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Marvellous Moths

A Peatland Connections event discovering the beautiful and incredible moths at Knowetop Lochs Nature Reserve

On Sunday 22nd May a group of us arrived at Knowetop Lochs Nature Reserve to uncover what marvellous moths the light boxes had attracted overnight and discover which species of moths this mosaic habitat supports.

Three light boxes were set out in the landscape the evening before: one on the peatland habitat, one on the peatland edge rich in heather, bog-myrtle, and winberries, and one in the surrounding woodland scrub of birch and willow. During the night moths, attracted by the light, entered the boxes and settled within the cluster of egg-boxes inside.

Alison Robertson, local moth enthusiast, expert, and county recorder, introduced us to the moths, one by one, as she carefully drew them from each lightbox and passed them around for all to see.

Tawny-barred Angel. Photo: Alison Robertson taken on an Olympus TG5

New to the mothing experience - as many of us where that morning - I was astonished by how many different types of moths we encountered and how diverse they were. One looked just like a broken twig (the Buff-tip), while another looked like it was wearing a shimmering silver gown embroidered with golden thread. To my amazement, this delicate beauty had such an ordinary and understated name: the Common Wave.

We learnt about the evolution of the Peppered moth. Responding to the effects of air pollution on its surroundings, this moth shifted from being pale, peppered with dark markings, to dark wings, abdomen, and thorax to blend in with its sooty surroundings during the industrial revolution until the Clean Air Act was introduced in 1956. As air quality improved, the moth became lighter once more.

It still resembles a moth that’s been dusted with soot, yet now it blends in with birch tree bark.

When we released it back into its habitat (after being identified) its camouflage effect became clear as we all but lost sight of the Peppered moth on a birch tree trunk!

One moth, when revealed to us from the lightbox, generated a gasp of delight: the Poplar Hawk moth. This beauty’s size and wing shape makes it rather spectacular. Most of us had never encountered such a large moth before, never mind have one sit calmly in the palm of our hand.

Jack's delight was discovering the Glaucous Shears moth; a peatland habitat classic that feeds from heather, bog-myrtle and willows.

We spent a fascinating 2 hours experiencing moths close-up, learning their names, and marvelling at the diversity of species this nature reserve supports. In total, 39 species of spectacular moths were revealed to us on our Marvellous Moths Morning, and it wasn’t even the best of weather conditions: it was damp and overcast. Imagine how many more are out there, on a warm and clement evening.

A huge thank you to Alison Robertson. We couldn’t have done this without your generous support.

Thank you to Jack Barton (CCC Project Officer) for suggesting a moth morning and co organising this event.

Thank you to all that came along. I hope you enjoyed it as much as I did.

More peatland expeditions to discover the amazing and curious species these precious habitats support will follow...


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