Titchwell Tick-list, May 16, 2017

A British moth
A British moth

Summer is just around the corner, and already I find myself dreaming of those long, warm evenings spent lazing in the garden.

It’s one of my favourite things about this time of year but for one, very small problem.

The warmer weather is also perfect for moths, and as anyone who knows me will tell you, I’ve never been a big fan of moths.

Popular opinion of moths seems to be similarly negative, however after just a bit of research I came to realise that this negativity is unfounded; moths are actually fascinating and beautiful creatures who deserve just as much recognition and appreciation as their butterfly cousins, if not more.

Firstly, the diversity of moth species is staggering.

There are 2500 species of moths in the UK alone, compared to just 59 species of butterfly.

So to make things easier, scientists group moths according to their size and shape.

Helpfully, moth names are also often descriptive of their appearance.

For example, the group of moths known as ‘carpets’ have intricate patterns on their wings, whilst the ‘quakers’ are comparatively plain.

There is much more to moths than just their appearance however.

Moths are food for a number of animals, so through natural selection (the great ‘evolutionary arms race’) many moths have developed amazing characteristics or behaviours that improve their chances of evading predators.

For example, many night-flying moths have developed ear-like organs that allow them to detect the high-pitched squeaks that bats emit when hunting.

This helps the moths to work out where the bats are, and so avoid predation.

Like butterflies, moths are also an important part of the UK’s wildlife.

They play a crucial role in the food chain, and are valuable pollinators of plants.

Moths are also good indicators of the health of the environment because they are so sensitive to change, and by monitoring their numbers and ranges we can learn a lot about our own environment.

Sadly, numbers of moths have decreased over the last few decades, due to the loss of wild spaces as a result of intensive farming, commercial forestry and urban development, as well as man-made climate change.

If numbers continue to decline there could be serious knock-on effects for other wildlife in Britain, therefore it is vital that we protect moths by conserving their habitats.

There are lots of ways you can do this at home; a great way of creating a moth-friendly environment is by not working so hard on your garden.

Moths love plant debris, grass meadows and hedgerows, so the more overgrown the garden, the better!

Then come evening you can sit back, relax, and watch the moths as they flutter around in the summer twilight.

You can also come to RSPB Titchwell Marsh and see what moths we have here!

We are running a workshop on Wednesday, May 17, at 10am, and moth mornings every Wednesday from June 14, where you can learn more about these fascinating creatures, see some moths up close, and find out how to set up your very own moth trap at home!

For more information on our marvellous moth mornings and other family activities this summer please go to www.rspb.org.uk/titchwellmarsh