What's your biggest catch of moths?

Posted by Graeme Lyons , Friday, 11 February 2011 13:48

Mothing in the early spring can be very disappointing. In my garden when I was a kid I usually did not even catch a single moth until April. When we put the trap out at Woods Mill on Wednesday night this week we caught 20 moths and I was quite pleased with that. It reminded me of something quite surprising that happened in 2009 at Woods Mill. I put the trap out for the first time that year, a bit later than usual as I had been to Australia for the whole of February, it was the night of the 12th March 2009. It was unseasonably mild but I did not expect this!
It is to this day by far the largest number of individual moths I have ever caught in a single Robinson trap. 905 moths, 737 of which were a single species: Small Quaker. Here is the full list:

Small Quaker              737
Common Quaker         78
Hebrew Character       19
Twin-spot Quaker       10
Dotted Border             9
Clouded Drab              9
Shoulder-stripe            5
Oak Beauty                 5 (top photo)
Small Brindled Beauty  5
Chestnut                       4
Lead-coloured Drab     2
March Moth                 1
Satellite                        1

Tortricodes alternella 19
Parsnip Moth                1

Dytiscus marginalis    1

Mid summer usually holds the greatest totals where I have trapped before over the last twenty years, even when I have trapped in woodland before in spring so it was a real surprise. It was so much bigger than the next biggest catch I've recorded which was under 500 moths. I would love to know more about huge anomalous catches, please comment if you have experienced anything like this and particularly if you caught more in a single Robinson trap. I have heard stories about people estimating Silver-Ys by counting how many fit in a pint glass and then counting the number of pint glasses!

1 Response to "What's your biggest catch of moths?"

Pip Hil Sunmas Says:

That’s really interesting. Amazing the natural abundance. Makes me think about the rates numbers fall off with predation (and dispersal?) after a large emergence of an abundant sp. I was just comparing your list with ours of the nearest date - 17/3/2009 - when we had 196 moths, also in an overnight Robinson trap, at Flimwell. It was a similar range but only 101 Small Quaker – I wonder if there would have been a massive haul like yours if we’d trapped a few nights earlier. Also interestingly, there were no March Moth or Tortricodes on that date (though on 27/2/2009 we had 31 and 22 respectively):

Small Quaker 101
Common Quaker 49
Twin-spotted Quaker 12
Hebrew Character 9
Oak Beauty 6
Clouded Drab 5
Yellow Horned 5
Double-striped Pug 3
Dotted Border 2
Pale Brindled Beauty 2
Chestnut 1
Early Grey 1

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