Thursday 20 August 2015

A Mixed Bag of Moths ...

I think this is Buff ermine (Spilosoma lutea)

It seems to be that time of year here in Suffolk when we begin to notice two particularly fluttery creatures - bats and moths. 

I have to confess that I was never very interested in moths. I liked butterflies and had a good butterfly guide from about the age of eleven. Most moths seemed a dull brown colour and did little to make me interested in them. In those days moths seemed to suggest the smell of naphthalene (now considered a possible health risk, especially to the young who might try to ingest mothballs). Some people have switched to red cedar discs as a deterrent, though the cedar may only work on hatching larvae.

I am still more of a butterfly person, but I am coming to appreciate moths as a result of seeing the wonderful photographs on your blogs. Many of you have moth traps, and while I don't use one of these, I really enjoy seeing the variety of shape, colour and particularly pattern that emerge. There is sometimes something rather kaleidoscopic about the markings on a moth.

We think this is the Straw Underwing (Thalpophila matura) ... thank you, RR!

The moth below appeared in our house on 30 June. It alighted on the mirror, as you can see.

Swallow-tailed Moth (Ourapteryx sambucaria)

Here in the UK there are three species of moth that can have a particularly negative effect on our homes. The Brown House Moth is attracted to natural fibres such as feathers, leather, sheepskin and wood. The White-shouldered House Moth prefers to lay its eggs in our food, and we all know about the Clothes Moth. Insects come in through our open windows and lay their eggs. Once the larvae hatch, the eating begins in earnest.

Moth eggs on glass

It is important to remember that most species of moths do not cause infestations in our homes. Many are exquisitely beautiful and play a key role in the food chain. I particularly like the bright red colours of the Cinnabar Moth, which flies at night and is therefore a tricky one to catch on camera (and also in the sunshine by day. My thanks to Simon Douglas Thompson for his correction here - see comments below).

The photo below was taken near Snape Maltings and shows a Cinnabar caterpillar.

Cinnabar Moth caterpillar in Suffolk

And just to end with a Humming-bird Hawk-moth that I saw near Pylos in the Peloponnese five years ago. These exquisite insects can also be found in the UK, although I have rarely seen them over here. 

Humming-bird hawk-moth (Macroglossum stellatarum)
 I read on the Butterfly Conservation site that there are two and a half thousand moth species in the UK compared with 59 species of butterfly; but, of course, there are also the migrants to spot.


eileeninmd said...

Hello Caroline, now who would eat a moth? There are some beautiful moths, I have been noticing some lately too. Your images are lovely, I like the Swallow-tailed Moth! I see the hummingbird moth here in the summer, they are great! Have a happy day!

Simon Douglas Thompson said...

Cinnabars, like spotty burnets, are day flyers aren't they? Some lovely shots there, only saw one swallow tail this year. Got myself my first hummer though!

Anonymous said...

I was lucky enough to see a humming bird hawk moth once when I was in Bognor Regis on the south coast and even luckier to be with my sister who knew what it was. Whenever I have found an interesting caterpillar it usually turns out to be a moth.
Love your photo of the moth on the mirror.

Caroline Gill said...

Yes, Simon Douglas Thompson, they also fly in the sunshine. I have adjusted the text! Thank you for alerting me.

Millymollymandy said...

Hello, I've come here via the Quiet Walker blog and I think the Straw Underwing is one of the moths I've been trying to ID from my recent trapping, so thanks for that! I have a pink buddleia which doesn't attract butterflies at all - if I ever get another one I'll do some research about good named varieties first. Enjoyed your blog. :-)