Saturday, February 6, 2010

Chandos Road, Ampthill

This is my first moth of 2010: a Chestnut (Conistra vaccinii). It was a mild evening on Thursday so I thought I’d get the moth trap out from the garage and give it a go! I was inspired at a social gathering of Bedfordshires moth-trappers a few evenings ago. Seventeen of us joined together at Lower Stondon Baptist Church Hall to put names to faces, swap stories and encourage one another as a new season beckons.

It was great to meet sixteen other people as batty as me, if not more so, and I thought a few pen portraits would be appropriate! The evening was organised by Andy & Melissa Banthorpe, our joint Bedfordshire Macro-Moth Recorders. They have been running a trap at their home in Lower Stondon for a number of years and do a great job collating our records (some 14,000 this year!), running BNHS events, and helping us to ID our specimens. Melissa focuses on identifying the photos that we send her…and Andy does all the needful genitalia dissections – ‘nuff said!

David Manning – our Micro-moth Recorder – has, likewise, been incredibly helpful. I reckon the BNHS ought to present him with an electron microscope for the times when he has to resort to genitalia for identification. Most micro-moths are very…well, micro! Back in 1972 when I was 12 years old and spending my evenings watching Alias Smith And Jones and Kojak, David was just beginning to take an interest in moths: standing under a neighbourhood mercury vapour streetlamp and attempting to entrap any moths fluttering around by waving a net perched atop a 12 feet high pole! This auspicious beginning could only lead to greatness and, eventually, David became the Bedfordshire Micro-moth Recorder in 1986, and has a nationwide reputation today! I think he’s got a moth trap now, too!

Tom and Acelyn Yates do most of their trapping at home in Bedford, or in Reinhold, but they travel all over the UK during the year in their quest for moths. It was the sight of a Garden Tiger moth that first thrilled Acelyn and she reckons that when you’re running a trap, “Every morning is like Christmas”!

Matt Burgess is a more recent convert, having run a moth trap in Upper Cauldicott for some 6 months now. His Dad, Lionel, has got the bug, too…and the inspiration for both of them came from Matt’s little son’s persistent, “What is it?” questions. Lionel shared how he used to think that moths were ‘little brown jobs’ that looked white in the car headlamps, “...but when we see them close up and notice the colours and patterns, the top artists would struggle to compete with that!”

Pete McMullen, who lives in Biggleswade, has been trapping moths in his garden for about 7 years and, like Matt, he started because of the enthusiasm of his son following a Springwatch programme. He started with a bright light trained on a white sheet in the garden and, like me, was amazed to discover what was flying over his garden at night. He’s now seen a very respectable 280 species!

But even that figure pales next to the 900 plus species that Ian Woiwod has had visit his garden!! Ian’s interest in moths started when he was 7 years old. He became a professional entomologist, which then became a bit of a busman’s holiday when he worked with moths! Ian was responsible for the Rothamsted Insect Survey and the reason that his garden list is so impressive is the presence of a Rothamsted trap that has been running for many years. He reckons that the list would be a lot smaller without David Manning’s help!

Charles Baker has also been running various sorts of homemade traps for a number of years at his home in Studham, near Whipsnade. Charles added Raspberry Clearwing to the Bedfordshire list last year when he found the larvae tunnelling in his garden raspberries!

Like myself, Dave Withers hails from Ampthill and has been running a trap for two full seasons. His interest in the different species of moths at Duck End Nature Reserve, where he is the Voluntary Warden, has gradually become an addiction!

Tony Smith is now in his eighties and has been mothing for a number of years, something that led on naturally after he had been involved in the County Butterfly Survey some years ago. Tony lives in northwest Beds and commented, “I’m absolutely amazed at the beauty of these colourful insects.” He doesn’t live in a residential home but told me earlier that, “Every old people’s home ought to have a moth trap”!

Tony Lawrence traps in Eaton Ford in Cambridgeshire, which is in the Beds Vice County (the vice counties are a strange phenomenon that I struggle to grasp!). Tony described himself as ‘a born-again mother’ (that’s moth-er!). His early interest lapsed with work and family but he’s taken it up again in the last 6 or 7 years and declared, “It’s a super hobby!”

Richard Bashford is also based in Eaton Ford and has been interested in moths since his youth (and he is a lot closer to that than a number of us present were!). Ian Woiwod has been an inspiration to him over the years, Richard’s dad having played in Ian’s folk band! Whilst working at the RSPB he got hold of one of the Open University’s ‘cardboard box’ traps which consisted of a cardboard box, two bin liners, a funnel and lamp. He’s now graduated to a Skinner trap….but is catching just the same moths! Richard started moth-trapping regularly again last July, and expressed just how much he’s been enjoying it and how he finds the e-mail group really encouraging.

Hugh Griffiths started trapping moths in July 2008 after his wife bought him a trap. He lives at the north end of Luton just off the A6 and so the streetlights can be a bit of a problem, but it hasn’t stopped him enjoying his hobby.

So there we are. We know that there are at least 25 people running regular moth traps in Bedfordshire…and they all love it. So why don’t you give it a go if you’re not already!

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