Magnificent Moths

Moths are wonderful. Massively overlooked and overshadowed by their equally wonderful and beautiful butterfly relatives. Many associate moths with their habit of eating woolly jumpers but it is in fact only six of 2500 UK moth species that is guilty of this crime! Let us forgive this and see them for what they are – fascinating and diverse beings.

Take the Lunar Hornet moth for example. See how it closely it mimics hornets to avoid predation.

Or the Chinese character that resembles bird droppings.

Weirder still may be the hawk moth caterpillars that, when threatened, swell their bodies up to the shape of a snake’s head with two huge black markings like beady eyes.

And that is just their looks. How about this for strange behaviour… moths locate others using scent and some can smell females up to 5 miles away. One species of bagworm moth even sacrifices themselves for their offspring. The females of which are wingless and live their whole life in a silken case. After mating, she pokes her head out of the bag and waggles it at a passing bird so that they’ll eat her and disperse the eggs, as these pass through the predator’s digestive system unharmed.

Unlike Butterflies, most moths fly at night (although some fly during the day). The best feature to differentiate the two however is the antennae. Butterflies have club tipped antennae, whereas those of the moths are feathered.

Whilst they are incredibly important pollinators, one of the major values to their ecosystem is in providing a food source to birds, bats, spiders amphibians and hedgehogs. A single pair of blue tits can feed their chicks up to 10,000 caterpillars a year and hence time their breeding with the emergence of the caterpillars. In the last 50 years, moths have declined by 33%. Habitat destruction, chemical pollution, artificial light and the climate crisis considered the major drivers of this decline.

Here at Lower Sharpham Farm we understand how important they are and have been regularly setting the moth trap to monitor the number and variety of species found around the farm. We hope that the home farm field rewilding project will culminate in an increase in diversity and richness of moth species.