Rare immigrants arrive ahead of Moth Night 2017
The UK is braced for an influx of rare immigrant moths as warm continental weather encourages them northwards, coinciding with Moth Night 2017 getting underway.
Despite Christmas being weeks away, an immigration of unusual moths from Europe is currently taking place across the UK, with the scarce Silver-striped Hawkmoth and Radford's Flame Shoulder seen in recent days. These rarities have also been joined by spectacular immigrant species such as the giant Convolvulus Hawkmoth and Hummingbird Hawkmoth. Clifden Nonpareil, one of the UK’s most striking autumn moths, has recently become established from Dorset to Kent but numbers have this year been boosted by dozens of immigrants from the continent.
As part of this year’s Moth Night, an annual UK-wide event to record moths which this year runs from 12-14 October, organisers Atropos, Butterfly Conservation and the Centre for Ecology & Hydrology are asking the public to investigate their local patches of flowering ivy to help gather more information on the plant’s importance to moths. Ivy provides a lifeline to moths, butterflies and other pollinators as it flowers late in the year when other nectar sources are unavailable.
Many different autumnal moths are regularly seen refuelling on ivy blossom, including the beautiful Pink-barred Sallow, Angle Shades, Green-brindled Crescent, Yellow-line Quaker and Lunar Underwing. Migrant species, such as Silver Y, may be attracted too, supping on the sugary nectar that will power their flights southwards to warmer climes.
For moths staying and overwintering as adults, such as Buttoned Snout and Red-green Carpet, ivy flowers provide an important food source as the moths build up their fat reserves. All this insect activity has other benefits too – pollinating the ivy flowers will create the black berries that provide a winter food supply for birds.
Butterfly Conservation Head of Recording, Richard Fox said: "A quick check of ivy blossom on a sunny autumn day will reveal bees, hoverflies, butterflies and other insects, all making the most of this seasonal bonanza of nectar. After dark, the pollinator nightshift takes place and a myriad of moths come out to feed.
"For this year’s Moth Night, find some big patches of ivy flowers nearby and go back with a torch after the sun has set. It’s a fantastic and easy way to see some of the beautiful moths that are on the wing in autumn."
Atropos editor Mark Tunmore explained: "Ivy is an undervalued natural resource and there is a tendency for it to be regarded as something that needs to be tidied away in the garden. However, ivy offers valuable nectar for insects, shelter for bats and nesting birds, as well as a source of berries for small mammals and birds. It is also an attractive plant in its own right.
"We are encouraging people to get out over the coming days and look at what they can see on their local ivy patches. Some of our most attractive autumnal moths may be glimpsed, taking advantage of this rich nectar source."
Ecologist Marc Botham added: "There are a fantastic range of autumnal moths in the UK, a number of which are declining. They provide food for many other animals especially those feeding up for winter when food is scarce. National Moth Night will provide important data to help determine the status of some of these species."
Moth Night 2017 runs from 12-14 October and will include moth trapping events across the UK. More details can be found at www.mothnight.info.