Friday 26 March 2021


Although my new mercury vapour bulb shines brightly and sturdily, trapping is still a little intermittent at the moment because of unpredictable weather. I am pleased to report the arrival of a perennial favourite however, the Early Grey, which inevitably reminds me of tea. It came on the same night as a bevy of Hebrew Characters; here are two in contrasting colourways, below.

I also found this little caterpillar on the garden table while cutting reeds from the canal to renew the thatch on the grandchildren's treehouse. It's sadly undistinguished and may be a juvenile - the black thing is a felt tip pen, the nearest object I could grab for scale.  If any passer-by has caterpillar expertise, I'd be very grateful for an ID.

Sunday 21 March 2021

When the lights come on again

My long-serving mercury vapour lightbulb went phut about three weeks ago, plunging me as well as the garden into gloom. If you go to entomological suppliers' websites, you will find dire warnings about these bulbs being phased out because of their inefficiency and wastage of resources.

Less specialised lighting companies seem to be less affected by pessimism and I have now got two new bulbs without difficulty from General Lamps whose ordering and despatching is top notch. Two nights ago, I pressed the on switch and the familiar hum from the choke began. Out on the lawn, the new bulb started with the familiar, rather unearthly pink colour and then warmed up to its dazzling full light.

So I am back in action; and that first night brought a good guest-list of predictable mid-March moths. Two of them were the March Moth itself, a species which tends to arrive in the month whose name it bears, unlike other species such as the August and September Thorns which can be promiscuous in their dates.

The second night saw the arrival of the first really attractive moth of the year, the Pine Beauty shown in my first picture.  The Oak Beauty shown in my last post is a fine moth and even the Quakers and Drabs have their discreet charms, but the Pine Beauty is the sort which gives you a thrill when you see it gleaming in the egg boxes. Yes, even after all these years.

Here are the other arrivals - from the top row reading left to right: Common Quaker, Lead-coloured Drab, March Moth, Oak Beauty, Small Quaker, the micro Agonopterix arenella, Twin-spotted Quaker and a pair of Hebrew Characters with their distinctive marking like the Hebrew letter 'Nun'.  I am on the watch for Lead-coloured Drabs which are confusingly like the Clouded ones but the males have distinctive feathered antennae. One of my unusual morning pursuits in the next few days will be tickling suspect examples to see if they are feathered or not.

In the meanwhile I'm hugely indebted to Ben Sale of Herts Moths for ID-ing the Lead-coloured Drab shown in my composite, which I originally took to be Clouded. He can do it without seeing the antennae, but I can't!

Monday 1 March 2021



The nights have gone icy again and the moth trap is largely shunned. By contrast, the days have been sunny, bright and even genuinely warm. On cue, out come the butterflies'

The Brimstone is traditionally the earliest in the UK. Some say that the word butterfly stems from this; the 'butter-coloured fly' which cheers everyone up at the very beginning of Spring. I saw my first of 2021 on 24 February, as reported in the last post. It was more of a 'lemon-coloured fly' which denotes the male. It was skittery and would not stop for a picture. Checking back on my records, it was the earliest I have seen but only by one day.

I have seen several Small Tortoiseshells, venturing out from hibernation, and Sunday brought this beautiful Peacock to add extra loveliness to one of our crocuses, or croci as the Romans would doubtless have said. Talking of loveliness, that is the word for a gathering of ladybirds. We have a lot of loveliness of that kind around just now. Here are some examples, on two of the grandchildren's arms and in our honeysuckle which P was trimming (extremely carefully).

I did put the light trap out a couple of nights ago and went to have a look at 11pm. These two moths were snuggling on to the nearby wall. I took these rather poor photos and confidently expected them to be there in the morning. They weren't, and there was nothing actually in the trap either.

The first is a Dotted Border but the second had me puzzled. As always in such cases, I posted it on the unfailingly helpful Upper Thames Moths blog and Bingo! Tim Arnold and Dave Wilton identified it as a Clouded Drab, a common species but new for me this year.  I like Tim's description of the moth as like 'a watercolour painting in which the colour has run more than intended'.