Exactly 25 years ago today, the first ever meeting of Devon Moth Group took place at the Ley Arms in Kenn. 18 people were present, including many who remain leading lights in the Group and in moth (and butterfly) recording in the county to this day. By the end of the evening, the aims, ethos and first set of officials of Devon Moth Group had been decided and plans made to hold field meetings during the year.
Roy McCormick was elected the Group’s first Chairman and Treasurer, with Ashleigh Rosier elected as Secretary. Roy continues as Treasurer to this day!
Over the quarter century since its inception, Devon Moth Group has grown and thrived. It is now overseen by a committee of seven and has a membership of c.150 people. Along the way, we have amassed well over 1 million moth records in the Group’s database and made a massive contribution to improved knowledge about the county’s moths, as well as raising awareness and assisting conservation.
There will be a number of events throughout 2022 to mark Devon Moth Group’s silver jubilee and to celebrate the county’s magnificent moths and everyone interested in them.
Jersey Tiger the emblem of Devon Moth Group (Bob Eade)
Our AGM and Winter Meeting was held online this year as a result of the ongoing coronavirus restrictions.
The meeting included a shortened version of our normal AGM proceedings, which was then followed by the main event, an entertaining talk by Dr Tom Prescott, Senior Conservation Officer with Butterfly Conservation Scotland. Tom presented the talk from his home in the Highlands on the subject of Burnets, Beauties and Glories – Conserving Scotland’s Rare and Threatened Moths. It was a fascinating and inspiring talk, with plenty of stunning moths and beautiful Scottish scenery.
Moth Night, the UK’s annual celebration of moths and moth recording, takes place on the nights of Thursday 26th – Saturday 28th September 2019. People in Devon and across the country are being asked to keep a particular eye out for the spectacular Clifden Nonpareil, a.k.a. Blue Underwing, which has recolonised southern Britain recently after going extinct in the 1960s.
In the last two years, this impressive moth, with a 12cm wingspan and bright blue stripe on its black hindwings, has been spotted across Devon during September, so Moth Night 2019 is the prefect opportunity to try to find one.
Devon Moth Group is holding a public event at Meeth Quarry Devon Wildlife Trust reserve on Friday night with hopes of seeing this special species.
This is the 20th anniversary of Moth Night so organisers Atropos, Butterfly Conservation and the Centre for Ecology & Hydrology hope that it will be the biggest yet. You can take part by attending an event, running a moth trap at home or, even better, in a new location or by searching for moths using a torch, ivy blossom or ‘sugar’ (more information on how to find moths). Please submit any moth sightings from the three nights (26-28 September), whether from your garden or further afield, via the Moth Night website. Good luck!
Moth Night, the annual celebration of moths and moth recording, has come around again and takes place on the three days and nights of 14 – 16 June 2018.
The UK-wide event, organised by Atropos, Butterfly Conservation and the Centre for Ecology & Hydrology, will focus on pyralid moths (the families Pyralidae and Crambidae), the first time that micro-moths have been the official theme of Moth Night in its 20-year existence.
Over the past 30 years, some 28 new species of pyralid have been recorded in Britain, some the result of natural migration, others accidentally imported e.g. with plants for the horticultural trade. Eight of these have already become established in Britain, including Evergestis limbata, which has colonised parts of Devon. First recorded in Britain in 1994 on the Isle of Wight, the first Devon record was in 2004 in Kingsteignton. Since then, this pretty yellow and brown moth has been found all along the Teign Estuary from Teignmouth and Shaldon to Kingsteignton, as well as at Exmouth and around Newton Abbot. How much further has it got? Keep a look out for it for Moth Night and submit any sightings at www.mothnight.info
Evergestis limbata (Les Evans-Hill)
Aside from new species, there are plenty of native pyralid moths to look out for in Devon this week. These include the Mint Moth Pyrausta aurata, a little purple and gold jewel of an insect found fluttering in the daytime in herb patches and flowerbeds, the distinctive, black and white spotted Small Magpie Anania hortulata and common immigrants such as the Rusty-dot Pearl Udea ferrugalis.
Mint Moth (Patrick Clement)
Small Magpie (Iain Leach)
Moth Night activities don’t have to focus on pyralids, of course. There are hundreds of different moth species on the wing in Devon at this time of year and records of any and all of them seen on the three days and nights of Moth Night 2018 are very welcome.
Why not take the opportunity to get out and record moths somewhere new, or introduce family or friends to the wonders of moths? On the Friday night or Saturday morning, you are very welcome to attend the Devon Moth Group field meeting at the Norman Lockyear Observatory near Sidmouth (see Events).
Please submit all your sightings via the online recording form on the Moth Night website, so that we can build up a picture of all the activity and records during the event (all records are subsequently passed on to County Moth Recorders).
