Biodiversity Fact File: Moths

Monday 26th September 2016


At this time of year, with the nights drawing in, moths are more visible flying around, especially as they are attracted to the bright lights from our windows.

Moths have spectacular names and are often just as brightly coloured as some of our butterflies.

They are an important food source for rodents, some species of owls, some species of lizards, and indeed recent research has revealed that some moths even emit a clicking noise to fool the bats echolocation system.

Crimson and gold moth
We have the beautiful but endangered scarce crimson and gold moth on the island. It is classed as a micromoth having a wing span 14-18mm and is a beautiful yellow colour with dark pink borders and lines midway across its wings. The larvae feed on common sage, rosemary and thyme, it’s prime habitat being sand dune systems. The adult can be seen from June until August.

Grey moth
A less flamboyant moth is the grey moth. Located also in the Western Isles of Scotland and southern Ireland, it is found close to rocky shores and it’s larvae feed on sea campion and over wintering as pupa. With a wing span of 32-37mm it can easily be over looked as it blends in well with our Manx slates and can be notoriously hard to spot as it is of a similar grey colour. It belongs to the Noctuidae family some of which have tiny organs in their ears which will react to bat echolocation hunting techniques, sending the moth’s wing muscles into spasm and causing the moths suddenly plummet, helping them to escape from the bats. It is a red data book species and quite rare.

Thrift clearwing
Another scarce moth is the thrift clearwing, another moth that prefers the rocky coast line around the island. With it’s clear wings, like those of a fly, it is often not thought of as a moth by the casual passerby. The caterpillar, which is very maggot-like, feeds on the roots of thrift or sea-pink. The adult moth is out in June and July, and seems to have a liking for the flowers of thyme. They are daytiime fliers and very active during sunny days.

Tagged with: Autumn, Biodiversity, Moths