I recorded 305 species of moth in my garden in 2020, which is slightly down from the past few years; I didn’t run the trap much in the autumn because of the weather, which will account for some of the difference. This was my fifth year running a moth trap, and the number of new species is declining; this year I ‘only’ added 26 species to the garden list, which now stands at 574. That number is remarkable, but there are still plenty of relatively common species that I haven’t had.
The most striking looking new species were a huge Privet Hawk-moth, the amazingly pink Small Elephant Hawk-moth, and Buff-tip, famous for its uncanny camouflage to look like a broken twig.
Another remarkable mimic is the Hornet Moth, with its clear wings and stripy yellow and black body that make it genuinely look more like a wasp than a moth. I haven’t seen an adult moth, sadly, but the caterpillars live inside the trunks of poplars, and I found large exit holes with the remains of the chrysalis at the base of poplar trunks in Dulwich Park and Brockwell Park. It’s unlikely to come to light, but my sister gave me moth pheromones for Christmas, and Hornet Moth is one of the species I can hope to attract.
I also had was what was approximately the third Surrey record of the migrant moth Udea fulvalis (Dulwich is still in Surrey for nature recording purposes). And in Dulwich Park I found the nationally scarce Dystebenna stephensi, a tiny mottled moth which can be found in July resting on the trunks of oak trees. The book Smaller Moths of Surrey has a record in Dulwich Park from 1948; I don’t know if they have been there all along, it may well have been 70 years since someone went to look for them.
The final, most notable record is not actually new; in 2017 I had a little moth which seemed to be a close match for Caloptilia honoratella, a species which had not been recorded in the UK — although it had been spreading westwards across Europe. At the time, the Surrey moth recorder was, understandably enough, not willing to accept it as a new species for the UK on the basis of a photograph without a specimen. However, since then there have been several confirmed records from southern England, and on that basis he has accepted my record. I never imagined, when I started running a moth trap, that I might end up getting a first for the UK; I was just curious about what kinds of moths were in the garden!
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