Get To Know Butterflies and Moths

Butterflies and moths are beautiful and fascinating creatures, and good indicators of the health of the environment. This course provides an introduction to butterfly and moth natural history, identification and conservation, using a mix of indoor activities and presentations, plus field work in the varied habitats at Bishops Wood.

The course will help you understand how butterflies and moths use their habitats, and how you can find and identify them. We will also look at the opportunities for conserving these species in gardens and parks, and how to get involved with recording and monitoring them.

Spring Moths for Beginners

This one day course provides an introduction to moths; their identification, natural history and conservation. There is a good range of species to be found in spring, allowing you to get familiar with the main groups and learn about how to find and identify them before the busy summer season takes off.

Note the 2pm start time, and the late finish that will allow us to run light-traps to attract moths among the ancient trees of Epping Forest.

Lesser Swallow Prominent – one of many attractive moths that fly in spring

Snow cats in the Chilterns

Grangelands reserve under snow
Grangelands reserve under snow

Today saw the first reasonably heavy snowfall in our part of the Chilterns for quite a while, so we couldn’t resist heading up the hill for some sledging and to visit BBOWT’s Grangelands reserve. The air was crisp, and the snow-enveloped landscape was beautiful. I wasn’t really expecting to find much insect life to watch, so was surprised to see a small caterpillar crawling across the top of some fairly deep snow.

At first I thought this must be a one-off oddity, perhaps dropped onto the snow by a bird or carried there by the wind, but then I started seeing others. I found eight in a short space of time, all seemingly happy to be out and about on the surface of the pristine snow.

The dark speck in the lower middle of the photo is a caterpillar!
The dark speck in the lower middle of the photo is a caterpillar!

On closer examination at least some were caterpillars of the Large Yellow Underwing moth (Noctua pronuba), a well-known and very abundant species in the UK. I hadn’t been aware of its habit of being active in such conditions, but a web search leads to a number of American reports of similar snowy adventures for this species (see this post by Vermont naturalist Mary Holland for example, plus some additional photos on BugGuide). Large Yellow Underwing is an introduced species in America, and can be a pest species. Its winter activities are so well-known there that it also goes under the name of Winter Cutworm or Snow Cutworm.

I’ve always had a sneaking admiration for how well Large Yellow Underwing manages to survive in the modern world, but I’m even more impressed by its hardiness now! Has anyone else seen this snow-walking behaviour in the UK?

[Update at 15 December: thanks to Martin Townsend for pointing out that the brown caterpillar in the photo below looks like it is something other than Large Yellow Underwing, so it’s likely that at least two species were involved.]

Unidentified brown caterpillar on the snow
Unidentified brown caterpillar on the snow
Large Yellow Underwing caterpillar brought indoors for photo
Large Yellow Underwing caterpillar brought indoors for photo

Introduction to Autumn Moths

Autumn is the season when some very attractive moths are flying, some of which have beautiful colours to match the falling leaves. This one-day course provides an introduction to moths; their identification, natural history and conservation. The afternoon will be a mix of presentations and activities (classroom and field-based) whilst the evening session will be spent moth-trapping around the Centre as darkness falls.

NOTE TIMES: 2pm–10.30pm

Introduction to moths

This course provides an introduction to moths; their identification, natural history and conservation. Many moths are brightly coloured and distinctive, while others are less easy to identify. This course will help you sort out the different families and groups, and learn how to find and record them. We will demonstrate moth traps, and look for day-active species.

Course for BBOWT “Develop Your Skills” series. Please contact BBOWT for details.

Focus in on Micro-Moths of Epping Forest

This one day course provides an introduction to micro-moths; their identification, natural history and conservation. This course will help you sort out the different groups, and learn how to find and record them. This course is aimed at anyone with an interest in moths.

Developing your Skills in Entomology

Learn about insects – how to find them, how to identify them, what they can tell us about habitats. Includes visits to Surrey Wildlife Trust nature reserves. Book your place via FSC.

Talk: Marvellous Moths

Moths: contrary to popular opinion, they are fascinating creatures, often brightly coloured, and they won’t eat your clothes (with a very few exceptions)! Come to this talk at Chesham and District Natural History Society to find out more.

An Introduction to Micro-moths

This course provides an introduction to micro-moths; their identification, natural history and conservation. Although small, many micro-moths are brightly coloured and distinctive, while others are less easy to identify. This course will help you sort out the different groups, and learn how to find and record them.

The course is aimed at anyone with an interest in moths, especially if you’ve already got an interest in the larger moths and are interested in tackling the smaller species, many of which can be found by day. The course includes a mix of presentations and activities, indoors and in the habitats around Woods Mill.

An Introduction to Moths and Butterflies

Slapton is an ideal location for the study of butterflies and moths. The wide variety of habitats – woodland, reedbed, maritime grassland and coastal cliffs – will allow us to see some of the most attractive moths and butterflies in a range of beautiful locations. This course will appeal to anyone wishing to know more about them, and will cover how to identify the different species, their varied life-cycles and natural history, and how to help record and conserve them.