majestic moths

majestic moths

This week, 17-25th July is national moth week. Celebrating these amazing insects and all the roles they play in our ecosystem. There are around 2,500 species of moth found in the British Isles. This diversity means moths come in a variety of shapes, sizes, colours and lifestyles. Here are some of the day-flying moths you might spot out and about this summer.

Distinctive patterns

Day-flying moths are often mistaken for butterflies, but there are quite a few species to look for in the day. The silver Y moth is one of the most common, often disturbed while walking through long grass. It is quite a plain moth, so look out for the distinctive shape on the wing that gives this species its name. The silver Y flies from May all the way through to September, often visiting gardens. This gives you a good chance of spotting one on a walk. 

Mother Shipton moths are on the wing into late July, and they also get their name from interesting markings on their wings. The dark brown pattern looks like the face of a witch in profile, and the underwings have creamy spots on. They also live in grasslands, flitting between flowers as they feed. 

Bright colours 

The cinnabar moth and five and six-spot burnet moths all look similar, with black wings and red markings. Cinnabars have broader wings with bright red lines on, while the burnets only have spots. Burnet moths also have beautiful think antennae and a furry body too. Cinnabar moth caterpillars have black and orange stripes, a warning to predators that they are toxic. the caterpillars get their toxins from feeding on ragwort plants. Unfortunately, ragwort is often pulled up. Ragwort can harm horses, and cattle (if eaten dry as part of hay), but elsewhere this plant provides an important source of food for many pollinators. It should be left to grow in the countryside. 

Moths have a vital role to play within our ecosystems. Moths are pollinators, food for many other species (particularly birds) and are indicators of the health of a habitat. If there are very few moths it is likely something has gone wrong with the ecosystem. More moths usually mean more plants for them and their caterpillars to feed on. Lots of moth species indicate a healthy habitat that is not degraded or polluted with chemical pesticides. 

Make sure to record the moths you see this summer using the iRecord app. Your data is sent to local record groups to help calculate trends in moth populations.