Having a keen personal interest in macro photography, Caroline Anderson jumped at the chance to use her Volunteering Day to help reserve staff with a moth trap at Taynish National Nature Reserve. Caroline, a Unit Administrator based in our Lochgilphead office, tells us about the day’s work and shares with us the superb moth photographs that she took.
As we all know, moths are attracted to light, so the principle of a moth trap is to have a light source attached to a box which the moths will go into then wait patiently under egg boxes until they are identified, recorded and released.
Moths are hugely important to biodiversity, they provide a temperature check on the health of the environment as they are very sensitive to change. They provide food to bats, birds, frogs, toads and many other creatures and are also very important pollinators. Monitoring their numbers tell us a lot about changes in our environment for example climate change and air pollution.
There are 59 species of butterfly in the UK but 2500 species of moths. For some unknown (to me) reason, moths tend to get a very bad press. People tend to have this image of dull, brown flappy insects that fly in your face at night. And, yes, there do appear to be lots of dull, brown, flappy moths, which on closer inspection, have very subtly different and quite beautiful identifying features. BUT there are also glorious moths of all shapes, sizes and colours that we very rarely get to see as they mostly fly at night, or because they are so skilled at camouflaging themselves to their surroundings we would easily walk past them without noticing.
Having set it the night before, Heather, Gordon, Fiona (the regular NNR volunteer) and myself set about unveiling the box of delights that is the Taynish Moth Trap. The aim was to catch, record and release as many of the moths caught in the trap as possible.
When we got into the contents of the box, the excitement of checking under the egg boxes was a bit like Forrest Gump’s box of chocolates “You never know what you’re gonna get!” Catching some of the moths in the identification boxes requires a level of dexterity and speed that could be classed as superhuman and inevitably some got away. One poor thing managed to escape just long enough for a spotted flycatcher to swoop in and catch it for chick food! However, as we got to the bottom of the trap, the most beautiful Elephant Hawkmoth could be seen in all its pink and green glory! Amongst the dozens of different species caught we also had a Poplar Hawkmoth, a few Large Emeralds, several Lesser Swallow Prominents, a Burnished Brass, and a Drinker. Aren’t the names just wonderful!
To those people who have a dislike or even a fear of moths but do like butterflies, think of them as butterflies of the night, it might help you look at them differently.
From a personal point of view, it helped with my very poor moth ID skills. From a photography point of view, it was a spectacular opportunity to get up close and personal to these beautiful creatures and I feel very lucky to have been able to do this in work time. I really appreciated the volunteer time given by SNH to be able to experience and connect with nature in such a way and would wholeheartedly encourage other staff to make the most of any opportunity on offer.
Roll on next year……