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Enough to make a Maiden Blush

Moth trapping is a growing hobby, something that lots of birders turn to during the quieter Summer month and something lots of moth devotees have long done. A simple box or bucket is rigged up with a light source and then after the hours of darkness moths (and other insects) are attracted in. For moths a few cardboard egg trays are placed inside the trap allowing the wee beasties to roost up and that is where we find them each morning. Every night we set the trap and every morning we open it, like a treasure trove not knowing what we might find. Most mornings the trap is full of run of the mill species that we catch every night but we duly record them and pass on to the county recorder. But just occasionally a real jewel turns up, and that is what makes it such a fascinating hobby.

The trapping overnight on 8th September 2021 proved to be one of those sessions that produced a notable result, one that even made the national wildlife news info services! Half the trap was emptied and some nice moths were ‘potted up’ for ID and then released safely. Moths with interesting and quirky names such as Setaceous Hebrew Character, The Snout, Old Lady, Double-striped Pug, Svensson’s Copper Underwing, Shuttle-shaped Dart and Mouse Moth were all checked off and ready to enter on my moth catch database for submission to the county recorder at the end of the year. Then in the second half of my trap I potted up a moth that at first glance looked like a moth species that I have caught a few times in recent week, namely Blood-vein, but it looked slightly different so I put it to one side for ID later. When I came to check this individual out my instincts were proven to be correct and I quickly identified it as my first ever Maiden’s Blush (Cyclophora punctaria), which I knew to be a scarce Cheshire moth. A great catch and it really made my day.

I then started to check out the statistics on this moth, using the excellent data resources from Cheshire Moths and it became apparent that this was rarer than I had realised. Since 1945 there had been 40 records, many early ones were unsubstantiated claims from one location, and in the last 48 years just 22 records of Maiden’s Blush moth had been documented. To prove that I had actually caught the moth photos were required so I duly ran off several phone shots of this admittedly tatty specimen! I also noted that this was the latest ever Cheshire record for the species, a nice record to submit, and in fact the only September record ever!

I put the news out on a local Whatsapp Moth group as well as the Cheshire Wildlife Whatsapp group that I run. It was also put on Facebook and I let folk know that I would hold the moth until release in the evening in case anyone wanted to photograph it. A nice guy from BirdGuides immediately contacted me and asked for location details so that it could be put on their national news feed and I was only too happy to oblige.

What was even more amazing about the nights trapping was that I had to switch the trap off and block the entrance due to a Hornet turning up. I love these huge wasps but they can cause havoc if they get in a moth trap, dismembering and devouring many, many moths and then roosting up just where an unsuspecting moth enthusiast may put his hand when emptying the trap the next day, with painful consequences! The Hornet was trapped in a jar and moved to release a couple of gardens away and thankfully didn’t return. The moth trap was then put back into action.

The trapping of the Maiden’s Blush continued a good run of moths for me this year, previous nights over the last month producing several noteworthy species. Top of these was a Cypress Pug, a small, easily overlooked species, but this was a real Cheshire Mega!! Only two previous records of this recent colonist had been documented, so I’d trapped a third for Cheshire, amazing!

Another cracking moth trapped wasn’t rare but was a stunner, Red Underwing. Even the most avid moth-hater could not deny how absolutely gorgeous this moth looks, with its gaudy red hind-wings raised when its wings open and close.

It’s a real giant amongst UK moths too, as is the Old Lady moth, a speciality of my garden, I have caught good numbers this year. The Old Lady is big, but brown, and some would say dull, but the intricate markings make this another beautiful moth when examined closely.

Bright white and furry is the only way to describe another stunner that I have caught in the past weeks, Yellow-tail Moth. This beauty again isn’t rare but is always a pleasure to catch as well as being very easy to ID!

So why not have a go at mothing? It’s a great hobby and once you are set up with a trap just needs the willpower to get up early and start sorting all your moths for submission to your county moth recorder. Just one warning – this hobby is addictive, you will never give it up once you start!!

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