Winter may not traditionally be seen as a productive time of year for finding insects but there are still some out there that are worth keeping an eye out for!
The vast majority of the UK’s 2,500(ish) species of moths are active during the warmer months of the year but there are a good number that can still be found during the winter months and they are not only attractive (some of them at least…) but also have quite interesting habits.
This article was inspired by a moth being disturbed from the leaf litter by the volunteer wardens Linda and Rob Nottage at Coed Garnllwyd during a well-earned lunch break mid-coppicing – it was a moth that was new to me despite trapping weekly at Parc Slip throughout the year!
The two small dots either side of the larger one on each wing instantly identify (and name) this moth – The Satellite Eupsilia transversa.
The Satellite is not particularly uncommon and on the wing between September and April and will come to moth traps but it is the larvae which are really interesting.
In their younger stages they feed on a range of deciduous trees but as they get larger they actually turn carnivorous and feed on the larvae of other moths! Not as innocent as they appear…
Other winter-flying moths are named for the months that they tend to appear such as November Moth and December Moth as well as the imaginatively named Winter Moth.
The Winter Moth and the rather more striking Mottled Umber are both examples of moth species whose males and females are vastly different.
The males are typical moths while the females are wingless and look rather like small furry grubs which crawl up tree trunks and emit pheromones which attract the more mobile males to them. If you saw a female of one of these species you might be surprised to find out that it was actually a moth at all!
Then there are species such as The Herald which is a beautiful species that spends the winter hibernating in cool, dry places such as caves, sheds or even bird boxes and can be found there in quite large numbers in some cases before re-emerging in the spring when temperatures start to increase.
So make sure to check around any external lights during mild, overcast nights or even dust off the moth trap if you’re lucky enough to have one and give it a go over the winter – all moth records are worth sending off to your local recorder, especially winter-flying moths as they are usually less often recorded.