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The Moths of Ransom Wood


In 2011, we were approached by the RSPB with a view to their members being allowed to survey Ransom Wood. We thought this was an excellent opportunity to fully understand the flora and forna of Ransom Wood. The RSPB have many members who are interested in birds but also have expert knowledge of insects and reptiles.

Our friends at the RSPB asked permission to hold a series of moth nights on the Park. The first night produced many interesting moths, which are detailed below:

The Green Carpet moth was the most common moth caught in trap 1 with a total of 21. This moth thrives in woodland and heath-land of which we have both. Its bright green colour soon fades to a yellow colour with age.

The Small Phoenix again enjoys wood land and open spaces and its larvae feed on willow herbs. You can see them during May and July and then again in August and September.

The Brimstone moth feeds on hawthorn and blackthorn, both of which are found at Ransom Wood. During the survey only one of these species was found.

The elephant hawk moth is so called because of its resemblance to the trunk of an elephant whilst still in its caterpillar stage. The adult moth is coloured pink and green and drinks nectar from plant such as honeysuckle. Look out for it from May – July. The larvae feed on rosebay willow herb, a common weed / wild flower found on the Park. This moth was spotted near The Willows on the night of the survey. Only one was found!

FACTS:

  • Moths and butterflies are inspects
  • They form part a group called Lepidoptera ( it means scaly winged )
  • Each colour and pattern is made up of 1,000’s of tiny scales.
  • There are 2,500 types of moth inBritain
  • Some moths migrate to theUK, others live their whole lives here.
  • Did you know that an average brood of Blue Tits will eat 15,000 caterpillars   (mainly moth)?!!
  • A caterpillar splits and sheds its old skin many times before it reaches its maximum size. This can take weeks or even years!
  • Some moths emit a squeak to confuse a bats echolocation
  • Other moths have developed ear-like organs to hear the squeaks produced by bats.

Moths not only pollinate flowers but they are vital food for other animals. They are food for spiders, frogs, toads, lizards, shrews, hedgehogs, bats and birds. They have evolved some amazing camouflage in an attempt to avoid being eaten!.

Myths about Moths

  • Moths are not as beautiful as butterflies – Not true.
  • Moths only fly by night – Not true.
  • Moths are furrier and hairier than butterflies. Not true
  • All moths eat your clothes – Not true.

Problems for moths.

Many moth species are in decline including the luxurious sounding “White Ermine” which was spotted by the RSPB on their moth night.

The population of this moth has decreased by 77% since 1968. It is not clear why moth numbers are decreasing as many of the habitats are on the increase. Perhaps it is a sign that there is an effect due to climate change. I know that many people and companies are trying to reduce their carbon footprint which will help.

Helping moths

We should try to reduce pollution in the atmosphere and reduce the amount of pesticides and herbicides we use in gardening. Here at Ransom Wood we have imported lady bird larvae to the Park in an attempt to use “good” pest control. Another good idea is to plant flowers which give a large quantity of nectar. These could include bluebells, clover, forget-me –not, buddleia and lavender.

Caterpillars also need food to be able to thrive. They eat the leaves of native trees like oak, birch and willow. They also eat weeds like brambles, nettles and dandelions so an area left “wild ” in your garden would be beneficial.

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