What’s in the Moth Box? April 2017

Welcome to ‘What’s in the box?’, a regular feature that looks at what has been recorded over the previous month.

My moth trap is homemade (albeit not by me!) and contains egg boxes for moths to huddle into and a bright light to attract the moths. I set it up as and when the weather permits and the usual plan is to position it in the garden at Bubble HQ using the mains electric. I then run around like a mad woman with a net and pots catching everything flying to the light (except bats which can be a bit of a problem sometimes!). The neighbours do think I’m a little odd! When bedtime calls, the trap is then left running all night and everything that has fallen into the box is recovered early morning. And when the box is opened….I never know what I’m going to get.

I do take the trap further afield using a generator. I have permission to use the trap in certain local areas and always release the moths back to where they were found.

All records will be from Bubble HQ here in Dalby Forest unless otherwise stated.



Gangs and Pinions

April began well. A Pale Pinion, not a common moth in the area, arrived to the first light of the month and a Shoulder Stripe and three Early Greys were nice to see. They had company from the usual gangs of Hebrew Characters, Common Quakers, and Clouded Drabs. I’m not sure whether there are collective terms for individual species of moth. I can’t find any. If not, there should be. But, for now, ‘gang’ will do! Let me know if you know any.

Pale Pinion (Lithophane hepatica)

Early Grey (Xyloclampa areola) side on

Early Grey (Xyloclampa areola) antennae

Beauty in Disguise

A couple of nights later, which was a potentially perfect cloudy 8 degrees, a total of sixty six moths made up of thirteen species arrived.

Pine Beauty is always one of my favourites as, not only is it a vibrant, eye-catching moth, it is also unlike any other so I can recognise it immediately. However, others may consider my fondness for them foolish. They are considered as a pest having created havoc in pine forests in the 1970s. The Latin name is Panolis flammea. The flammea part is harmless enough, referring to the Pine Beauty’s flame colour but ‘Panolis’ means ‘all-destructive’. Oh dear. Not just a recent thing then. Where do I live? Oh yes, in a pine forest. Erm, it might not be so popular here but in their defence, there has only been seven throughout the whole month of April so we’re not at epidemic levels yet! On this night, there was only one in the box. But they are so pretty!

Pine Beauty (Panolis flammea)…

…and in amongst the pine needles it so loves

The box on this night also contained, amongst the Common Quakers, a Twin-spotted Quaker. Again, easy to identify due to the pair of spots on each wing although some field guides suggest that the spots can be missing altogether! I knew it couldn’t be that easy! At least the one in the box had both spots so no problems this time.

Twin-spotted Quaker (Orthosia munda)

A Thorny Subject

Then we had a shock. The temperature plummeted. During the day, the weather was erm….how shall I describe it….changeable! Hail and snow appeared along with heavy downpours and a freezing wind chill. Then the sun would come out. The night dropped to -1.5 degrees! Nevertheless, what the heck, the box went out. Two hardy Early Thorns and an Engrailed braved it to the light but it was so cold, we aborted after a couple of hours.

Engrailed (Ectropis bistortata) potted up

Luckily the temperature rose a little over the next few days so the box went out again. Only twenty one moths but the first Purple Thorn (below, left) of the year came in. They then appeared in the box with Early Thorn (below, right) over the next couple of sessions. I have a soft spot for the Thorns. They look so haughty and proud of themselves as they sit upright, looking around them with suspicion.

Another first for the year was a Streamer who took a break for freedom and flew to the wood shed. The birds were gathering so he was rescued, placed back in the box and released to safety that night.

Streamer (Anticlea derivata)

What’s Prominent?

On the last day of the month, the Hebrew Characters still led the way as they did on the first day of the month but the Common Quakers had dispersed and only two were in the box. The Prominents were erm…prominent in this box. The Lesser Swallow and the Scarce both put in an appearance.

Lesser Swallow Prominent (Pheosia gnoma) from above and in profile

Scarce Prominent (Odontosia carmelita) from above and in profile

Shaking all over

A tiny Least Black Arches made me think that it was a micro. How it can be classed as a macro?  I’m sure that someone will let me know!

Two Powdered Quakers, less common than the Common Quakers (obviously judging by the name) landed in the box for the first time. One Powdered Quaker did a nice little warm-up dance, quaking and shivering.

What’s in the box? April stats (totally unscientific!)


Number of sessions – 7

Temperatures – ranging from -1.5 to 11 degrees

Total number of moths – 354

Most Common – Hebrew Character (total 182, well over double from last month)

Most destructive – Pine Beauty

Most prominent of the Prominents – Lesser Swallow Prominent

Best twerking – Powdered Quaker

Best break for freedom – Streamer

Most delusions of grandeur – Least Black Arches


Least Black Arches (Nola confusalis) against a millimetre rule

Moth of the month – Purple Thorn (for liking my pencil!)



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