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Nothing dull about incredible, delightful species

By Lincolnshire Echo  |  Posted: September 06, 2012

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While the sight of a butterfly brings a smile to the face, for some, the thought of moths results in shudders rather than smiles.

Even the word 'moth' can evoke words such as dull, brown and moth-eaten. It is true that there are small, brown moths but there are also moths that are as pretty as butterflies.

An incredible 1,500 different species of moth have been recorded in Lincolnshire.

Many of these could be in gardens but their typical nocturnal habits mean our paths cross only occasionally.

A warm, late summer evening will draw moths out of their daytime hiding places. Some can even be spotted during the day.

When we do see them; their colours are often a surprise whether it's the shocking pink and green of the elephant hawkmoth, the striking red and black of the cinnabar or the exquisite camouflage of the buff tip that makes it almost undistinguishable from the broken end of a twig.

On one of the recent hot humid days of August, something light-coloured against the black of my wheelie bin caught my eye.

On closer inspection, I saw it was a large moth with delicate, soft lemon-yellow wings. The small tail-like projections on its hindwings give it its name - the swallow-tailed moth, but it has also been described as a flying post-it note.

Obvious when settled on a black bin, the subtle colouring of the swallow-tailed moth would make it hard to spot among leaves of ivy.

Ivy covers the wall behind the wheelie bin and happens to be the preferred food plant of the moth's caterpillar.

Perhaps this moth spent its caterpillar-hood in my central Lincoln garden munching through the abundant ivy leaves.

Now as an adult, it was ready to fly off into the wider world. To survive, it would switch its diet from greenery to sugary energy-rich nectar.

Just like butterflies, adult moths use lots of energy to fly. They refuel on nectar. Highly scented, night-flowering plants in gardens can provide the nectar they need. Plants like the tobacco plant, evening primrose, honeysuckle, red valerian and sweet rocket.

I bought a summer-flowering jasmine which is strategically placed by the kitchen window. It smells fabulous and at night, with light from the kitchen falling on to it, I have watched moths feeding.

In late summer, one of the most distinctive by the nature of its flight is the hummingbird hawkmoth.

Named because it looks like tiny hummingbirds; hovering in front of flowers and feeding on nectar with its long proboscis. They dart from one flower to the next and are expert at hovering; beating their wings so rapidly you can hear them hum. Hummingbird hawkmoths need the nectar not just for their hovering flight but for migration.

The British winters are too cold for hummingbird hawkmoths to survive. Instead they migrate here, flying from southern Europe.

Rather than dull, brown and moth-eaten perhaps more appropriate word association with 'moth' would be 'delightful' for their colours and patterns, 'intriguing' for their life cycles, and 'remarkable' for their tremendous flights.

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  • coachcijaye  |  September 07 2012, 5:35PM

    This is a great post. Very informative thank you. May I make a suggestion - just for those who can appreciate what you have shared about moths but still want to get rid of them? There is a great new book and a few bonuses on how to get rid of moths naturally at http://tinyurl.com/9vycfxl - I think this resource would be appreciated.