|In general, more moth species are found in southern England than in the north.
The climate is milder, which allows species on the northerly limits of their geographical
range to survive, while numbers are also swelled by migrants from the continent.
One of the Mothathon experts from Chester, which is to the north of
Wales, noted that he had already trapped in that area 36 times, from the beginning of the
year, up until the Mothathon. This had yielded 240 different species so far. As a
comparison, trapping over a single weekend at the Woodland Education Centre, near the
southern coast of England, yielded 178 species. This represents 75% of the total number of
species trapped over several months in Chester, in a single
weekend at the Centre.
species can have a very localized distribution. The record of Feathered Beauty
(left) on both nights of the Mothathon created an interesting discussion. This was due
to the fact that Feathered Beauty, which is thought to be a migrant, has previously only
been recorded in Kent, Sussex, Surrey and Essex. It has never been recorded in Devon
This species can be confused with the very
similar species, Willow Beauty. Differences in the antennae of the males help with
separation of the two species.
||The Devon County
Recorder for moths, Roy McCormick, was therefore interested to verify the record. He
arranged trapping at the Centre several days after the Mothathon, in the hope of finding
The species was not trapped on this
occasion, but it must be pointed out that this does not mean that it was not trapped over
the Mothathon. Enormous variations in species catch are possible when trapping on
different nights and even at slightly different locations. The absence of Feathered Beauty
on that night is therefore not confirmation of its absence over the Mothathon.
To put this in perspective, Elephant
Hawk-moth was not found by the County Recorder's team, but no-one would suggest that this
means the species is absent from the Centre. In addition, although Feathered Beauty was
not found on the night, the County Recorder's team did trap a new moth for Devon, called Crambus silvella. For more on this
Several specimens of another Feathered
Beauty look-a-like, Satin Beauty, were also trapped on the night of the County Recorder's
visit. Satin Beauty is normally slightly larger than Feathered Beauty. However, the
specimens trapped on this occasion were all small, well-marked specimens which could be
confused with Feathered Beauty.
||Both Feathered Beauty and
its look-a-like species Willow Beauty, were separately recorded over the Mothathon
(although Satin Beauty was not). The records involved relatively large numbers of each
species (28 and 22 respectively), so that the record of Feathered Beauty is not based on a
were experienced experts who had access to all the necessary identification guides and
surprising records such as this were carefully checked.
A definitive decision
awaits, but based on the evidence, future trapping in the same area over the right flight
time may well increase the known distribution of Feathered Beauty.
The recorded distribution of individual species is
partially a combination of the actual distribution of the species, together with the
success of people at finding the species in a particular area. This latter is obviously
dependent on the amount and timeliness of trapping being done in the area, as well as on
the identification skills of the trappers. Moth trapping has greatly increased in
popularity over recent years, so geographical species records are constantly being
swelled. However, it is worth bearing in mind that failure to trap a species in a
particular area does not necessarily mean it is absent. What is caught often depends on
being in the right place at the right time.
|Moth traps placed only a few hundred metres apart, or even less, will often yield
surprisingly different results. While checking the traps placed around the Centre over the
Mothathon, it was very noticeable how traps in different areas were yielding very
It is not only moths which are
attracted to light. A great variety of other insects will usually also be found on
examining the traps. Traps near water had large numbers of adult caddis flies. Hoverflies,
diving beetles and water boatmen are sometimes also attracted to the light. The traps
located on the bridlepath, behind the Heathland Project area, attracted large numbers of
froghoppers and terrestrial beetles which were not noted elsewhere.
||A Caddis Fly (also
known as moth flies). These have hairy wings and can resemble moths, although the lack of
a proboscis and the very long antennae usually pick them out. They are common visitors to
Other catches besides moths in the traps
also included hornets, (which can denude the moth catch by eating all the moths before the
moth trapper arrives to liberate them in the morning!), a Red Admiral butterfly, wasps,
midges and mayflies. Later analysis of the moth catches according to trap will no doubt
also yield a variety of differences in the moth catches according to trap location.