Thursday, October 24, 2013

Garden Moth Traps and a Family Friendly Wildlife Garden...

Hello again,

I really can't believe that my last post on here was actually back in July! With the fantastic hot summer that we enjoyed this year every spare minute has been taken up in the garden either on projects, basic maintenance or to be completely honest just thoroughly enjoying it!!

As I touched upon on my last post I have spent hours photographing and recording new species that have turned up in the garden this year also. Anyone who has done this themselves will understand the massive amount of time that trying to identify many of the 'unknown' insects takes!

On top of this the garden has just been the most fantastic place to spend hot summer days with the family whilst having lots of fun! The play area and play equipment suddenly came into it's own with lots of use on sunny days and typifies the whole ethos of this wildlife garden doubling as a completely usable family space also....

It's also a family garden enjoyed as much by children and adults as well as the wildlife that lives in it and visits it....

At one point during the 'heatwave' we rushed out to try and buy a slightly bigger paddling pool for my six year old daughter only to find everywhere in North Somerset sold out! Having spent a whole day looking we eventually thought on the way home to drop into on of the large 'garden/leisure' centers situated just down the road and bingo! The only problem was that the smallest one left was BIG!!....

At 6 feet in circumference the new paddling pool fitted in well and gave hours of fun for the whole family!.... 

The picture above shows how the garden has developed over the last three years and you can clearly see lots of colour from the nectar rich planting. I think that this also demonstrates how you can incorporate play equipment yet still provide a real haven for wildlife. Amazingly in the part of the garden on display here there is an 8 feet Trampoline, climbing frame, slide, swing and of course the large paddling pool. Despite all this play equipment and a 6x6 greenhouse we still have masses of wildlife features and other interest. This part of the garden would be approximately 70'x40' so a similar size to many 'average' gardens.

So having lazed about and generally enjoyed the garden what else has it been used for this year?

Well despite the obvious BBQs and gatherings for friends and family I have focused quite a lot of my time on moths! In fact I promised myself last year that we would try and look at moths in more detail this year now that the garden has matured.

Our first event was to borrow a moth trap off of our local wildlife group and set it up one Saturday evening to see what comes along. Well what a result we had and certainly it felt good for our fist attempt. With the help of a couple of friends from the group we identified about thirty species or so. If you haven't done a moth trap before I thoroughly recommend it and especially if you have young children as despite initial reservations my daughter loved it and was thrilled at the job of letting the moths go after they had been identified. This of course is also an extremely educational experience for both children and adults alike!

The HERALD was one of the more colourful moths on the day and proved a real hit with my daughter because of it's orange colour...

 With such a positive result with just one small trap and my appetite now wet, it was decided along with my local wildlife group to host an event involving several traps that would be set up and located around the garden and left over night. The next morning we would invite a number of members to come along and help identify the moths! This would of course help me to see what we were getting in the garden but also help the group by encouraging other members to get interested in moths....

So the evening arrived and with the help of my friends Tony and Faith a total of four traps were situated around the garden in different locations and left to do their work overnight....

Below is an example of one of the smaller traps, which basically consists of a metal box with a hole in the lid. Sitting in this lid is a plastic funnel that seals the hole in the lid leaving only a small access point for moths attracted to the light situated on top to flutter down into. Once in the box the moth will settle among the 8 or so cardboard egg boxes inside and rest up nice an quietly. It's also important to mention that below this funnel is a smaller funnel that drains out of the bottom of the box in case it rains....  

 Although not a very good picture this shows the traps located around the garden on the night of the 'big trap!'

 The following morning I was up at about 5am to ensure that firstly the traps (now hopefully full of moths!?) weren't situated in the sun as it rose and also to clear away any extension leads and other bits of kit prior to the 'guests' arriving. When organising an event where people are visiting your garden it pays to spend the extra time to ensure there are no tripping hazards and all runs as smoothly as is possible. The welfare of anything caught is always your number one priority to ensure it stays calm and stress free and is kept in the trap for as little amount of time as is possible.

So on arrival of our guests everyone is briefed as to what we want to achieve and how we intend to do it to ensure the safety of any moths caught. Also it's important to point out that at no time are any moths handled and they will be extracted out of the traps by use of small plastic specimen tubes and by experienced trappers only. This way they can be examined identified, photographed and released nice a swiftly and without harm. By having these rules in place everyone is clear and you can then focus a little more time on peoples learning and enjoyment

I also like to work from a large table where there is plenty of room to lay things out such as your reference books, cameras etc so that everything is to hand and you don't end up wasting time searching for items. The table that we use is also situated right next to our release site and someone will have the job of swift and safe release of moths. This makes sure the moths are dealt with quickly and also frees up and keeps a flow of specimen jars readily available.

It is really important to consider your release site for any moths captured and examined. I release them into this area which is an old tree covered by thick clematis. The moths fly up into the dark entanglement of branches away from predators and out of the scorching sun...

Now that we have considered and informed everyone of how the event will run it was time to start emptying the traps and recording what we had caught. This is an extremely exciting experience and you never know what might just crop up unexpectedly!

I have to say that we were extremely fortunate with this event and despite not perfect weather conditions during the night we actually caught and recorded over 50 species of moth! This in itself was apparently very good but a friend who is a renowned local moth expert actually went on to say that it was the best haul he had seen locally within the last ten years! This wasn't only for number of species but more importantly numbers of single species, as an example we recorded well in excess of 50 moths for some single species! I can't begin to tell you how this sort of statement makes you feel especially when you have been trying to develop your garden for this very thing!

So here's a quick round up of just a few of the moths that we recorded and have now helped to take our garden tally up to about 100 species so far this year!...

Angle Shades - Philogophora meticulosa

Burnished Brass - Diachrysia chrysitis

Blood-Vein - Timandra camai

Centre-barred Sallow - Atethia centrago

Gold Spot - Plusia festucae

Grey Dagger - Acronicta psi

Large Yellow Underwing - Noctua pronuba

Lesser Yellow Underwing - Noctua comes

Lime-speck Pug - Eupithecia centaureata

Purple Bar - Cosmorhoe ocellata

This Red Underwing - Catocala nupta became the real star of the show as according to our moth expert this have been in real decline in this area and he hadn't seen one for quite some time!

I really would love to list and display all of the moths that we recorded on the night but time and space just won't allow unfortunately. Regular readers may have noticed that I have now started to list the names of species seen so far in the garden on the right hand side of this blogg. This is still very much a work in progress but I will continue to do this as time allows and will include a list of our moths also.

Two last things whilst on the subject of moths is firstly the amazing amount of 'Mother of Pearl' moths that have been visiting the garden this summer and on some nights virtually every flower on some plants has had a moth on it! They seem to particularly like Purple Loosestrife and Varonicastrum which has proved a superb moth plant, as you can see in the below picture... 

Mother of Pearl - Pleuroptya ruralis (below) and above on Varonicastrum

Finally I have always dreamed of finding one of the large Hawk Moths in the garden and this summer on two separate occasions I was fortunate to not only see but photograph a Hummingbird Hawkmoth in the garden. Absolutely AMAZING!!!...

A dream come true!!..... Hummingbird Hawk Moth - Macroglossum stellatarum

Well that's about it for now but as the nights are getting darker from here on in, I will be posting more on my bloggs and have lots for you all to catch up on from the summer, so watch this space for the next post that will be coming very soon!....

Thanks for reading




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