During our routine moth trap checks earlier this month, once species generated some excitement among the moth enthusiasts here at Lochwinnoch. Creamy in colour, slightly fluffy with delicately speckled wings, the pale prominent moth (Latin name Pterostoma palpina) has never been recorded on our reserve before – it’s typically found in the south of the UK and across Europe. It lives in deciduous woodland and it’s perfectly camouflaged in this habitat, as it closely resembles a piece of broken wood. It will even remain perfectly still when disturbed, performing the perfect twig impression! The larvae feed on the leaves of poplar and willow trees, and will survive the winter by pupating, wrapped up in a cocoon close to the ground, emerging in its adult moth form in the spring.

          The pale prominent moth (© Claire Martin)
We set our moth trap throughout the summer, and it’s great when something special like this turns up – and that’s the magic of trapping, as you never know what you might find! During our open day we caught a number of species with fantastical names, including beautiful golden yflame shouldersmall phoenix, white ermine, hart and dart, flame and a suspected hoary plume, which would be another first for the reserve (to be confirmed!). If you’re interested in learning more about these beautiful creatures, why not get in touch with the reserve and come along in the morning to see what’s turned up overnight?
What is moth trapping?
Moth traps generally use a bright light source to attract moths overnight. A large box or container has a funnelled opening, which once the moths enter, is difficult for them to exit. Inside the container, egg boxes provide lots of nooks and crannies in the dark for the moths to settle, ready for you to inspect in the morning. Once identified, they can be released unharmed back into the environment.

          The moth trap at RSPB Lochwinnoch (© Claire Martin)
Why is it done?
Trapping is a great way to investigate what type of moths are living in your local area – whether it’s your back garden, school playing field or local nature reserve. Many of these moths won’t be active during the day, and you’ll be amazed to see how many different species you can find. Trapping also allows you to get up close and personal – by placing the moths in plastic containers – perhaps with a magnifying lid, or by using a magnifying glass, you’ll be able to see them in close detail. Once you start looking closely at moths, you’ll be amazed at the variety on offer – from the ‘micro moths’ with wingspans of a few millimetres, to the enormous and gaudy elephant hawkmoth (just take a look at that luminous pink and green colouring!) there are moths of all shapes, sizes and colours to amaze and delight. Did you know that some moths even migrate? The silver y hit the headlines in 2016 when they invaded the pitch in huge numbers during the Euro 2016 final between Portugal and France – one even landed on Christiano Ronaldo’s face! These moths, named after the silver ‘y’ pattern on their wings, migrate to the UK from the Mediterranean, carefully selecting the fastest and most direct airstreams, many hundreds of metres above ground, and travelling a staggering 200 miles overnight!

          The incredible elephant hawkmoth (© David Palmar)
          The white ermine, so named as it looks like it's wearing a fur coat (© Joe Crossland)

If you don’t have access to a moth trap, you can lure moths to your garden with a sticky gloop made from bananas and treacle (full recipe here) which you can paint onto a tree, and wait for the moths to turn up for a free feed!
You can find out more about moths on the RSPB website – or perhaps get yourself an ID book from our shop next time you visit?
The moths captured during our bioblitz were as follows (click for more info and photos):