WILDLIFE lovers will be gathered around the ivy over the coming nights as they search for rare and spectacular moths looking for an autumn lifeline.
An immigration of rare moths from Europe is taking place across the UK with the scarce Silver-striped Hawk-moth and Radford’s Flame Shoulder all seen in recent days.
These rarities have also been joined by spectacular immigrant species such as the giant Convolvulus Hawk-moth and Humming-bird Hawk-moth.
The Clifden Nonpareil, one of the UK’s most striking autumn moths, has recently been found in Worcestershire for the first time too.
A member of Butterfly Conservation’s West Midlands Branch made the discovery in their moth trap a few weeks ago.
Mike Williams from the branch said: “The Clifden Nonpareil has almost legendary status amongst UK moths and this is the first ever sighting for Worcestershire.
“This moth was once thought to be a very scarce migrant to the UK, but in recent years the species appears to have become resident in southern counties. Like so many insects it seems to be moving northwards, presumably in response to climate change.”
As part of this year’s Moth Night, an annual UK-wide event to record moths, organisers Atropos, Butterfly Conservation and the Centre for Ecology & Hydrology are asking the public to investigate their local patches of flowering ivy to help gather more information on the plant’s importance to moths.
Ivy provides a lifeline to moths, butterflies and other pollinators as it flowers late in the year when other nectar sources are unavailable.
Over the next three nights wildlife lovers are being asked to take a torchlight safari of ivy flowers and count some of the moths that are on the wing in autumn.
Many different autumnal moths are regularly seen refuelling on ivy blossom, including the beautiful Pink-barred Sallow, Angle Shades, Green-brindled Crescent, Yellow-line Quaker and Lunar Underwing.
Migrant species may be attracted too, such as the Silver Y, supping on the sugary nectar that will power their flights southwards to warmer climes.
For moths staying and overwintering as adults such as the Buttoned Snout and Red-green Carpet, ivy flowers provide an important food source as the moths build up their fat reserves.
All this insect activity has other benefits too – pollinating the ivy flowers will create the black berries that provide a winter food supply for birds.
Butterfly Conservation Head of Recording, Richard Fox said: “A quick check of ivy blossom on a sunny autumn day will reveal bees, hoverflies, butterflies and other insects, all making the most of this seasonal bonanza of nectar.
“After dark, the pollinator nightshift takes place and a myriad of moths come out to feed.
“For this year’s Moth Night, find some big patches of ivy flowers nearby and go back with a torch after the sun has set. It’s a fantastic and easy way to see some of the beautiful moths that are on the wing in autumn.”
Moth Night 2017 runs from October 12-14.