Trapping rare moths seems to be a topical and exciting subject at this time. As Birders are keen to see rare vagrant and rare migrant birds during the autumn months, so too are Moth-ers keen to trap vagrant immigrant moths. The parallels in the two subjects are incredible and it never ceases to amaze me how such delicate insects can travel hundreds of miles and drop into a moth trap, usually in excellent condition, simply Mind Blowing. Similar to the way that the small Yellow-browed Warbler, Pallas’s Warbler and Goldcrest (The “Sprites”) arrive on our shores after a strong Easterly blow. These birds travel vast distances and again, Mind Blowing..
Over the years a wide variety of rare moths have been recorded in Britain. Usually the months of September and October are the best. Most arrive from Southern Europe and the Tropics and their arrival usually coincides with warm southerly high pressure systems, coming up from North Africa, the Azores, Canary Islands and Madeira. Murky weather with fine drizzle and south, southeasterly winds can be superb.
There is no greater thrill than finding a rare migrant moth in the trap. It can sometimes be a MEGA, or even a first for Britain no less.
Hodebertia testalis – This specimen was a first for Britain. Trapped on St. Mary’s, Isles of Scilly on 18th October 2006. This individual arrived at a time of high migrant moth activity. I was fortunate to see and photograph the specimen on 19th October, before it was sent off to the Natural History Museum, for confirmation of it’s identity. In “mothing” terms, a MEGA, an awesome moment and it doesn’t get much better than this.
One of the best places in Britain for trapping rare migrant moths is on the Isles of Scilly and over the years I have been fortunate to have caught a number of good immigrant moths whilst on holiday on the small island of St. Agnes.
Merveille du Jour – This specimen was certainly the “Wonder of the Day”. I found it in my trap on 15th October 2006, whilst moth trapping during my holiday week on St.Agnes, it was a first record for the Isles of Scilly.
The arrival of migrant moths are not limited to our of islands and coastal areas. Many get trapped by moth enthusiasts from a number of inland counties. For example, from my small South Derbyshire garden, I have caught a variety of good migrant moths over the years. A second record of Ni Moth for Derbyshire, several Rusty Dot Pearl, Small Mottled Willow, Vestal and Scarce Bordered Straw, all vagrants to my county.
In recent years, moth trapping has become an increasingly popular hobby, especially amongst Birders. There are possibly more people “Moth Trapping” now than in the last 20 years. The status of Britain’s moths has recently been published in a superb book by Butterfly Conservation. Millions of records of moths are now held by the National Moth Recording Scheme (NMRS), and a comprehensive picture is now beginning to emerge. This can only be achieved by the many Moth Recorders submitting their records. As more people become involved in moth trapping and recording, the knowledge of our moth population and our ability to conserve and protect it, will undoubtedly improve.