Friday 30 October 2015

Autumn Migrants!

With a good air flow of southerly winds predicted over the next few days, now would be a good time to target those autumn migrants and with many of our resident species also still on the wing there should be plenty of moth action going on around our traps - so make sure you don't miss out and switch those traps on.


Sunday 18 October 2015

'Sugaring' for Autumn Species

Now that many species of flowering plants are dying off for the year, a rich source of nectar for our butterflies and moths is disappearing and when this happens, this of course means that butterflies in particular and to some degree the moths will disappear – this got me thinking about trying some ‘sugaring’ to extend the period where we can enjoy these beautiful insects.
First off all I had to knock up a delicious sugary substance to attract the insects. There are many different potions and recipes available and some which use secret ingredients, but I stuck with a basic, sweet smelling concoction which certainly works for me. For any of you who wish to have a go, this is what you need to do.

Spraying the diluted sugar onto the dead flower heads
The ingredients
I bottle of stout (or any other beer you’ve got handy)
1lb of soft brown sugar
1lb tin of black treacle

Brick, Yellow-line Quaker and Angle Shades feeding
Put all the above ingredients into a saucepan and bring to the boil, stirring at all times to make sure the sugar has dissolved. Then turn off the heat but continue to stir as the sugar will crystallise on the surface if you don’t. Allow the mixture to cool and then pour into a container (a plastic paint kettle for example is perfect) – your attractant is now ready to use.

The conventional way to use this, is to paint it onto fence posts tree trunks and other appropriate surfaces to attract moths, but please be aware not to apply it to anything that you might touch or handle, otherwise you could get covered in this gloop (not very pleasant!). Check the treated areas after dark for feeding moths and other creatures; it seems that just about everything is drawn to it (as you will find out for yourselves if you have a go). It is also a good idea to apply the sugar to the same areas nightly, so that you build up the potency. So far, after doing this for the last
Yellow-line Quaker, Red-line Quaker and Brindled Green
week or so I have recorded; Red-line Quaker, Yellow-line Quaker, Chestnut, Brick, Green-brindled Crescent, Common Marbled Carpet, Brindled Green, Satellite, Red-green Carpet and Angle Shades.  

Red Admiral and Comma feeding on the sugar
However, I had an idea that when the sun was shining that this might attract the late flying butterflies too. I put some of the sugar into a small hand spray, then diluted it down (by about 40 parts water to 1 part of the sugar mixture), gave it a good shake to mix everything up then applied it to the dead heads of several flowering plants, where the butterflies had been coming to the flowers a few days earlier. Almost immediately this worked and a Red Admiral came to feed on a ‘dead flower head’! Since then I have also recorded Small Tortoiseshell, Comma and Silver Y moths.

I wonder how long this is all going to work for, especially the butterflies. I shall continue the experiment for the foreseeable future. One interesting thing I have noticed is that on those cold nights (and we’ve had a few recently) when not too much is attracted to the moth trap, there still seems to be a good number of moths coming to the sugar. One species in particular which I seldom record in my trap is the Brick, but I’m now finding this species in much larger numbers every night, I wonder if this will be phenomenon repeated with any other species? The whole sugaring process is giving me much better moth counts every nights and of course there’s always the hope that the sugar will attract an unusual or new garden species for me, so fingers crossed on that one too!


Sunday 11 October 2015


The results from this summer's big butterfly county have just been published by Butterfly Conservation. Judging by their interactive map, there were more counts from around the county than ever before - many thanks for everyone who took part.

The butterfly count may only take place in the summer but there are still butterflies on the wing - please keep making a note of what you see and passing them on to me. For further info on recording butterflies in the county, please see this pdf. Montgomeryshire needs all the records it can get!

Douglas - VC47 butterfly recorder

Tuesday 6 October 2015

‘Mothing and Bat event’ at Coed Y Dinas Nature Reserve - report

This was another joint event with Montgomeryshire Wildlife Trust, and the last MMG event of the year. It was advertised as a family-friendly evening out, and as it started earlier than usual, and the evening was much milder than of late, this may have encouraged families to come along. Whatever the reasons, it was wonderful to see at least 33 people enjoying the evening, including ten youngsters.
 Tammy entertained a large group, quizzing them on their bat knowledge, and then demonstrating the bat detector’s ability to pick up the high frequency calls used by bats, which are normally inaudible to humans. During the evening she located pipistrelles, soprano pipistrelles, and later Daubenton’s bats over the water, much to the delight of her audience.
Peter and his ‘team’ set up 6 traps, with the ‘white sheet’ at base-camp, and 3 Heath actinics and 2 MV Skinner traps around the path which encircles the newly-planted orchard on the reserve. The target moths were the autumn migrants, and the resident Large Wainscot which can be found in reedy ditches at this time of year. 

The hut made a perfect 'base camp'
 After what felt like weeks of clear skies and very low temperatures for the time of year, we were blessed with good cloud-cover and a positively balmy 12.5 degrees C as the traps were switched on at 7.15pm. It wasn’t long before a Pink-barred Sallow was brought in, ‘a little corker’ as Peter exclaimed in his best Yorkshire accent. Certainly this delighted the junior moth-ers, who were soon arming themselves with collecting pots, and rushing off to check the traps. As the evening went on, it was great to see their enthusiasm and interest, as they brought back a variety of specimens for ID, or listened to Peter’s fascinating introductory talk on all things ‘mothy’.

Lunar Underwing proved to be one of the commoner moths of the evening, but others included Common Marbled and Red-green Carpets, Red-line Quaker, Beaded Chestnut, Mottled Umber and the very well-named Satellite. The children in particular enjoyed the attractive colours of the Brimstone and Green-brindled Crescent, and the unlikely names of the Setaceous Hebrew Character and Brick, although they found the name Snout very appropriate. 

Pink-barred Sallow
Barred Sallow

It was good to see another three species of Sallow – the Barred Sallow, Sallow, and by far the best species of the evening, a Dusky-lemon Sallow, which is a scarce and very local species, only recorded in the east of the county in recent times. By the time we packed away the traps we’d reached a very respectable 19 species of macro, including a last minute Brown-spot Pinion, and a 20th in the form of a Scalloped Hazel larva spotted by Gavin. Combined with 5 Acleris species and several Epinotia nisella, we reached the grand total of 26 moth species. For a full species list please click here.

Waiting for moth arrivals in base camp
 But it wasn’t only the moths which put on a performance during the evening – Tammy picked up a ‘non-bat’ frequency/sound on her bat detector, which turned out to be Speckled Bush Cricket. A wonderful green female adorned the outside of our timber base-camp, complete with impressive sabre-like ovipositor, and posed obligingly for photos.

Acleris rhombana
Dusky-lemon Sallow
By the time we prepared to leave the site at 11.15 pm, the temperature was still a pleasant 10.5 degrees – and although we hadn’t seen a Large Wainscot, and in fact had only trapped one migrant, A Silver Y, there was still time for one more first for a MMG moth event – a pair of ‘Large Coppers’ (to quote Mel) eager to see what we were up to!
Peter heralded the whole evening a success, and even a ‘comedy moth night’, but our thanks must go to him, not only for all the hard work in organizing these events each year, but also for the support he gives so freely, and the enthusiasm which tonight inspired not only the ‘regulars’ but also a band of youngsters for whom this might well prove to be the start of a lifelong interest – let’s hope so. 

Sue Southam