Against all expectation the evening of Saturday 14th July was dry, with a clear-ish sky, not too cold and so the great Dart Valley Moth Hunt was on. At nine in the evening Dartmeet car park soon filled up with about 30 members of the DPA, Devon Moth Group and Devon Wildlife Trust all interested to see what the evening would bring.
Rob Wolton, Barry Henwood and Richard Fox of the Devon Moth Group had all arrived earlier and started to set up moth traps. We had originally intended to head downstream from Dartmeet a short way, but the waterlogged state of the ground made this impossible. Luckily the riverside in the car park, a stand of aspen trees just up the hill and a wooded area just over the road made excellent substitutes and a total of seven traps were set up.
The midges were the first to arrive as dusk fell – the more experienced moth hunters had brought insect repellent with them and kindly shared it around. Just as I was beginning to worry that the evening was too cold for moths they started to arrive. By the time it was fully dark the moth traps were a mass of flying insects, including moths, exotic looking parasitic wasps, flies and the ubiquitous midges.
Whilst a lot of the moths look superficially similar once you look at them in detail they have an ethereal beauty and many of them are clearly distinctive. Moth namers have gone a bit overboard with some of the names though. When Richard Fox announced “Oh, here’s a beautiful golden Y” I though it was one of his favourite moths, but actually that is its name, as in “Beautiful Golden Y”.
In total we found about 40 different moths over the course of the two and a half hours it took to do a first sweep of the traps. By then it was midnight and only a hardy few stayed to go around for a second time. My personal highlights were the Elephant Hawkmoth, pink and yellow-green and the biggest moth we saw, the July HighFlier, the White Ermine and the Lesser Swallow Prominent. Photographing them was impossible, but there is an excellent website with good pictures if you would like to know more. http://www.animalphotos.me/moth-.htm