Community moth trapping in Kirkgunzeon, 08/07/2023

Having chosen the best night of the week, by moth trapping standards anyway, the community moth trapping in the village of Kirkgunzeon was without a doubt a success. Trapping on the night of the 7th of July 2023, a keen group gathered at the village hall where they were introduced to the inner workings of moth trapping and any questions answered. After all three variants of moth traps – Robinson, Heath and Skinner – had been explained the group collected their designated moth trap and departed to set them in or around their homes at a place of their choice.

The warm, dry night came as a relief considering the weather earlier in the week had been less than ideal. This filled most with hope for a good catch, but doubt was seeded with news that it had been more windy in the village than one would hope. Returning to the village hall the following morning with their traps in tow, these new moth trappers were greeted by the full SWSEIC team, assisted by three experienced local moth trappers.  Due to the large turnout of people, two groups were formed to speed up the processing of the traps.

Kirkgunzeon moth trapping on the 8th of July 2023

Trap 1 was a heath trap which as set up at Little Breconside. The first trap, although only catching 18 moths, contained 10 species; the most interesting of these was Shaded Broad Bar, a UK BAP priority species that has seen national population declines. This was the first trap to record some of our more common species including the UK’s commonest moth, the Large Yellow Underwing (which lived up to this fact being found in every trap). This was followed by Silver Y, a migratory species, the soon-familiar Heart & Dart and the equally ubiquitous Dark Arches.

Trap 2 was a Skinner trap set in a garden on the west of the village. This captured 67 moths of 11 species from which our first micro moths were found. The first of these was Brown House Moth which as its name implies is often found in indoors. The commonest micro found was the Cinereous Groundling which was first found in this trap. Two species typical of grassland habitats were the Light Arches and Garden Grass-Veneer, both of which have larvae which feed on grass.

Skipping over trap 3 for the time being, trap 4, a battery-powered bucket Heath trap, also proved of interest. Placed out at Drumjohn, 58 moths of 23 species were caught. Two of the species recorded are recognised of conservation interest (listed as UK BAP priority species) – the strikingly marked Garden Tiger and the Knot Grass. Both are known to be declining in the UK, though thankfully they still seem to be faring reasonably well in D&G, at least for now. A further two species of note were a male Map-Winged Swift and a female Bee Moth, two of relatively few species where male and females can be differentiated based on their markings. The Bee Moth has an interesting life cycle, as the caterpillar feeds on the honeycomb of bees and wasps.

Trap 5 was a Skinner trap placed at the SWSEIC office catching 78 moths from 40 species. One of highlights of the event was a female Ghost Moth who subsequently laid around 50 eggs including on the hand of a lucky member of the SWSEIC team. The males of this species lek in much the same way as grouse and can, on rare occasions, be seen displaying at dusk over grassy areas. This trap caught a number of uncommon micro-moths that were duly identified by Alison Robertson as Hoary Belle, whose caterpillar feed on the flower heads of thistles, Dull Red Groundling, a moss specialist, and Hawthorn Ermel, a leaf miner whose tiny larvae feed within Hawthorn leaves as a way to avoid predation.

Trap 6 another Skinner trap was set up in the village attracting 18 moths from 7 species. Our first moth from the trap was the Barred fruit-tree Tortrix which feed on leaves including those of fruit trees. A Smoky Wainscot was found in this trap as well, the ‘wainscot’ name (used for several different moth species) apparently deriving from the lines on their wings being similar to that on wooden panelling often used in Victorian homes.

Trap 7 was our final Skinner and was placed at Mossband. Containing 61 moths of 33 different species, this trap hosted some of the best catches of the day. The first highlight was Buff Arches, a rare species towards the northernmost edge of its UK range in D&G, and previously recorded locally at only at a handful of sites (a fact the onlookers could tell by the excitement of the regular moth trappers!). Our next rare catch was the delicate Lesser Cream Wave, a species favouring damp fen and boggy habitats (all the more surprising it is not more widespread in D&G!). The most stunning moth of the day was the Large Emerald, a species easily mistaken for a butterfly due to its large size, shape and stunning elegance. The demure Shaded Pug was a welcome find, a species until recently considered rather uncommon though there seems to have been a welcome spike in records in 2023.

Finally came trap 3, the Robinson trap, set at Upper Porterbelly. This large trap with a powerful light has the potential for the largest catch and it certainly did not dissapoint, capturing 291 individuals of 55 species. Common/Lesser Common Rustic were by far the most common species found on the day, with 99 individuals caught in this trap alone. Distinguishing these two species is extremely difficult requiring examination under a microscope, and so they are typically recorded together as an ‘aggregate’; one specimen was however retained for examination and was confirmed as Lesser Common Rustic which is usually considered the less common of the species pair in most locations. The trap also recorded three closely related moths – Lempke’s Gold Spot, Plain Gold Y and Gold Spangle – each adorned with a faux gold-leaf mark on their wing. Of the 22 species of micro moths in this trap, notable examples include Marbled Bell, Bud Moth, White Headed Ermel and Plum Tortrix.

That concluded the results of the previous nights’ trapping. The benefit of putting out several traps in different locations was clear; the slightly different habitats, trees and food plants available nearby meant that most traps contained at least one species that was not recorded in any of the others. The overall total of 590 moths of 88 different species (58 macros, 30 micros) was a fantastic tally. Of these, 14 species (5 macros and 9 micros) had not been previously recorded locally (i.e. in grid square NX86). A full list can be found attached below. Add to this giving the opportunity for over 30+ people from the village, and beyond, to enjoy some of the hidden and beautiful species living amongst them and it makes such days a special part of our work.

To cap it all, a surprising find whilst releasing moths from the traps into vegetation cover was a Holly Blue butterfly in the hedge row at the Maxwell Memorial Hall – a rather uncommon butterfly in D&G, and to our knowledge one not previously recorded in the village.

The SWSEIC team were ably assisted by the experienced moth trappers Alison Robertson, Anna White and David Forman, to whom we are extremely grateful for their help with identification and recording of the days finds.  Also thanks to Emma, Jane, Carol-Anne, Terry & Joyce, and both Fiona’s for setting traps in their gardens and contributing to some local citizen science! Special thanks to Ann for helping organising the event and refreshments on the day. A big thank you from SWSEIC to all who came along for your help in making the day such a success.

Kirkgunzeon Moth Trapping results Saturday the 8th July 2023

Malcolm Haddow & Aidan Bathgate

SWSEIC Support Officer and Student Placement


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