Thursday, 25 July 2013


Finally, I've found the time to deploy my new toy!...Yes!...the moth trap has, at last, been put to use! (twice)..but, as you'll notice from the blog title, my first foray into the world of moth traps and mothing didn't go as smoothly as expected!!

The first night I set the trap up and turned the light on at around 10pm. It was a warm night so the excitement and expectations of a good catch were high, in fact the excitement was so high that I barely slept and was up and out at first light (4.45am!) to see what delights awaited.
Well, there were moths the trap, on the trap even on the sheet I'd placed under the trap! Then it suddenly dawned on me; what am I going to do with all these moths?  It hadn't occurred to me that I needed a container to store each individual moth in prior to photographing them.

So it was into the kitchen and a rummage (quietly, as my wife was still upstairs in the land of nod  and wouldn't have been best pleased if I'd  woken her up three hours 'early'!) through the cupboards for any sort of plastic container, pot, cup or tin...and the lids (why are lids not stored in the same place as their partners??)

Two forms of the same moth

So, back outside with my varied collection of containers and it's time to 'round up' the moths! problem!...night flying moths, they're lethargic and sleepy during the day, should be easy just to scoop them up into the containers and pop on the lid, right?...Wrong!!  Keeping in mind that we are experiencing the hottest spell of weather that we've had for the last 30 years or so and even at this early hour the temperature was starting to rise and the moths on the outside of the trap were not a bit 'sleepy'.. one touch and they were gone!  I did, with a little stealth, manage to capture a couple of the slower ones.  Now, pre-prepared that it might be tricky, it was time to tackle the ones inside the trap, I counted, through the plastic baffles, at least 35 visible moths and assumed that there would be more 'hiding' in the egg boxes that I'd placed in the bottom of the trap. I slowly slid out one of the baffles and WHOOSH! 90% of the visible ones had also gone!  Hmmm!..not going well! I slowly lifted out the first egg box and to my surprise clinging to it were four or five largish moths, now another problem arose do I try getting them into the containers or do I photograph them in situ? at least if I photographed them now I would have some sort of record! I decided to opt for the latter and tried to place the egg box in a favourable position for the best light and view. That done I now proceeded to try and get the moths into the containers...I'd read that if you hold the container under the moth and give the object that it's resting on a sharp tap the moth will fall off into the container...yeh, it worked fine, for the ONE moth over the container all the others clinging to the egg box had nothing to drop into and were... GONE!  And they don't need to fly..the ones that dropped to the floor turned into winged race horses and promptly galloped off to the nearest cover!

This one 'posed'

In the end I managed to 'capture' about 25 different moths, some of them medium sized macros and some smaller micro moths.

Now the next problem arose...How to get some 'proper' photos?  As the sun was now well and truly up, and the light was good, I decided to set up some different 'props' around the garden. Good idea? not really!...the first moth I tried to 'tap' out of its pot just flew away! The next good idea(!) was to coax the moth out of the pot by getting it to cling to a small paint brush and then transferring it to a suitable position for a photograph!...this worked apart from the time it took for me to put down the container and brush and to pick up the camera far outweighed to attention span of the moth and...yeh! flew away!!

To add insult to injury my wife was now up, ready and off to work, but not before she'd had a good laugh at the sight of me trying to get an uninterested bunch of moths to pose for their pictures!  I'd read that if you put the moth filled containers in the fridge for a while it does them no harm, but cools them down and makes them docile and easier to 'work' with!

So, with the fridge loaded it was time for a cup of tea, some breakfast and a rethink.

Suitably the moths! I thought perhaps indoors would be a better place to take the photos, there was good light in the kitchen...right next to the fridge..perfect!...uhmmm...what do we do when we're cold?..we shiver! What does a moth do when it's cold and fresh out of the fridge? it shivers!! to be more precise it vibrates it's wings to warm up the flies away!!

Another one that 'posed' properly!

With some perseverance  I did manage to get some, just passable, record shots. The only downside was that I now had a house full of moths, on the ceilings and hunkering down into the folds at the top of the curtains!... Who'd have thought to shut the kitchen door? took me quite a few minutes rounding them up and getting them back into the containers.

The second time that I put out the trap I was a little more prepared, I'd been out and bought loads of small plastic pots (and lids!)  the problem this time was that I'd not taken into consideration that it was the night before a full moon and the night sky was crystal clear with a bright shiny moon competing with my puny little 40 watt bulb so I only 'caught' about 20 moths. as the morning was a bit cooler I did manage to have more time to quickly snap the moth's before they made their getaway!  again though only meagre record shots!

The next big problem was IDing  all the moths that I'd managed to photograph... using my trusty reference book and the internet this took a lot, lot longer than I thought it would!  Have you noticed that the subjects pictured in the reference books look nothing like the subjects in the images that you've taken?

So, lots of mistakes made, lots of lessons learned and lots of problems to solve, mainly how to set up the moths and backgrounds for a decent photograph! (Any ideas welcomed!)  Did I enjoy it? bet I did!..I've seen around  35 different moths that I would probably never have seen otherwise and there's a possibility of seeing many more.

 Time will tell!

