Kathy’s post about Gardening for the Bees was interesting – particularly because I love honey! But it made me want to encourage a similar interest in Moths. There are at least 2,500 species of moths in Britain and very few will eat your clothes!
Joe and I have been monitoring moths for the Garden Moth Scheme since 2013 when we were invited to enter a raffle for a moth trap. We think we were tricked! One of our fellow Volunteer Rangers at Jesmond Dene in Newcastle is a GMS Regional Coordinator and he was looking for new recruits! We didn’t win the raffle but he lent us a trap and a book and, as they say, the rest is history. We transferred to the South East Branch when we moved south and now we even continue through the Winter Moth Scheme…
The moth trap is a simple box with a light above it. The light attracts the moths and they end up in the box below with lots of egg trays to rest in. They are not harmed. In the morning, we open the box and identify and count the different species, taking photos of unusual ones. How different are our moth records here and in the North? For the last full year we were in Newcastle (2018), we recorded 290 moths of 61 species. Last year here, we recorded 844 moths of 143 species. Moths that hadn’t reached the North at that time were the Jersey Tiger and Box Tree Moths and we get more migrants here – some moths fly over the Channel!
My husband ( a beekeeper) recently treated me to a visit to the National Honey Show, which is sort of like going to RHS Chelsea if you are a beekeeper. Apart from an enormous number of jars of honey, there were talks available, and we attended one from Dr Nick Tew on “The role of gardens in supporting Insect Pollinators”. It was a really good talk, with scientific research explained in easy terms.
A few slides stood out for me – for instance, the time period for flowering plants in a garden, compared with a hedgerow or pasture. Most gardeners love to have something in flower all through the year, so although the volume of nectar/pollen in a garden might not be as high as in a meadow or hedgerow in full swing, it is available for a much longer time span. So in fact such a garden is more useful to insects.
There are some downsides to a garden – Nick calls it “horticultural bling”, a lovely phrase which unfortunately can be applied to a few parts of my garden (but luckily not many!)
A version of the talk is on Youtube, the link is below, it’s a good watch.
The Show was held at Sandown Park racecourse, and it was huge. It reminded me of a Horticultural Show in that it not only had classes for honey, but also eg craft and baking classes. The sunflowers shown here are made of wax!
I bought some sparkling mead from one of the stalls, took down a recipe for “Gin & Tonic Honey cake” and bought a couple of seed packets to convert my lawn into a meadow at some point in my dreams. The final stall we visited worried me a little, as it is giving my husband ideas!
CABAHS welcomed Val Bourne to speak at our May meeting, sharing her photographs, experience and knowledge of butterflies in the garden. She emphasised that she is not a butterfly expert (but she knows one!), she’s an organic gardener who has spent a lot of time observing butterflies, their habits and preferences – and, sadly, their decline in recent years.
Val explained how useful even a small meadow area is for many species, how some species rely on quite a narrow range of plants for nectar, and how the timing of a butterfly lifecycle is intrinsically linked to the lifecycle of their food plants. She stated that climate change – causing plants to flower at different times – is demonstrably messing up this synchronisation, so as gardeners it’s important to grow a wide range of butterfly-friendly plants to try to mitigate that situation.
Some examples of butterfly-friendly plants, and the butterflies that particularly need or enjoy them:
Plantlife are running their No Mow May campaign again this year. Don’t mow, then between 23 and 30 May, count the flowers in a random 1m square of lawn. Send in the results to Plantlife and they will calculate a National Nectar index to show how our lawns are helping pollinators.