A few highlights from 2018

It’s been a rather stop-start year for me in terms of mothing. I had a very, very hectic first few months of 2018 at work and didn’t really start the trap until into April. Then, a house move meant that late July and early August were also slim in terms of numbers trapped. However, the move to the new home, from Exmouth to Budleigh, brought some fantastic moths to the trap. Here, I’ve picked out a few highlights from the year to remember.

The Spring always starts with Orthosia – the quakers – for me; a favourite family. April 12th brought these four together: twin spot, small, common and hebrew character.


Ten days later I trapped Pale Pinion, a moth I was pleased to get and also new to the garden in Exmouth.

Shortly after the Pale Pinion, another of the beautiful wood-mimic moths dropped by in the shape of Chamomile Shark, new for the garden again, and a really smart moth:

Perhaps the highlight of May though was the Emperor moth that Matt trapped on a lure – surely the most amazing British moth in terms of its looks. A real stunner and a treat to see.


One of my aims for 2019 is to get a few lures and try to trap some of the moths that don’t come to light – the clearwings, for example.

A more mundane highlight for me on the same day that Matt trapped his Emperor, was the return of Treble Brown Spot to the garden. These are scarce, if not rare, but the garden in Exmouth does well for them and I’m always pleased to see one … here, a pair from different May days.

I think this is a beautiful little moth, the perfect woodland edge species, delicate and ideal for flying in dappled shade.

Moth numbers build during the year and explode in June and July. Though there were no rarities, the sheer number of different species is a celebration in its own right. Here are just a few to enjoy …

August saw us moving house, leaving Exmouth for Budleigh. In some ways it was sad to say goodbye to the garden in the old house. I’d started trapping there late in 2015 and so had had two and a half years. In that time I’d trapped 340 different species, of which 113 were micros and 227 were macros. This involved 2727 separate records uploaded to the online moth recording scheme, often of multiple moths, meaning that the total number of moths was much greater than this.

In this sense the old garden was hard to give up, with the feeling that there was still more to find. However, if I was feeling a little bit nostalgic it didn’t last long as the new garden started producing great moths almost immediately.

September began with two Portland Ribbon Wave on the same night, a moth I’d trapped just a couple of times in 2016 in Exmouth.

Then I got the scarce Evergestis limbata (Dark-bordered Pearl), a lovely migrant moth found in small numbers on the south coast.

Evergestis limbata

The next night I caught Box Tree Moth:


I believe this was just the second ever record for Devon, the first coming just a few weeks beforehand on the East coast of the county; though with their rapid movement north and colonisation in the south-east, it won’t be the last, I’m sure, and I suspect 2019 will see them popping up all over the UK.

As the Autumn drew in there were other moths new to me, even if not rare in general: L-album wainscott; orange sallow; and dark sword-grass.

But, if all these were exciting, the best was still to come in the shape of a mythical moth – a lifer if ever there was one. Clifden Nonpareil.


Many moth-ers go a lifetime without seeing this moth – though it is reputedly starting to colonise the south of Devon and I would be surprised if it didn’t become much more common as the climate warms. On the 28th September I was lucky enough to find the one above in my trap – it’s an absolute stunner. Yet, if that wasn’t enough, a few days later my son was playing hockey in Taunton on a cold, still evening, with bright floodlights round the ground, and two more flew over, one even landing on my bag! These moths are so big that you could be forgiven for thinking they were small birds of some sort and were so impressive that they gained the attention of all the watching parents, even those unfamiliar with moths.

After that, there was little that could top it, but the year came to a really good end with several other species that were new, and even one that was rarer than Clifden Nonpareil. First, though, Clancy’s Rustic …


Several White-speck, in different shades …

More nice migrants: Palpita vitrealis and Gem …

A moth fairly local to the south/south-west,  Mecyna asinalis …


And then, as if all this wasn’t enough, on the 17th November I trapped Oak Rustic – rarely seen in Devon, or elsewhere in the UK, with just a handful of records over the last few years:


This was a fitting end to a great year of trapping, full of new species for me, and meaning that I passed the 400 life-time species mark, as well as picking up some real rarities. Of course, with such fabulous habitat and the sea just 10 mins walk away, it’s a great place to be.


Happy New Year … and I hope you have a productive, moth-ful, 2019.


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Budleigh Salterton resident; keen birder; moth-er.

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