Moth matters ….


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How many people (in the Humberhead Levels) can boast a garden moth list which has seven species of hawk-moth, so far this season?

Well, one contributor to the blog can and these latest images illustrate his most recent ‘tick’.


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Sphinx ligustri (L.) or named for one of its food plants, the Privet Hawk-moth (above) can be recorded in June and July.  It is also recorded from young woodland Ash saplings, lilac and guelder rose and occasionally holly and honeysuckle.   Overwintering underground as a pupa, sometimes to a depth of a foot or more!  The larval image at the top of this post, illustrates the quite stunning colouration and the distinctive ‘horn’ characteristic of hawk-moths.

Mimas tiliae (L.), another species named for its food plant is the Lime Hawk-moth illustrated below.   This species, a smaller one to the previous ‘giant’, is recorded from May to early July and larval food plants also include elms, downy and silver birch and alder.

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The final image, is that of Laothoe populi (L.), Poplar Hawkmoth another relatively common species recorded locally.  This larvae illustrated here is about to pupate after which it will drop to the ground to overwinter, note the orientation by the ‘horn’.  Generally single brooded flying from May to July or early August.


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The British list contains some 26 species as having occurred in the UK (some of which are vagrants or adventives), so to get seven in a garden in a single season is, I offer, pretty good!  Factor in that that Skidmore (2006) listed eight species recorded from the Humberhead Levels (including one historic record), so that makes the local garden season an excellent vintage – can anyone better that?  Let me know, the only eligibility is the requirement that the data is from a Humberhead Levels garden, or other ‘regular patch’ ….

An excellent resource for aspiring lepidopterists is Butterfly Conservation’s website of the Moths Count project.  Although the project has concluded the website still offers useful advice for anyone wishing to further their interest in lepidoptera.  The legacy of the HLF funded project was the mammoth undertaking which delivered the Provisional Atlas of the UK’s Larger Moths (2010).  Other useful publications include “the state of britain’s larger moths” (2006) and the more recent edition of “The State of Britain’s Larger Moths 2013”. 

Butterfly Conservation are encouraging membership and are offering half price membership to anyone signing up by direct debit before 31 October 2013 (if you join after reading this, then please let them know it was through this blog).  BC make available a great deal of useful material, much of which is designed to encourage newcomers to the delights of lepidoptera and despite its name it also takes a very active interest in the moths!  Before anyone contacts me to tell me that the offer is out of date, quote MC5013 as that offer is until 31.10.13 and detailed in the Moths Count Newsletter 2013 I received a while back.

Images by John Hartley & Peter Kendall.


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