Exciting times here at Arne as finally, after the clear and crisp nights of the winter months, humidity and clouds have returned once again to our night skies. This means one thing and one thing only... Moths! The traps have been dusted off, bulbs replaced where needed, and dodgy electrics ignored by tactical application of plastic bags. We're ready to go. After a couple reconnaissance sessions we've found there are an abundance of things flying around already, albeit still distinctly brown, but nevertheless exciting and a taste of things to come. Arne is host to a huge variety of Lepidoptera due to the diverse range of habitats found throughout the reserve, which means, when coupled with our location on the south coast, you never quite know what will show up.
Emperor moths are the current catch of choice, on the wing from April to May, this stunning creature is widely common throughout Britain. Yet due to its immense size and appearance there'd certainly be no dismissing of one if it turned up in the trap. The likelihood of this happening is particularly good too as aside from bramble its food of choice is heather, something Arne isn't in short supply of. They were even spotted flying regularly on our summer Nightjar Walks last year (the first of this season beginning from May 18th onwards) so we have consequential proof they're out there!
Female Emperor moth - Female flies by night and the male by day
But even if this fantastic noctuid proves elusive to light there's still a wealth of potential out there. Given the mild winter we've had many species will be out and about earlier than usual. Scalloped Hook-tip was caught only two days ago, a delicate and expertly disguised little moth that you'd expect out towards the end of April rather than mid.
Weather permitting we'll aim to have at least one trap on every night. We'll then sift through our findings at the visitor hut upon opening at 9am, so feel free to come along and have a nose through as well. As the season progresses we may even look to run special trapping events at Arne, as ultimately that's when you get the real excitement of being there as and when the creatures drop in. It's something the visitor team here at Arne are passionate about and so if there's an audience for it we'll do it.
So leave the porch light on, keep an eye on your street lights and conveniently forget to bring in any white sheets from the washing line, as our often overlooked, night-time loving friends are starting to come out again.
Great article on Arne in the latest Summer edition of RSPB's Nature's Home - in the top 10 of RSPB reserves unsurprisingly :-)