Moth mayhem with true lover’s knot!
A NEW craze is sweeping through Suffolk’s wildlife-watchers right now. Catching moths – or “trapping”, as those in the know call it – is happening in back yards all over the county. And when you get a good look at the beautiful insects that make up the moth family, it’s hardly surprising. They’re anything but the dull, brown, clothes-eating bugs of myth. Instead, they’re often brightly coloured, intricately marked, and fascinating to see up-close.
There are around 800 types of moth regularly found in Britain, but over the years more than 2,400 have been noted. Around the world, it’s estimated that up to a quarter of a million different species exist, with thousands more yet to be “described”, or recorded, for science.
Closer to home, the diversity is just as rich. “There’s a huge range,” says Alison Farquharson, who leads adult learning at Suffolk Wildlife Trust. “In fact, over 330 moths have been recorded at our education centre at Lackford Lakes, near Bury St Edmunds. Of that total, 100 of them alone have been recorded during the month of June.
“And with names as exotic as true lover’s knot, smoky wainscot, garden carpet, setaceous Hebrew character, lime-speck pug and figure of eighty, there’s clearly more to moths than meets the eye.”
So what do wildlife watchers need, to get to grips with this new interest?
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Learning how to attract moths to your garden is the first step. Once they’re there, you’ll need guidance on catching them without harming them, and pointers on identifying what you’re looking at. You should also appreciate the value of your records.
Suffolk Wildlife Trust runs an adult learning course to help with precisely this. Moth Mayhem is one of many courses run throughout the year, offering people the chance to find out about subjects ranging from harvest mice and barn owls to wildlife photography and willow basket-weaving.
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The Moth Mayhem course is aimed at beginners, and focuses on identification, trapping techniques and recording. Tony Prichard, the county moth recorder for Suffolk and also the moth officer for the Suffolk Branch of Butterfly Conservation, is the host for the day. Tony organises activities for the Suffolk Moth Group, and has been studying moths since he was a child. He’s been based in Suffolk since the mid-1990s.
The moth world is packed full of fascinating facts:
n More than 2,500 species of moth have been recorded in Britain and the Channel Islands. Many have a wide diversity of bright colours to warn away predators, and cryptic camouflage.
n Moths are important in the environment. They pollinate plants and are a source of food for many other creatures, including bats and most garden birds.
n The difference between a moth and a butterfly is not always a simple one, as there are exceptions to the rules. Not all moths fly at night, for instance. However, generally speaking, butterflies have clubbed antennae whilst the vast majority of moths don’t.
n Many moth species are declining as a result of agricultural changes in our countryside, and climate change. During the twentieth century, 62 moth species became extinct in Britain. The total abundance of moths has decreased by a third since the late 1960s.
n Did you know moths migrate? Some of the species that arrive on our shores have travelled from Europe, or even North Africa. Some come here every year and breed successfully, whilst others are rare vagrants. In recent years, an increasing number of species from Continental Europe appear to be colonising Britain.
n It is a common misconception that moths eat clothes! In fact, it is only the larval stage of two common species of moth that are known to feed on clothing.
n The study of moths has a long tradition in Britain and Ireland and is growing rapidly in popularity. The National Moth Recording Scheme, set up recently by Butterfly Conservation, has gathered millions of modern and historical moth sightings from members of the public. This information will be used to identify species in decline, and to underpin conservation initiatives.
n The course Moth Mayhem will run on Saturday, June 26, from 9am-11.30am, at Lackford Lakes Education Centre near Bury St Edmunds. Booking is essential, and the course costs �10. Please call 01473 890 089 for more information, or book online at www.suffolkwildlifetrust.org.
n Over half term, Suffolk Wildlife Trust is running a variety of children’s activities, from Forest Adventures to a Twilight Story Stroll, at its centres throughout Suffolk. Visit the website to find out what’s on near you.