Way back, in the summer of 1994 aged ten, Benno needed a project to keep him occupied during the school holiday. All that mattered was that he kept a diary, of sorts, during the recess thus ensuring he didn't forget how to read and/or write. The brief was simple, he could make the project cover any subject he wished but, it had to be finished in time for the start of the new school year. Now whilst other kids, in his class, wrote about their holidays or growing sunflowers in their gardens, Benno knew exactly what he wanted to do. Thanks to the staff at Sandwich Bay Bird Observatory, Andy Johnson, Paul Brown and Tim Bagworth in particularly, we'd already been introduced to the wonders of moth trapping. His project, therefore, revolved around the building and running of a very basic moth trap in our tiny garden in the village of Ash.
Using just a 60w light bulb the catches were nothing to get excited about but, as it was our very first experience with moths, still hugely enjoyable. The highlight, for Benno, during that project was the capture of our very first Hawk-moth, a Poplar, which he wrote about with great passion. His primitive artwork, which accompanied the tale, just adding to the excitement we felt about this monumental occurrence. The primitive trap was soon superseded by another, home-made, version but this time incorporated a 125w MV bulb and associated electrical gizmos. By the time I moved away from Ash and settled, with Bev, at our current address mothing had become part of the annual cycle. Aided by some highly gifted moth enthusiasts, my knowledge developed as the various experiences were played out. It could have been Pete Forrest at Ham Fen KWT Res or with Craig Sammels in the woodlands around Crecy, in Northern France. My involvement with mothing was elevated to another level. I owned portable generators and several traps, moths have the ability to do that to obsessive characters like myself.
The early years, here in Dumpton, were rather exciting, as new species were added to our garden list. Obviously Bev didn't have a "Scooby" about moths and mothing, so it was nice to be able to share some of the adventure with her. Our first Convolvulus Hawk-moth was taken in October of 2001 and we were both stood in the back garden looking for the International Space Station to pass overhead when this huge insect crashed into the trap. Bev couldn't believe the noise it made, let alone the sheer size of the creature involved. My return to angling has somewhat dampened my enthusiasm for garden moth trapping, although not extinguished the flame entirely. With retirement has come another dimension to how I'm able to spread my effort. That gardening has been elevated from a chore to a pleasure is something which I could never have foreseen, likewise, the renewed pleasure of garden mothing has given me even more options for enjoying my encounters with wild life.
However, with this renewed enthusiasm has come a realisation of just how little about moths I actually know. The first incarnation revolved, almost solely, around the capture and identification of macro moths. In 2022 micro moths are fully established as part of the scene and, as such, I have so much more to learn, to the point that I'm almost back in the classroom.
|Euzophera pinguis - Ash-bark Knot-horn|
The incredible id assistance provided by the modern internet facilities are mind blowing when compared to those times when a copy of "Skinner" was as good as it got. Oh, and you might have been fortunate to have access to a copy of "British Pyralid Moths" by Barry Goater. I still have both on my bookshelves and now wonder how any of us managed to id anything using these publications for reference? Still, I've also both volumes of "The Moths of the British Isles" by South, dated 1965 thus a reprinted edition and, even more out of touch, a series of five volumes of Lloyd's Natural History, dated 1876 - yes that is correct 1876!, by W.F.Kirby on Butterflies (Vol 1 - 3) & Butterflies and Moths (Vol 4 & 5). Absolutely wonderful items to own, next to bloody useless for reference purposes.
|One of the Coleophoridae group. |
That I require to kill it to ascertain a positive id ensures it will remain "un-id'd"
|Crassa unitella - Golden-brown Tubic|
With this renewed interest has come a realisation that my camera skills and techniques require some drastic improvements. I can't justify further expenditure on equipment, purely for this purpose, so will have to up my game with the kit I already own. New moths and advanced camera skills? Yes, indeed, I certainly feel like I'm headed back to school.