Monitoring moths at Attingham

A Purple Thorn moth

Glowing beacons being placed around the site after dark. Just what is happening on the wider Attingham estate? Since April, once a month the Rangers along with external volunteers have been rising early in order to check on moth traps placed out the night before.

Moth traps come in a range of shapes and sizes but all follow the same general plan: a light bulb, either actinic (a fluorescent blue light) or mercury vapour, attached above a box that has a cone providing entry. These traps are a harmless way of attracting moths which are drawn to the light, where they can then hunker down in empty egg boxes within the box.

Come the morning we arrive early to turn off the bulbs and to cover the trap entrances to prevent any unplanned escapes. It’s then on to the task of identifying and counting the moths caught, a sometimes tricky task as the patterning on their wings can be very similar between species!
 

Volunteers getting ready to monitor moths on the estate at Attingham Park
Volunteers getting ready to monitor moths at Attingham
Volunteers getting ready to monitor moths on the estate at Attingham Park

If you think all moths are just little brown blobs that aren’t that interesting then you aren’t alone, but you are mistaken! The UK has a wide range of moths of all shapes, sizes and colours. From the almost butterfly-like Brimstone or Purple Thorn, the almost furry looking Pebble Prominent, or the stunningly coloured Elephant hawk-moth, there’s a surprisingly large amount of colour flying through the air at night!

A Brimstone moth at Attingham Park
Close up of a Brimstone Moth
A Brimstone moth at Attingham Park

After all the moths have been recorded they can either be kept in a cool, dark area until the evening to be released, or they can be deposited in amongst plants and bushes to keep them safe and hidden from birds until they naturally disperse once dusk arrives.

A Small Elephant Hawk-moth at Attingham Park
A Small Elephant Hawk-moth
A Small Elephant Hawk-moth at Attingham Park

The purpose of trapping and surveying the local moths is to help build a better picture of the different species living around Attingham. By knowing what moths we have it gives us an idea as to the likely food-plants we have on site, and can help inform decisions around land and habitat management.