Herefordshire moth watch

PUBLISHED: 16:31 30 November 2010 | UPDATED: 17:41 20 February 2013

Herefordshire moth watch

Herefordshire moth watch

Although not as showy as butterflies, moths are often just as beautiful and equally interesting

Monumental moths

Although not as showy as butterflies, moths are often just as beautiful and equally interesting. Admittedly, I was terrified of moths as a child. I remember listening to the tink tink on the glass as they flew into our porch-light outside. Id even go as far as refusing to go outside where I could see them congregating around the warmth of the light. I was outnumbered! What if they flew into me? That dusty print would haunt me for the rest of the evening.

Butterflies, moths are often just as beautiful and equally interesting. Admittedly, I was terrified of moths as a child. I remember listening to the tink tink on the glass as they flew into our porch-light outside. Id even go as far as refusing to go outside where I could see them congregating around the warmth of the light. I was outnumbered! What if they flew into me? That dusty print would haunt me for the rest of the evening.

Butterflies get such great publicity; Im not entirely sure where moths have gone wrong. The two are in the same family; both have cute caterpillar stages and visit nectar-producing flowers. Sure, moths are creatures of the night, but so are badgers and barn owls for which we have great appreciation.

Moths do tend to be duller in colour than butterflies, they have feathery antennae instead of the club-shaped butterfly variety... and moths are hairier. This supposedly less attractive, mostly-nocturnal cousin should get extra props for overcoming these characteristics and proving to be just as successful as the butterfly. We may not find them as handsome, but perhaps we should look a little closer.

Here in the UK, we have well over 2,000 species. With so many to choose from, there are bound to be some exciting natural histories and undiscovered beauty!

How about this celebrity: the peppered moth. Remember the photos of this moth in your high school science textbooks? It became famous in the mid-19th century, when the industrial revolution was at its peak. Dark forms of the peppered moth became common near centres of industrial pollution. As many trunks and branches of trees were now coated in soot, the typical pale and mottled form would stand out to predators instead of blending in with bark and lichens as before. An excellent example of natural selection.

Another favourite, the cinnabar moth, can be easily identified by its bright red and black colouration. This common moth breaks the mould by flying during the day and has a reputation to boot. Its bold colours and patterns warn birds and other predators that it is extremely unpleasant to eat. The female will lay her eggs on ragwort a plant that can be fatal if eaten by cattle and horses. The toxins in the leaves do not harm the caterpillars once hatched, but protect them, making them poisonous and unpleasant tasting as well. They, too, have colouration to warn off predators: bright yellow and black hoops.

Others, still, promise an exceptional appearance (at the very least) with names like garden tiger, elephant hawk and canary-shouldered thorn. Within these three, there is a spectrum of colour and patterns: purple stripes, yellow, orange, and even black and white spots.

I encourage you to take a closer look at these unsung heroes of the night. As time has passed, Ive learned not only are moths beautiful, theyre also important for research, pollinating our plants, and as a
crucial food source to many birds, bats and other mammals, and I truly see them in a different light. A warm, glowing light that they are free to fly towards.

To find out how you can encourage moths, butterflies, and other wildlife to your garden visit: www.rspb.org.uk/advice/gardening
Visit www.westmidlands-butterflies.org.uk for more information about moth conservation in Herefordshire and the wider West Midlands, and how you can get involved.

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