Moth Breakfast

We had a busy weekend – fine weather, some family walking, barbecues with friends round and a garden full of kids.

Sunday started early for A and me with a trip to Leighton Moss. We had breakfast in the cafe there and then joined the members of the local Moth Group (Moth Fanciers, Moth Twitchers?) who had been out on the reserve all night with their traps. It had been a cold night with clear skies and they had not caught as many specimens as they expected to, but they still had quite a haul. They had also brought with them moths caught in traps elsewhere in Lancashire and some Privet Hawk Moth pupae, one of which conveniently hatched out that morning. ‘Probably the largest moth in the country’ apparently, although not as enormous as the Madagascan Moon Moth that we saw at the Natural History Museum recently. It was sat on the shirt of one of the attendants and was so implausibly large that I assumed that it was an elaborate broach.

A Privet Hawk Moth – inside a plastic container hence the apparent scuff marks in the photo. The rest of the photos are all my own fault.

We watched them empty the last two traps which was really quite exciting. A was the youngest participant by quite some margin and so was spoiled rotten. She had a moth on her finger for a while and correctly identified a Spectacle Moth which came out of one of the traps. ‘It looks like it’s wearing glasses!’

Inside the traps the moths were sat on cardboard egg trays and they mostly sat quite docilely whilst they were passed round, examined and admired, or tipped on to a wall to be photographed.

A Gold Spot – several of these came out of the traps, all varying slightly in colouring, but all quite stunning – quite metallic.

A Light Emerald – a relatively large moth, again there were several – perhaps my favourite of the ones we saw.


A Buff Ermine, we saw White Ermines too but I didn’t take a photo.

Elephant Hawk Moth

A Pale Tussock

A Sallow Kitten

A Green Carpet

This has been only a small selection of the moths that we saw. There were several Buff Tips which have astonishing camouflage and look like small twigs, but my only photo is not at all sharp unfortunately.

Finally, I can’t remember what this chap was called, I can’t find him in my books any ideas what he might be?

Although – I just had a peak at the excellent UKMoths and I think that he might be a Flame Shoulder.

I can see how this whole moth business could easily become an obsession.

Moth Breakfast

3 thoughts on “Moth Breakfast

  1. beatingthebounds says:

    I’m envious – but I don’t know the answer.
    However, a google search brought me this reply to a similar question on the ‘Wild about Britain’ forum:

    Elephant Hawk-moths are large caterpillars, I would recommend keeping them (one per) in a large ice cream tub or as you suggest a (large) sweet jar. They pupate amongst leaf litter, so twigs won’t be necessary – two or three inches of leaf litter should be okay. I wouldn’t worry about planting the plants – the caterpillar will eat through the lot in a day – daily cuttings will be required!

    Atmosphere and temperature aren’t too much of a problem at the larval stage, however when it has pupated in the leaf litter I would recommend placing the container outside in a shed or sheltered position. The conditions during pupation are far more important than during the larval stage. It’ll also mean that it’ll hatch out at the right time – from May onwards next year. Mid-april next year would be a good time to begin to keep a daily watch on it – you can bring it indoors by May if it hasn’t already hatched. It will need some sturdy twigs to sit on when it has hatched to allow it to pump out it’s wings (might be an idea to put some in the container when you put it outside in case you miss the emergence).

    Again, as they are large caterpillars they will make a lot of mess! Hygiene is the most important thing with regard to rearing – it’ll need daily cleaning (might be an idea to postpone the leaf litter and just place a few kitchen tissues in the bottom of the container to make it easier to clean out. You will know when it will want to pupate amongst leaf litter because it’ll stop eating and start wandering).

    Good luck, and be prepared for a long wait (and possible disappointment)!

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