20th Anniversary Themes

To celebrate the 20th Anniversary of Moth Night we have two themes for 2019: The Clifden Nonpareil and migrants.

Clifden Nonpareil Catocola fraxini

The combination of very large size (11cm wingspan), stunning blue-banded hindwing and great rarity have made the Clifden Nonpareil (or Blue Underwing) a holy grail species for generations of moth enthusiasts. ‘Nonpareil’, which means “unrivalled” or “beyond compare” is an apt name for this impressive insect.

Apart from short spells when temporary populations were established in Norfolk (in the 1930s) and Kent (c.1935-1964), this magnificent moth has occurred in Britain only as a scarce immigrant from continental Europe since at least the 1740s.

However, the past decade or so has seen a dramatic change in the status of the Clifden Nonpareil. From about 2007, the species has colonised many counties along the south coast of England and continues to spread westwards and northwards. Big increases in records in Devon from 2017 suggest that it has now colonised the county and the first sightings in Monmouthshire in south-east Wales were made in September 2018; it also reached the Midlands the same year.

The Clifden Nonpareil is on the wing from late August to late October, so Moth Night 2019 in late September should coincide with peak numbers of this moth and provide a great opportunity to map its current distribution in Britain. The caterpillars of this species feed on Aspen and other poplars, so woodland, parks and plantations with these trees would be good places to target your Moth Night trapping, although the adults are very mobile, and many recent records have come from garden light-traps; it can also be attracted to sugar. The moth continues to occur widely as an immigrant, so it is also worth searching at the coast in suitable conditions.

Clifden Nonpareil showing the blue underwing

Clifden Nonpareil (C) Bob Eades

(C) Bob Eades

Clifden Nonpafreil (C) Mark Parsons

(C) Mark Parsons


Migrants - Top Ten from previous September Moth Nights

September is an excellent month for migrants, but it is all dependant upon the winds and temperature, and there is always a chance of one of the rarer migrants.  The following are the top ten migrants recorded on Moth Nights in previous Septembers:

  1.    Rush Veneer
  2.    Silver Y
  3.    Dark Sword-grass
  4.     Rusty-dot Pearl
  5.    Pearly Underwing
  6.    Delicate
  7.    White-speck
  8.    Scarce Bordered Straw
  9.    Vestal
  10.    Convolvulus Hawk-moth

Many thanks to following photographers for supplying their images:  Patrick Clements (Scarce Bordered Straw); Chris Malney (Vestal, Rusty-dot Pearl);  Mark Parsons (Rush Veneer, White-speck); Les Evans-Hill (Silver Y, Delicate); Paul Hill (Dark Sword-grass, Pearly Underwing, Convolvulous Hawk-moth).