At last it looks as if summer might not pass us by after all. Looking out of my office window I am met with a kaleidoscope of colour set against the perfect blue of a summer sky. Making their home in the various hues of green in the wildlife garden are red cardinal beetles, ruby tailed wasps and zingy yellow, black and white mullein caterpillars. Often we forget that the tiniest of creatures can sport the most splendid colour variations and if you have ever seen a damselfly or dragonfly up close, you will know exactly what I mean. However, even species that we consider plain and dull have immense variety when it comes to colour and pattern.
This is particularly true of the humble moth which is often overlooked in comparison to its day-time flying cousin, the butterfly. Take for instance, tiger and ermine moths which have the most resplendent dark and light patterns of spots and stripes. Hawk moths, in addition to being extremely colourful are also incredibly docile and can usually be persuaded to rest on a visitor’s hand. You might not feel so comfortable doing this with the hornet moth, which at first glance could easily be mistaken for its more hostile namesake. This moth is from the clearwing family, they adeptly mimic flies and hornets with their transparent wings and yellow and black striped bodies. When disturbed, the moth also replicates the flight pattern of a hornet in an attempt to further confuse prey. Hornet moths are day flyers and can be difficult to spot but this week we have been able to add these elusive creatures to our sightings list.
Both moths and butterflies can be found in almost every habitat from nettle beds to shed walls. Butterflies generally fly during the day and prefer warm, sunny days with little or no wind. Most moths are attracted to light and are counted amongst Britain’s nocturnal animals although an increasing number of species can be seen in daylight hours. The best time to go moth spotting is at dusk or soon afterwards on a warm summer evening. Take a stroll along a hedgerow or open woodland with a torch and you might be surprised by the number of species you soon spot. Moths are attracted by nectar and many species favour jasmine, honeysuckle and nicotine plants. Artificial moth nectar can be made by dissolving sugar and molasses or beer in water and painting the solution onto fence posts or tree trunks. Alternatively, make a date to come to one of our marvellous moth mornings which we hold on Wednesdays during the summer holidays from 10 am onwards. This is an ideal opportunity to discover some of Norfolk’s most common varieties with the odd rarity or two! Families can take part in moth bingo and afterwards explore the reserve, discover our stunning beach or take a summer family trail to become a Titchwell Tracker.
For more information on our marvellous moth mornings and other family activities this summer please go to www.rspb.org.uk/titchwellmarsh.