Parc Slip Moth Surveys

The week beginning the 25th June this year was National Insect Week but if any of you ventured out you may have noticed that there doesn’t seem to be as much insect life around as you might expect for the end of June. The poor weather this year has been bad news for numerous animals but insects such as butterflies and moths have particularly struggled with the heavy wind and rain.

Elephant Hawkmoth (Deilephila elpenor) by V Matthews

Elephant Hawkmoth (Deilephila elpenor) by V Matthews

Lepidoptera (butterflies and moths) are quite well studied in Britain, partly because they are relatively straightforward to identify and also often quite large and attractive. Butterflies tend to get most of the limelight but with only 56 species in the country, compared with over 2,500 species of moths, some of that attention needs to be shared with their less-favoured relatives.

Moths are important not only as pollinators but also as prey for a variety of species; bats in particular feed on the adults and the caterpillars are a vital part of the food-chain (blue tits are reported to get through 35billion a year in Britain!).

Moth trapping is a simple and rewarding pastime and reveals how truly beautiful some of our nocturnal insects are up close. All you need is a strong light and a white sheet and you can start investigating these wonderful creatures. Different moth species emerge at different times of year so they can be studied all year round and that’s not to mention over 100 species of moths that fly during the day!

Clouded Drab Moth (Orthosia incerta) by V Matthews

Clouded Drab Moth (Orthosia incerta) by V Matthews

At Parc Slip Reserve near Bridgend we have been running a powerful moth trap once or twice a week since the beginning of March in order to monitor the species located there. Izzy, one of our placement students from Cardiff University, was responsible for identifying and counting the moths and as she has just reached the end of her time with the Trust, it’s about time for an update.

As expected, only a few moth species were recorded initially (particularly small quakers and clouded drabs), and that number started to increase as the weeks went by. Then April happened. As you can see by the graphs below, the very poor weather drastically reduced the number and diversity of species recorded. This has been mirrored across the UK with both butterflies and moths.

Eyed Hawkmoth (Smerinthus ocellata) by V Matthews

Eyed Hawkmoth (Smerinthus ocellata) by V Matthews

Numbers of different species recorded stepped up a bit towards the end of May and into June, with the first appearance of one of the spectacular hawkmoths. This is an Eyed Hawkmoth and the picture clearly illustrates how they got their name! Actual numbers of moths hadn’t even reached March levels before they tapered off again during the wet and windy month of June.

The final trapping session in the last week of June finally yielded a lone Elephant Hawkmoth amongst a more healthy number of other species but numbers are still down from what we would expect. We are continuing to monitor weekly so we will keep you informed of how the moths are doing. Fingers crossed for some settled weather!