Devon Moth Group’s first field meeting of 2017 takes place on Saturday evening (20th May) at Blackberry Camp. Moth traps will be run from dusk onwards to find out which moth species live at this wooded Iron Age hill fort located between Honiton and Sidmouth. Group members and members of the public are equally welcome. Full details of this event and others arranged for this summer and autumn can be found on the Events page.
The programme of Devon Moth Group field meetings for 2017 has been published. Full details of the seven confirmed meetings can be found on the Events page.
The field meetings enable Group members to record moths in new locations and prime wildlife habitats across the county, from Blackberry Camp hill fort near Sidmouth to Dunsdon nature reserve near Bude and Wembury Point near Plymouth. This adds to our knowledge of moth distributions across the county and ultimately contributes to their conservation.
The events also provide fantastic opportunities for people new to moths and moth recording to see a wide variety of these amazing creatures in the company of friendly experts. Most of the events take place at night, but some are morning sessions viewing moths caught the night before.
Members of Devon Moth Group during a moth trapping evening.
This year’s Moth Night celebrations take place on Thursday, Friday and Saturday this week (10-12 September), coinciding with the annual autumn arrival of immigrant moths. Across Devon and the rest of the UK, moth-traps, wines ropes and bedding plants will be deployed by thousands of people keen to see the amazing variety of moths that visit our shores or live year-round in our gardens and countryside.
For some, the focus will be on rare immigrant moths, such as the Golden Twin-spot and Clifden Nonpareil, borne in from hotter parts of Europe and even Africa on warm winds. Immigrant moths will come to moth-traps, but can also be attracted using wine ropes or ‘sugar’ bait, which provide a cheap, simple alternative. And, if you are not lucky enough to spot a rare migrant, spectacular local moths, such as Red Underwing and Old Lady, are also fond of these baits.
The Convolvulus Hawk-moth, on the other hand, has a particular penchant for Nicotiana flowers. Ahead of Moth Night 2015, some moth recorders have stocked their flower beds with Nicotiana ‘Sensation Mixed’, hoping to tempt this mighty migrant to their patch. With its 12cm wingspan, the Convolvulus Hawk-moth is one of the largest moths seen in Britain, yet it is capable of pin-point precision flight as it hovers to drink nectar from the deep Nicotiana flowers using its amazingly long proboscis. There have been lots of Convolvulous Hawk-moth sightings in recent weeks across the South West and right up into Scotland.
Aside from immigrants, there are many stunning autumn moths to admire at Moth Night public events or to search for yourself. Some are beautifully coloured with yellows, oranges and pinks to blend in with autumn leaves. Whatever you find, please log all your Moth Night sightings so that your records can increase our knowledge, inform moth conservation and be shared with County Recorders.
Please also keep your eyes peeled for moths marked with a dab of coloured paint on the wing. These are part of a Moth Night experiment to learn more about how far moths travel. In the days leading up to this year’s event, moths will be marked harmlessly at designated locations, in the hope that some will be caught by recorders taking part in Moth Night. If you find a marked moth, please photograph it and contact the Moth Night website or phone 01326 290287.
Of course you don’t have to do any of these things! Moth Night is what you choose to make it; a perfect excuse to go out and record moths somewhere new, perhaps filling a gap for the forthcoming national moth atlas, or organise an event to introduce people to moths for the first time. Devon Moth Group has two official Moth Night events, both at south coast locations where the chance of seeing exciting migrants is greatest, so why not come along (details of Devon events).
Moth Night is organised by Atropos and Butterfly Conservation, in association with the Centre for Ecology & Hydrology, and an array of prizes are awarded for particularly unusual sightings. Further information about how to take part, public events, bait recipes and more can be found at on the Moth Night website.
Captivated by caterpillars? Love larvae? Then our next indoor meeting is the place for you, as Barry Henwood (Devon County Moth Recorders) will give a talk entitled “Looking for Larvae”. This is the last indoor meeting of our winter programme and takes place on Thursday 26th March at the Kenn Centre, Kennford (www.kenncentre.co.uk) 19.30 for 20.00 start. All welcome.
Although moths fly throughout the year, opportunities for fieldwork are inevitably more limited in the winter. Therefore, Devon Moth Group organises a series of indoor meetings for members and guests.
Our first meeting of the winter, about how butterflies and moths use light to create colour on their wings, was extremely illuminating! (sorry about the pun!). Professor Pete Vukusic, an eminent physicist from Exeter University, gave us a fascinating micro-scopic tour of Lepidoptera wings explaining how the incredibly complex, minute structures on the surface of scales serve to create the appearance of colour without the use of any coloured pigments. It was a brilliant and accessible talk by a leading researcher in this field. The Prof will also go down in Devon Moth Group history for bringing more equipment to one of our indoor talks than anyone else ever!
Prof Peter Vukusic
The next indoor events is our Christmas Dinner, followed at the end of January by our AGM and what promises to be an amazing talk by artist, film-maker, naturalist, broadcaster & photographer John Walter.