Posted by: lensweb | May 30, 2017

A Balmy Evening at Forbes with Moths the Morning After

28 May Moth Watch. Light traps will be run to attract moths. Moth identification and release 10 am May 29 followed by a walk around Forbes Hole. Meet car park off Fields Farm Road Long Eaton NG10 1FX

Leader Marion Bryce and Derek Brumbill

1pyzu8Second time lucky! This was our second moth trapping this year and with such warm weather, 18C minimum, we knew we were on to a winner!

Skinner design moth traps were used, which consist of a wooden box with a central wooden crossbar housing a bulb holder and rain guard. Two large, angled pieces of clear Perspex have dual purposes, deflecting moths downwards, and allowing easy visual inspection to find moths which settle into the empty egg boxes which are placed in the box. Two different light sources were used, a 125W mercury vapour (MV) lamp which is very bright and will usually attract more moths and the much duller Actinic which is preferable if you want your nocturnal activities to remain low-key. The two different light sources can attract different moth species, geometers tending to favour the actinic, noctuids the MV lamp, although on this occasion the 15W attracted more than it’s fair share.

Forbes Hole Local Nature Reserve is owned by Erewash Borough Council and was declared in 1991. It is managed by Erewash Borough Council and The Friends of Forbes Hole.  The 9 acre site is characterised by a large pond or borrow pit, a mature ride of poplar, oak and lime trees, willow carr progressing to deciduous woodland and a small wildflower meadow surrounded by scrub habitats.  The traps were placed near to the pond not too far from the car park and we sat down to wait.

forbes meme

The traps were run from 9pm to 1am. By the end of the evening, 39 moth species were trapped. The most numerous species were the common swifts which arrived early on. The other species were in low numbers but in a delightful variety of colours and shapes, favourites being the pale tussock, the pebble prominent and the figure of eighty.

figure of eightyTwo nationally local species were caught,  the alder moth and the 4 seraphim. We had to wait until after midnight for the poplar hawkmoth. One specimen of each moth was retained for the show and tell the next morning, where we knew the popular poplar hawkmoth would be the star of the show.

Family Species Common name Status Food plant
Noctuidae Acronicta alni Alder Moth Local Birch, alder, willow
Pyralidae Aphomia sociella Bee Moth Bee and wasp nest comb
Geometridae Opisthograptis luteolata Brimstone Moth Blackthorn, hawthorn
Geometridae Eupithecia abbreviata Brindled Pug Oak and hawthorn
Geometridae Petrophora chlorosata Brown Silver-line Bracken
Geometridae Lomographa temerata Clouded Silver Hawthorn etc
Geometridae Epirrhoe alternata Common Carpet Bedstraws incl cleavers
Geometridae Dysstroma truncata Common Marbled Carpet Sallow, birch, hawthorn
Noctuidae Mesapamea secalis agg. Common Rustic agg. Grass, cock’s foot
Hepialidae Korscheltellus lupulina Common Swift Grass roots
Noctuidae Apamea remissa Dusky Brocade Reed canary grass
Noctuidae Tethea ocularis Figure of Eighty Poplar
Geometridae Xanthorhoe designata Flame Carpet Garlic mustard
Noctuidae Ochropleura plecta Flame Shoulder Groundsel, plantain, bedstraw
Geometridae Xanthorhoe fluctuata Garden Carpet Garlic mustard
Geometridae Colostygia pectinataria Green Carpet Bedstraws incl cleavers
Noctuidae Agrotis exclamationis Heart & Dart Ribwort plantain, fat hen
Notodontidae Pheosia gnoma Lesser swallow prominent Birch
Totricidae Epiphyas postvittana Light Brown Apple Moth
Geometridae Campaea margaritaria Light Emerald Broad leaved, oak, hawthorn
Noctuidae Oligia strigilis Marbled Minor Cock’sfoot, reed canary grass
Notodontidae Pterostoma palpina Pale Prominent Poplar, willow
Erebidae Calliteara pudibunda Pale Tussock Broad leaved, hawthorn etc
Notodontidae Notodonta ziczac Pebble Prominent Willow
Geometridae Eulithis prunata Phoenix Currant
Noctuidae Subacronicta megacephala Poplar Grey Poplar
Sphingidae Laothoe populi Poplar Hawk-moth Poplar
Totricidae Archips rosana Rose tortrix Raspberry, rose
Geometridae Perizoma flavofasciata Sandy Carpet Red campion
Geometridae Odontopera bidentata Scalloped Hazel Hazel, birch, hawthorn
Geometridae Lobophora halterata Seraphim Local Poplar
Noctuidae Xestia c-nigrum Setaceous Hebrew Character Nettle, willowherb
Noctuidae Agrotis puta Shuttle-shaped Dart Dock, dandelion
Erebidae Herminia grisealis Small Fan-foot Withered tree leaves, incl oak and hawthorn
Crambidae Pyrausta aurata Small Purple & Gold Mint
Noctuidae Abrostola tripartita Spectacle Nettle
Erebidae Rivula sericealis Straw Dot False brome
Erebidae Spilosoma lubricipeda White Ermine Nettle and dock


The next morning at 10am we were there to show the moths. We got the idea from Norfolk Wildlife Trust moth trappers. Most people don’t want to stay up too late, and children need their sleep. A lot of people detest the inevitable gnats and mosquitoes which may be attracted to the trap with the moths. The civilised way to show the ‘other universe’ of lepidopterans is the next morning. Actually in Norfolk, even the moth trappers don’t stay up but as we are next to the town centre we thought it best to keep an eye on our generator and it is interesting to see the different flight times the moths adopt in their various strategies to avoid being eaten by bats.

It was gratifying to see the interest generated by the moths, questions were asked, how long do they live? A large part of the life cycle is spent in the feeding or larval stage and an adult moth may only live about 5 weeks.

How do you tell a moth from a butterfly? It may be obvious that butterflies fly in the daytime, moths at night but there are many exceptions, the filamentous antennae of butterflies are knobbed, and the wings of the moth have a special attachment but these features may not be easy to see. It is often the case that butterflies land with their wings in the vertical whereas moths tend to lay their wings flat.

How do you tell the difference between a moth and other insects? Moths have two pairs of broad wings covered in tiny scales (you have to look at them under a lens to appreciate this). Caddis flies sometimes look a bit like moths but they have hairy membranous wings.

It was time to let the moths fly away while we went on a walk around Forbes Hole to try out the new paths which have been cleared and admire the wildflowers. Although it was warm, we didn’t see any butterflies we were still in the world of moths.

Marion Bryce 30 May 2017



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