Ever wondered what goes on in your garden at night? Perhaps you sometimes hear an owl, or see a hedgehog shuffling its way across your lawn. If you're lucky, you might see badgers (last year's Make Your Nature Count survey found 10 % of people do!).
I like to think I'm fairly familiar with what goes on within its boundaries during the day.But what goes on under cover of darkness?
To find out, I've been dabbling in the world of moths. Mention moths to many people and they might well say 'Moths? They eat clothes!' Well, yes, the larvae of clothes moths do eat some clothes, but they're much less common these days because we wear less wool and fur. I don't keep my clothes in the garden, so moths are very welcome there.
In fact, a garden with lots of moths shows a healthy environment. And let us not forget that many birds eat moths, and their caterpillars are crucial for feeding young chicks in spring and summer. All those green caterpillars in the beaks of your local blue tits have to come from somewhere.
Using a special bit of kit - a 'moth trap' - I've been able to find out which moths are lurking in and around my garden. The trap is basically a wooden box with a bright light on the top. A sloping lid of clear plastic means that moths which are attracted by the light can't easily find their way out again, and I stack empty eggboxes inside for them to hide under. The bulb is left on overnight and I go and check what's inside it in the morning. Then they're released unharmed.
Onto the moths. This is the aforementioned 'elephant' - an elephant hawkmoth, that is! With that garish colouring, it certainly won't win any prizes for camouflage. Perhaps it doesn't taste very good, so the brightness is to deter predators?
This big fella is a privet hawkmoth. One night we had 11 of these big beasts in the trap - it's amazing there was room for anything else! Despite their size - they have a wingspan of up to 12 cm! - all the hawkmoths seem pretty friendly and docile. They perch on your finger quite happily.
In the moth world, you don't have to be big to be impressive. Though it's much smaller than the hawkmoths, this little beautiful golden y is one of my favourites. I love its intricate markings.
Another small but special moth is the buff-tip. It's spectacular in a different way: it's the moth that looks like a broken twig, to put off would-be predators.
And here's the burnished brass - very aptly named. It really does look like shiny metal in the sunshine.
One of the things that fascinates me about these moths is that they're mostly active in the dark! I'm not quite sure of the purpose of all the bright colours, beautiful markings and fancy shapes. I just know I enjoy seeing them. You've got to smile when you see a fluffy, big-nosed creature like this male drinker.
I'm starting to love the weird, wonderful world of moths. They have some splendid names: there's the leopard moth, the ruby tiger, the large emerald, the bright-line brown-eye and the brown-line bright-eye. (Hmm. Not sure about those last two)
The good news is that none of these species is rare. Though they look exotic in their different ways, they'll be in many of your gardens too. Why not spend some time looking for them? You don't need a special moth trap; you could try leaving an outside light on. Or put a white sheet on the ground, and place a bright torch on top of it. You can even make wine-based concoctions to attract some moths! Lots of RSPB nature reserves run moth-trapping events too.
We need to find out more about our moth populations, so you can help conserve them by sending in what you've seen to Moths Count.
But as to why moths fly towards light, it seems nobody really knows!