Saturday, 21 May 2016

57 varieties

Every so often, but not very often, the light trap attracts a large number of a particular species rather than the half-dozen or so which is usually the maximum per type of moth. In Leeds, the Large Yellow Underwing held the record, with 70-odd coming on several occasions. Last night we had a slightly smaller invasion by 57 Common Swifts.

These are interesting moths, first to the layman on account of the tremendous variety between individuals as shown - I hope - in my pictures today; and secondly to the scientist, because they are 'primitive moths'; they cannot feed, have rudimentary antennae and live for a very short time. One of mine  this morning had its life curtailed even sooner than Nature intended when it foolishly lit off from the eggboxes for a nearby tree. A robin was in on it like an arrow. Munch, munch.

The number of insects and grubs required to sustain our bird population is absolutely staggering. The Royal Society for the Protection of Birds calculates that an infant Blue Tit needs 100 caterpillars a day. Ditto with the mass moth arrivals which I mentioned at the start of this post. In his deservedly famous book Moths (part of the Collins New Naturalist series) Prof E B Ford describes an occasion when a light trap in Hampshire attracted 50,000 Setaceous Hebrew Character moths in one night alone '...and vast numbers of other species.'

I simply cannot imagine 50,000 moths in my trap, nor the patience required to establish that so many were there.

No comments: