Sunday, May 16, 2010

National Moth Night

Ever since 1999, one day a year has been set aside in the UK’s calendar as National Moth Night, an annual celebration of our moths and moth recording. This year it was last night and a focus on bats was also included, so a joint meeting of the Bedfordshire Moth Group and the Bedfordshire Bat Group took place in a local wood. Four moth traps and four mist nets were set up and we waited to see what would turn up.

Unfortunately, with little cloud cover, the temperature struggled to climb above 5 degrees C which obviously limited the amount of activity we were going to witness, but it was great to be out.

I spent a lot of the evening keeping an eye on one of the mist nets. Early on I had this little beauty fly past, netted it, and later presented it to an enthusiastic Melissa for identification. It turned out to be a Small White Wave, the 13th County record and only the second seen since 1986!

A few of these moths turned up – the Pale Tussock. Look at the feathery antennae on this male…forming a large area to pick up the female pheromones from hundreds of metres away if need be. It’s a big moth, but that’s not because of its diet since emerging from the cocoon, because the adults don’t feed – they leave that to the larvae who are particularly partial to various leaves including hops, being nicknamed hop dogs by hop pickers in the past!

Other species included Ochreous Pug (our 7th County record), and a number of Seraphim moths. But there was very little bat activity….until this beauty turned up:

As is often the way during these events, it’s actually the late bird that catches the worm! It was well after midnight and after most people had gone home that I found this female Natterer’s Bat hanging in the mist net that I had been keeping an eye on. I was thrilled to shine the torch and find this beauty hanging there. It’s fair to say, though, that the Bat wasn’t quite as thrilled as me, and made its familiar buzzing sound as it was being gently handled. Note the long ears with the pointed tragus inside, which is a key Natterer’s identification feature.

I found it interesting to see the commonest prey noted for this species during faecal analysis in Ireland and Scotland: dipteran flies (42.9-60.2%), caddisflies (12.7-16.1%), bees and wasps (0.0-10.7%), beetles (4.9-12.3%) and arachnids (6.8-18.1%). I had thought that moths would be well up there! It’s reckoned that most prey items are gleaned from foliage rather than caught in flight.

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