I went to bed fully expecting to dream about moths, which I did, eventually, but as I lay in the darkness trying to get to sleep I pictured the air around the trap teeming with moths, glinting like shoals of fish in the deep. I imagined I had a long, extendable arm that went through the house and out into the garden, on the end of which a luminous blue crab-like claw swished a net from side to side – trawling the air.
|Green Carpet (Colostygia pectinataria)|
The markings were exquisite and I kept looking at it in its little glass observation phial as if it was a piece of Anglo-Saxon jewellery. After it had been properly documented it felt vaguely reckless to let it go, and I was annoyed when it flew over the garden fence and disappeared behind the neighbour's shed. The next one was also lovely: a rather graceful, pale coppery moth, clearly evolved to resemble a dead leaf. This turned out to be a Dusky Thorn (Ennomos fuscantaria).
|Dusky Thorn (Ennomos fuscantaria)|
All in all though these were not the rich pickings I had hoped for. Only six moths: one Green Carpet ; one Dusky Thorn; one Brown-Spot Pinion (Agrochola litura); one Large Yellow Underwing (Noctua pronuba); one Lunar Underwing (Omphaloscelis lunosa); and one Copper Underwing (Amphipyra pyramidea) - although this last one has not yet been confirmed and could be a Svensson’s Copper Underwing (Amphipyra berbera).
I was disappointed, and when Patrick came to record the results and dismantle the trap I felt a mild sense of shame, ridiculous I know, that my garden had proved such a poor moth habitat. He assured me that there are so many variables affecting the movements of moths that you can never predict what you will get, and that even over at Shandy Hall they trap next to nothing on some nights. I’m determined to get a better haul next time though and I may resort to positioning the trap nearer to my neighbour's garden and hope to lure some from their side too.
|Lunar Underwing (Omphaloscelis lunosa)|
That afternoon I started to think about the moth themed paintings I would like to do and the experience had certainly given me plenty of ideas. Back in the garden I started to see the patterns on moths’ wings everywhere, as if so much close observation had burnt them onto my retina. They were in the mottled greens and golds of rosebush leaves; in the colours of the overripe fruit on the compost heap; in the textures of moss and lichen and even damp paving-stones. Later, sitting inside and leafing through my moth book, looking at pictures of the ones that got away, then returning to the now familiar gorgeous wings of the Green Carpet, I realised that my own carpet was very dull and very drab indeed.
Post by: Martin Huxter