Wednesday, 24 July 2013

Kirkwhelpington moth trapper

A night’s catch

We have just been up to Northumberland to help Brenda’s big sister Joyce keep on top of her fine garden. It gets a bit weedy and a little overgrown at this time of year. We always enjoy our visit, we are very well wined and dined and it is always lovely to see her.
For twenty five years, Joyce has as an unpaid volunteer, trapped, identified and reported moths. It is part of a national scheme run from The Arable Crops Research Institute at Rothamsted . Originally funded as a service to agriculture it now continues to collect data about climate change!

Every night of the year moths are trapped and subsequently recorded.
Some of you might have reservations about killing moths and other insects. Joyce’s sample only captures moths from about a fifty metre radius and the next trap is sixty miles away. No more insects are killed than on a long car journey on a hot summer night!

Each day Joyce armed with her tweezers sorts out the catch under her large illuminated lens

Those relevant to her search are pinned out and counted
Joyce can identify about one hundred different moths. She looks up new ones that she does not recognise. Her remit is to report particular kinds. She tells me that she used to pass on her catch to an elderly amateur entomologist. His eyes would light up like a child when his parcel arrived!

It is absorbing work
But those long latin and greek names are a bit of a headache

Two years Joyce attended a weekend gathering of thirty fellow lepidopterists who work in the scheme  Other than Joyce they were all male. They treated her right royally and talked moths incessantly. She had a whale of a time!

Joyce told me their names but I have forgotten them!

It is proving to be a very good year for moths in Northumberland.  There is no doubt that the present high temperatures are good for breeding. Joyce is finding species normally not found  in the north. They have wonderful evocative names. This week she has had a Pale Emerald, a Swallowtail and an Orange Garden Tiger. She is very excited to hear that a rare moth almost exclusive to Holy Island is doing very well this year.

Joyce has very fine taste, she grows rogersia!
And has a very fine garden
By complete coincidence BBC Springwatch  is doing a programme on moths on friday.


16 comments:

  1. I always find it amazing that people have a whole different attitude to moths than they do butterflies.

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    1. I was going to thank you for starting an interesting thread but Jane came in first!

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  2. You're right Sue, maybe its because we associate moths with the dark? There was a time when I was afraid of moths - I used to hate them around my face. Then the children came - and there was no-one else to remove spiders, daddy-long-legs and moths. These days (the kids are all grown up) I'm not bothered any more, and I find that with the way the environment is I try not to kill anything. (Except those tiny moths that eat our carpets and jumpers). I find also as I get older that I find beauty where before I couldn't. Somehow moths seem a lot more attractive and interesting than they did before. Joyce's job identifying moths looks utterly fascinating. And of great use too.

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    1. Thank you for your thoughtful remarks, Jane.

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    2. It's the same for me with spiders - as a little girl it was the 'done thing' to be frightened of spiders. Now I find them to be fascinating.

      Then there are bats. I once took my class of 11 year olds on a night time bat walk and we had silly comments from parents about being careful they didn't tangle up in hair. They just about fell short of warning to be careful that they didn't suck blood!!

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    3. I wonder how many of these phobias are instinctive and how many are due to silly parents!

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  3. Interesting thought. My spider/daddylonglegs/moth phobia was all my own - I can remember my mum being quite disparaging when I was little. But I also remember being amazed by my cousins' fears about rats/mice/snakes/bats - none of which are a problem for me. We tend to emulate our parents, so if they are afraid we will be. Having said that, my 19 year old son still has to have the bugs removed from his bedroom by someone else!! And he has no excuses!
    I think popular culture has a lot to answer for too. I'm sure Sue's school parent's fear about bats in the hair must come from a horror film - surely that's the most brilliant thing about bats - how they avoid everything?

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    1. Except the one time when one flew straight into David Attenboroughs face!

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    2. I remember how 19 year old sons can be ,Jane

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    3. Yes Sue, butterflies are more graceful and do not flap about so. I think moths get confused by artificial light and are more likely to flutter!

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    4. It was a bat that flew into Attenborough's face, Roger. It was shown on one of the out takes. He'd just commented on their incredible sonar detection. Personally I think Attenborough's voice had sent it to slepp as he always has that effect on both Martyn and me.

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    5. I can be pretty thick sometimes Sue!

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    6. So your brother-in-law told me. Two stories wellies and lawn mower!

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    7. I think it might be fun for me to do a blog and share my humiliation!

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  4. Hi Roger
    I wonder if Joyce knows about our website www.northumberlandmoths.org.uk many of her records are incorporated into the database

    Tom

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  5. Thanks for this Tom, I will let her know.

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