From April to September 2022, our volunteers, Graham and Barbara, were moth trapping at Burrator Reservoir. We have done some moth trapping in the past but never for this long. This dedication has really paid off and has given us lots of records for this site.
Graham and Barbara used several different moth traps which all use artificial light to attract moths. They put out these moth traps in the evening, before dusk, and returned early the next morning to check them.
In total they found 171 species of moth! Highlights included species such as the Mother of Pearl (Patania ruralis), Buff-tip (Phalera bucephala), Poplar Hawkmoth (Laothoe populi), Buff Arches (Habrosyne pyritoides) and Rosy Footman (Miltochrista miniata). The most commonly trapped moths were the July Highflyer (Hydriomena furcate) with a total of 56 and the Large Yellow Underwing (Noctua pronuba) with a total of 38. They also caught the UK’s largest resident moth, the Privet Hawkmoth (Sphinx ligustri).

Below left photos (clockwise from top left): Buff Arches, Poplar and Eye Hark-moth, Privet Hawk-moth, Buff-tip. Below right photo: Volunteers using a moth trap.

“It was great to have the opportunity to trap regularly at Burrator and we were very pleased with the variety of moths, which included some uncommon species. We were delighted to meet such enthusiastic trainees and to share the experience with them. We look forward to repeating the process in 2023.” - Graham and Barbara

On many of their moth trapping sessions, Graham and Barbara welcomed our staff and volunteers to come and learn about moths. One of our Conservation and Access Trainees, Isabel (pictured here on the right), came along to several sessions and said

“It was so interesting to see so many different moth species. Finding members of the hawk moths in the traps, such as the privet hawk moth, the elephant hawk moth and the poplar hawk moth was a real treat.
"The diversity of moths in the UK is so high and coming out on these surveys with Barbara and Graham massively enhanced my appreciation of their beauty and complexity, be it visual complexity on wings, or patterns relating to their life cycles.
"I got the chance to learn more about trapping techniques, and specifically which species of moths typically appear in traps at each time of the year. I gained so much identification experience, and by recording which moths were found in each trap throughout the year, I could see species-specific patterns in abundance and diversity over time due to climatic factors, which was really cool.”

Not only has this given us many more moth records for the site which have been shared with the County moth recorder, we can also use this data to inform our management and with ongoing surveys we might start to see changes over time.The collection and sharing of records also allows regional and national databases to be updated. Butterfly Conservation say that ‘moths are declining in the UK and studies have found the overall number of moths has decreased by 28% since 1968. The State of Britain’s Larger Moths Report in 2013 found that two-thirds of common and widespread larger species (macro-moths) declined in the last 40 years. The losses in abundance were much greater in the southern half of Britain than the north’.
You can read more about moths by clicking here and how to identify moths that you find by clicking here

My favourite moth identification book is A Field Guide to Moths of Great Britain and Ireland (3rd Edition) by Paul Waring and Martin Townsend. For caterpillars, my go-to book is A Field Guide to The Caterpillars of Great Britain and Ireland by Barry Henwood and Phil Sterling. A huge thank you is owed to Graham and Barbara for all of their efforts this summer and for sharing their records.
We very much look forward to welcoming you back next year to Burrator Reservoir.

If you would like to get involved by volunteering with us, please email [email protected].

Emma Scotney