Sunday, 21 July 2013


Whilst processing some of my recently taken butterfly images I found these taken of a Marbled White (melanargia galathia) that had quit a few red parasites attached.

 I've seen butterflies with these parasites before but didn't really know what they were or what affect they may have had on their butterfly host. A little bit of research and I soon came up with some interesting  information....

trombidium breei  is the name of this particular mite that attaches itself to mainly the males, (but in these images they are attached to a female!) of Meadow Brown, Common Blue, Small Skipper and the Marbled White butterflies.  While attached it feeds on the blood of its host and will normally drop off after a few days. It can also transfer from host to host as they congregate on their food plants.

Incredibly they know how to attach themselves onto the area of the butterfly's centre of gravity (around the underside of the head) or longitudinally  along the abdomen so as not to upset the butterfly's orientation or its ability to fly!

The good thing is that the butterfly appears to suffer no ill effects which, I guess, is a way of the parasite ensuring that there will be a good supply of hosts for next year!

Tuesday, 16 July 2013


 This arrived in the post this morning!

Any ideas?

What about now?

Yeh, I thought I'd have a go at some moth trapping!

Hopefully I'll have some beauties to photograph? this space!

Saturday, 13 July 2013


With the warm (phew!!) weather that we're experiencing at the moment the butterfly season has well and truly taken off (no pun intended!). Over the last week I've been out looking at sites where I know that certain 'target' butterflies can normally be found, I was not disappointed!

Dark Green Fritillary (argynnis aglaja).......This large bright orange butterfly has a wingspan of around 63mm (2.5") and can be seen on the wing from June to August. The markings on the leading edge of the upper forewing appear to loosely resemble the figures 1338.  However, it's the underside of the wings that give this butterfly it's name with their considerable shading of dark green scales.
The adult has a liking for purple flowers and nectars on most species of thistle. It can be found across most parts of the country in a wide variety of habitats...from unimproved grasslands to coastal areas (especially where the vegetation has been suppressed by sea spray). It's range however is being considerably reduced by modern farming practices.

These three  images are of the male....the female is  much duller in colour. unfortunately I didn't manage to capture any images  of the one female that briefly flew by!

Silver-washed Fritillary (argynnis paphia).....This bright orange butterfly is slightly larger than the Dark Green Fritillary with a wingspan of around 72mm (just under 3") The male is a brighter orange than the female which has heavier markings and a greener hind wing. The forewings are slightly hooked at the outer edge giving the wing a concave profile (compared to the rounded edge of the other fritillary species)
The male has four prominent dark sex bands across the upper forewings. Again, it's the underwing that gives this butterfly it's name, with its diffused wash of mauve and green and four silver flashes.
This strong, sun loving, flyer can be seen soaring along woodland glades from mid June to late August often flying up and over the tops of the trees. The female can be seen flying low down around the bases of larger trees looking for crevices in which to lay her eggs.
The adult can be seen nectaring on its favourite Bramble flowers but will also use Buddleia and large thistles. It has also been known to 'sip' the moister from carrion, the mortar from house walls and the tar from roads. It's range extends across the Southern half of Britain from East Anglia to Wales and over to Ireland.

These images, again of the male (I didn't see a female!) are not that good as I had to shoot them over a tangle of brambles with the 100-400 lens at full stretch!!

Marbled White (melanargia galathea)....A misleading name for this butterfly as it is in fact a member of the family that is commonly known as 'The Browns'. However, its black and white markings make this butterfly easily recognisable.  The males hind under wings are slightly tinged with yellow whereas in the female the yellow tinge is rather more pronounced. It has a wingspan of around 55mm (2 1/4") and can be seen on the wing from mid June to early August when it patrols up and down over rough grassy ground in fields or along wide woodland rides and also along roadside verges, it prefers areas of taller grass. It nectars on a variety of purple flowering plants such as scabious, thistles and knapweeds. It's range covers the area of chalk and limestone of southern Britain from Hampshire up through the midlands to Yorkshire and over to South Wales.

Tuesday, 9 July 2013


The Blue-tailed Damselfly (ischnura elegans) is one of our commonest species and  is abundant from May to September in lowland habitats around still and slow-moving water. It avoids fast flowing and acidic water but is tolerant of brackish and sewage-enriched waters.

The abdomen in both sexes is mainly black on top with the exception of (segment) S8 which is blue or, brown in some females. Both sexes have two-toned wing spots (pterostigma) on the front wings, which are whitish towards the tip and twice as long as they are wide.

Male (typica)

Female (typica)

Apart from the typica form the female occurs in four other colour forms.

The violacea  form with violet sides

which will mature into the typica male type colouration or the olive-green thorax with brown S8  of the infuscans form as seen in the mating wheel (or Copula - 'in cop') below.

The rufescens form with orange - pink sides

 which will mature into the pale brown colours, with dull brown S8, of the rufescens-obsoleta form.

and seen again 'in cop' in the image below.

These are the most likely Damselflies to be observed 'in cop' as they can typically stay  in the mating wheel position for up to six some of the Dragonfly species, such as the Chasers, it can be as little as a few seconds!

* information taken from the excellent reference book... Britain's Dragonflies by Dave Smallshire and Andy Swash.  Published by WildGuides Ltd.