to anyone who has the opportunity, time and inclination.

Sue has also used some of my moth photographs as inspiration for some new canvases and range of cards; only two so far, but with more to come. They are not meant to be accurate representations of the moths, but instead use them as a basis for an abstract design. If anyone wants to have a look they are on

With Peter's encouragement, I extended my trapping season last year, having previously stopped in late September, and was very pleasantly surprised at the numbers of moths I caught on the one occasion in November when I set the trap. Although they are a common species, it was the first time I had seen a December Moth, and I had 25 of them. This has encouraged me to set the trap every month this year to see what else is out there, though unfortunately both times I did so in January produced a disappointing grand total of 0!

In March I spent a day on the Vyrnwy Estate accompanied by the head RSPB warden, as part of the Woodland Trust's 'Ancient Tree Hunt' project (I'm responsible for verifying trees recorded by the public in Powys). He drove us around areas of the estate that I would not have gone to on foot, and when I mentioned my interest in moths, he revealed that he was also a keen 'trappist', and took me to see a row of old Downy Birch trees in which there were many Welsh Clearwing larvae exit holes. I hadn't seen these before, but was pleased to find out what to look for. I had also heard that this species was resident on a Radnor Wildlife Trust reserve, Gilfach Farm, near to where I live (I'm right on the Montgomery / Radnor border), so on a visit there to show some RWT volunteers how to measure and record trees, I was very pleased to find the same evidence on that site. Now that I know where they are locally, I intend to attempt to lure some adults and photograph them this year. Any advice on this (including if there is a reliable alternative to using pheromones) would be welcome.

Looking forward in 2012 to increasing my total of species caught in my garden, through my determination to set the trap more frequently. Hopefully I won't be repeating the first sentence of this post in January 2013!

Sunday 5 February 2012

10 Macro species for January challenge 2011

Click on chart to zoom in.

Here are the results for my '10 macro species in January' challenge. As the chart shows, seven moth-ers recorded between zero and twelve species they all trapped in varying amounts of nights during the month, so degrees of variation in counts are to be expected.

The chart is pretty self explanatory, with species and counts recorded in yellow; recorders names along the top and totals on the right and along the bottom, all in brown. The figures along the bottom in red show how each recorder actually fared in the challenge.

The target of ten was only attained by myself, but three others got really close and two got to nine species. In all 17 macro species were recorded by those who took part, so this shows that 10 species is very achievable. This 'challenge' has proved quite popular and I intend to make it an annual event, hopefully more will get involved next year. Many thanks to all those who did take part and in fact a couple of moth-ers who did trap, didn't record any moths, better luck to those, next year.


Wednesday 1 February 2012

10 macro species for January challenge

Hello All,

Could you please now send me your results for my ‘10 macro species for January challenge’? It will very interesting to see how those who took part got on. I need just three bits of information:-

1) A full list of macro species recorded.
2) Total number of moths recorded for each species.
3) Days trapped during the month.

Please remember, it doesn’t matter how many species you recorded during the month, even if you caught just a single moth, please send me the details as it all goes towards building up the larger picture. Thanks.

Once I’ve gathered in all the data I will post the results on the blog.