Saturday 1 June 2024

The Moth Odyssey

Two years. Almost to the day. On the evening of 2nd June 2022 I placed our newly-acquired, second-hand actinic trap on the patio, and switched it on. To suggest that such a modest action was like sailing out of a harbour in search of lands unknown would be stretching it, but the reality does feel like a bit of an odyssey...

Moth folk seem to like numbers, so here are some: the garden total - including aggregates (which count as one) - is currently 540, comprising 307 macros and 233 micros. I have no idea how that compares to what might be the national or county norm, but it seems like a lot to me. There have been scarcities, even one or two apparent rarities, and a ton of absolutely gorgeous common moths.

An odyssey would not be complete without its Sirens, and mothing has them. On way too many summer nights, the sweet song of a busy trap kept me outdoors till stupid o'clock, and I suffered the inevitable consequences. This year I shall be more sensible. Well, that's the plan.

2024 has begun slowly. Not just in terms of moth numbers/variety, but also effort/motivation. I decided early on that I would not be counting and listing this year. Life is too short, and there are other priorities for me right now. This low-key approach has meant far fewer nights out for the magic bucket, and that any moths caught have been carefully cherry-picked for garden ticks or photo-opps. Thus far we have added just four new species to the garden list, but a quick trawl through this year's moth snaps has revealed that I am still a sucker for just about any moth that flies. The remainder of this post is clear evidence of that...


I can't recall if the trap saw any action in January, but three nights in the first week of February produced a few moths...

A nice Chestnut.

Hebrew Character is beautifully marked.

Double-striped Pug. The first of many.

The year's first NFG (new for garden): Acleris umbrana (Dark-streaked Tortrix)

Dark Chestnut


Apart from that little flurry of activity in early February, I'm not sure whether the trap was out again until the end of March, but thankfully I wasn't too late for one of my spring favourites...

Oak Beauty - a big, furry stunner.


April efforts were equally sparse...

Brindled Beauty

Brindled Beauty again.

Our eldest granddaughter is quite captivated by moths. An interest I hope to cultivate. She has also declared her intention to be 'a birdwatcher'. I sense a project...


A lot more activity this month...

May 8th. Another favourite: Chinese Character

Common Marbled Carpet - there will be lots of these.

Muslin Moth

Iron Prominent

Scoparia ambigualis (Common Grey)

Puss Moth - another big, furry wonder

Caloptilia azaleella (Azalea Leaf-miner). Our garden continues to be a hot-spot for this species, with three already in 2024.

These bizarre little moths are almost other-worldly.

Quite recently I upgraded my phone. My new (though second-hand) Pixel 7 is quite a modest smartphone, but the camera is miles better than the one on my ancient Sony Xperia, and is responsible for both those Azalea Leaf-miner pics. I'm impressed.

Mottled Pug. Initially I thought this was new for the garden, but found out later that we caught three last year. A nicely marked, distinctive pug.

Flame Shoulder. Another common but striking moth. Radford's Flame Shoulder is welcome any time.

May 15th. Not a moth. Or is it? Dingy Skipper at Cogden.

The miniscule Cypress Tip Moth (Argyresthia cupressella) - 4.5mm of shiny restlessness. Another phone pic.

First Mocha of the year. Immaculate.

A very fresh Common Pug. Subtle, but intricately marked.

Foxglove Pug. Still waiting for its look-alike, the Toadflax Pug.

Least Black Arches. New for the garden, and no bigger than a ton of micros.

Another NFG: Syndemis musculana (Dark-barred Tortrix)

Somewhat paler than I remember, but I think this is Monopis laevigella, or Skin Moth. According to the Dorset Moths website it is 'commonly reared from Barn Owl pellets' in the county!

Blair's Mocha. By the end of May we'd caught a second. I am confident there will be many more.

Yellow-barred Brindle.

A pristine Freyer's Pug.

Bridport seems to be a no-fly zone for this species, so I wasn't expecting it. This nice addition to the garden list is Galium Carpet. The concave indentation in the leading edge of the forewing helps separate it from Common Carpet.

Notocelia trimaculana (Hawthorn Shoot Moth) is a pretty little tortrix.

Cabbage Moth. We've had a few of these. Another basically brown moth which is nevertheless beautifully marked.

A bit of a monster post, and well done if you've waded through all the moth pics to arrive here. In the absence of any need to list or count moths this year, I've decided to make a bit of an effort with pugs. We have so far trapped 22 species here, but it would be nice to add one or two more. In the meantime I shall try and become more familiar with the regulars. I like pugs. They are basically miniature gulls.


  1. Interesting post, great photos. Freyer's Pug is not a common visitor to me (just 6 miles away) and I've yet to see Syndemis musculana here.

    1. Thanks Mike. Didn't realise you were so close. I shall keep a careful eye on your Bluesky posts so I know what interesting moths to anticipate! 😊

  2. "I like pugs. They are basically miniature gulls". I wonder how many of your readers took a big inward groan at that line, and how many rubbed their hands together in gleeful anticipation :)