An Introduction to Mothing – Andrew Brown

Having been an avid, if amateurish, bird watcher for as long as I remember, 10 years ago I developed an interest in butterflies. With only 30 species really achievable in Norfolk, after a few years the hobby becomes somewhat repetitive, except that is for the exciting Yellow-legged Tortoiseshell which turned up on the reserve I created. I think with many hobbies, if you can’t move on the hobby can become less interesting. I believe many ornithologists develop an interest in butterflies for this reason.
For reasons I don’t now understand, I vowed never to develop a close interest in moths. But I am so glad that I did. I would urge any member to consider taking it up, especially under current circumstances. It is the perfect hobby to enjoy for long periods of being locked down, and something to get up for most mornings because moths appear year-round with a constant cycle of different species.
The website is a mine of information and is brilliantly managed with encyclopaedic information on over 600 macro species and 1200 micro species which can be seen in the county. Every day you enter the species you have seen or trapped on their website to help build up a marvellous picture of moth distribution in the county.
It is not an expensive hobby. You can obtain the equipment you need from Anglian Lepidopterist Supplies, a local company which at the moment would have to be dealt with by mail order or arranged collection. It is probably advisable to start with an Actinic trap rather than the more powerful MV trap which can produce numbers of moths too difficult and numerous for a beginner to deal with. Advice is available by phone. You also need access to a computer to record your moths together with a compatible camera on which to record your trappings to facilitate recording and identification.
At the beginning it can be difficult to identify some of the moths you trap. I have been trapping for 2 years now and still need help identifying some species. In that time I have recorded more than 600 moths, at least 500 of them in my own garden. There are also included in the figures above about 80 day-flying moths mostly seen on heaths and fens. Some fly night and day.
Moths are often variable and can change colour and appearance as they age and wear, particularly in the case of the longer living moths. I asked an experienced “mother” to help me with identification and I still check with him if I am not sure and when I have little idea what a new moth is. The Norfolk Moths website is an excellent guide to identification with tens of thousands of pictures submitted by members in addition to recording their sightings.
Although still a comparative novice I would be happy to help a couple of beginners and I am sure there are other WVBS mothers who would do the same. Give it some thought.

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