A spot of mothing

You may remember our blog post from last year (HERE) when we were out in Newton Wood at Roseberry Topping doing our first ever moth trap. During that night in early July, we saw 44 different species of moth – a great turn out for our first time out. Further moth trapping is something we have been hoping to do again ever since, though the unpredictability of the weather has made this particularly difficult.

Last night though, we were finally out again! Myself and Dr Robert Woods, Conservation Officer for INCA (Industry Nature Conservation Association) spent the evening in Newton Wood, ready to see what moths would arrive to our trap this time.

After setting up the kit in an open area of the woodland, we waited. As the light descended, we spotted a number of bats flying over our heads and saw a couple of Woodcock doing their dusk ‘roding’ display flight, patrolling just above tree height.

The darkness quickly crept in, and then the moths began to show. First to arrive was a Small Quaker (Orthosia cruda)…


This quaker was then followed by another, the Common Quaker (Orthosia cerasiand then another moth, the Satellite (Eupsilia transversa)…


The prominent ‘stigma’ (dots on the forewing) of the Satellite were very vivid, catching the light. If you look close enough, they’re two smaller spots close to these stigma, looking to be ‘in orbit’, from which this species derives its name….

Satellite stigma

On this particular specimen the stigma were white, like the Moon, but they can also be orangey yellow making the smaller spots look like they’re orbiting the Sun!

We then had a number of the same micro moth visiting the trap, Diurnea fagella (or March Dagger Moth)


A melanic (dark-coloured) form of this species also showed up!


At one point we had a visit from this scary looking beast – a Black Sexton Beetle (Nicrophorus humator) which had an impressive amount of mites taking a ride on its back!


The Black Sexton Beetle is a type of burying beetle – known as the undertakers of the animal world! They literally bury dead and decaying animals such as mice and small birds and feed their larvae on them. Their antennae are equipped with receptors that are able to detect rotting bodies from metres, even kilometres, away!

Anyway, back to the mothing…


My favourite of the night was the Red Chestnut (Cerastis rubricosa). Although it was reasonably plain looking, in the light of the trap its brown wings were beautiful and its abdomen shone like amber. Also, looking closely at the head of this species, it seemed to resemble the head of a shrew! …

Chestnut (2)

As the night wore on, the temperature dropped and the wind picked up, meaning the activity at the trap slowed and we decided to call it a day. 8 different species of moth graced our trap.

Robert explained to me that the moths we recorded illustrated a delay in the usually timings of species. The moths on show are usually seen earlier in the year, typically March and early April, but because of our particularly cold and wet start to 2013, everything is taking that little bit longer to emerge.

However, though we saw only 8 species of moth (in comparison to the 44 of last time), the night was still a great result for this time of year.

The night again helped me become more familiar with moths in general and their importance to us – moths can be a great indicator of the health of a woodland and bring to light any specific management recommendations for certain species. We also made progress in continuing to record the species present in Newton Wood.

Hopefully in the coming weeks, if the weather continues to be fair, we will get another chance to go out and do some more.

A big thank you to Robert Woods for again coming out and volunteering his own time to help us!


Chris | National Trust

Chris | National Trust


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