Tuesday 30 November 2010


I recall from school the value of proving a negative. That's what I seem to have done last night, when I put out the trap to see if any late-flying moths might brave the snow. It was extremely cold and after I had gone to sleep, the snow came down again. The brilliance of Mr and Mrs Robinson's trap was proved once more, with the shield working perfectly and the bulb shining brightly for frozen hours. But no moths came. There are some about at this time of year, including the appropriately-named November and December Moths. But I think that they fly only on warmer nights. If we get any such, we may see.

Monday 1 November 2010

Hello again, unexpectedly

We had our friends the Webbs from Honley and their family round for a Sunday roast yesterday. (See the post on 27th August for the scale and quality of meals they supply...) Dorothy is a major enthusiast for the moth trap, so I showed her it, neatly stashed away in winter hibernation like all the sensible British moth species which have now gone into pupation 'til the Spring.

It was getting towards dusk, it was very mild (Leeds continues to enjoy an Indian summer, adding to the stats which consistently make it drier than Barcelona), and so I thought: why not demonstrate the trap in action? Dorothy turned on the switch, the lamp blazed and this morning the exercise proved worthwhile. The tawny visitor above and immediately below is new to my records, a Feathered Thorn. Not surprising that I haven't recorded it before, though, as it only flies late in the year, mostly after I have shut up shop.

Only the male of the species has the wonderfully complex antennae shown in the picture below (and actually above, too; in both cases, the thin white line is the antennae's leading edge). Scientists still have plenty to find out about the power and purpose of these complex instruments, but looking close-up like this suggests that moths may have lessons to teach the eaves-dropping spooks at places such as Menwith Hill, not far from here. Along with the Thorn, there were half-a-dozen November Moths showing their accurate knowledge of the calendar, twice as many Carpets which I will try to identify at leisure, and a straw-coloured species which, again, I will muse over when I have more time.

This picture (below) of assorted Webbs marvelling at the trap shows why Stuart and Dorothy are in such demand as extras in the many films which are constantly in production in the lovely and characterful North of England. I asked Dorothy if she could look amazed and awestruck at the moth trap, and you can see how she instantly and instinctively obliged.

I can also tell you a story about how Stuart and Dorothy made national newspaper headlines when they were both on Holme Valley council as Liberals, Stuart as chairman. It's called The Affair of the Green Mugs, but it will have to keep for now.  By the way if, like me, you were wondering what the eggbox 'Understanding' is about, I've just been down to clear the trap away and check, and it's to do with Egg Codes. They are almost as complicated as Carpet moths.