I have chosen to talk about MOTHS, yes moths.
I have chosen to talk about moths both because they are easily overlooked as most people prefer butterflies, but also because the Butterfly Conservation have just launched a Moths Matter campaign (see a screenshot of their post below or check it out on my twitter) and over the next 12 months are on a mission to change peoples perceptions on moths, so as a member and a lover of all wildlife I thought I’d jump on board. ❤😍🦋🦋🐛🐛🌿🌿
About the campaign:
Over the next 12 months the ‘Butterfly Conservation’ are on a mission to change peoples minds about moths, they are using this campaign to educate people sharing facts and information from their top researchers and blogs about moths in a different theme each month and later in the year they will be asking wildlife-lovers to go moth spotting in the dark to celebrate their 20th birthday in one of the UK’s most well known recording schemes.
Read more about the campaign below:
There are some 160,000 species of moths in the world, compared to 17,500 species of butterflies.
Over 2500 species have been recorded in the British Isles.
The difference between moths and butterflies.
First of all, how can you tell the difference between moths and butterflies there are some visually appealing moths that can easily fool you into thinking they are in fact butterflies.
Heres some tips on telling the difference:
- Antennae!- looking at the antennae is the first thing you can use as an indicator, butterflies antennae are club shaped with a long shaft and bulb at the end whereas moths are feathery and saw edged.
- Wings: butterflies tend to fold their wings vertically over their backs whereas moths tend to hold their wings in a tent like fashion that hides the abdomen.
- Frenulum: moths have a frenulum which is a wing-coupling device. It joins the forewing to the hind wing so the wings can work in unison during flight.
- Behaviour: butterflies are primarily diurnal, flying in the daytime whereas moths are primarily nocturnal flying only in the night with only a few exceptions.
- Development: a moth makes a cocoon wrapped in silk whereas a butterfly makes a chrysalis which is hard and smooth with no silk covering.
There are many reasons why moths are so important and should be appreciated more.
They are irreplacable and a valuable part of our ecosystems and as qualify of life indicators. Butterflies and moths are part of Life on Earth and an important component of its rich biodiversity. They have been around for at least 50 million years and probably first evolved some 150 million years ago.
They have educational value, aesthetic value, scientific value and ecosystem value.
Often overlooked (as butterflies are prefered) moths come in an array of beautiful colours species and have been studied for over 300 years.
Here are some great examples of beautiful moth species:
Cinnabar Moth (Tyria jacobaeae).
Garden Tiger Moth (Arctia caja).
Hyalophora cecropia otherwise known as the Cecropia moth.
(How adorable is this one! 😍)
The Hawk-Moth (Sphinx_ligustri).
The Luna moth (Actias luna).
You can’t deny that moths aren’t beautiful now 😍 one of my favourites is definitely the Luna moth and Cecropia moth.
Moths as well as butterflies have been an inspiration to people over the years and have been included in many forms of literature from the bible, to Shakespeare, to modern literature including poetry, artwork, numerous illustrations and musical lyrics.
They have also been the focus of artists worldwide, advertisers, and illustrators, butterflies and moths are often portrayed as the essence of freedom or essence of nature.
“Like a moth to a flame”.
The majority of people will be familiar with this phrase; referring to being dangerously or irresistibly attracted to something which comes from the well known fact that moths are attracted to light. This was referred to by Shakespeare in The Merchant of Venice in 1596.
Firstly, butterflies and moths are important indicators of a healthy environment and ecosystem. Butterflies and moths have been recognised by the Government as indicators of biodiversity- Their fragility makes them quick to react to change so their struggle to survive is a serious warning about our environment, where butterflies and moths are present other invertebrates will be present, they provide a wide array of environmental benefits including pollination and natural pest control.
Butterflies and moths are both flagship species for conservation in general, and in particular for invertebrates.
Moths along with butterflies have fascinating life cycles that are used to teach children (and adults) about the natural world- the formation of a cocoon or Chysalis is really is a wonder of nature, it will never cease to amaze me. You can also learn from their migration, amazing wing patterns, pollination behaviours, mating behaviours, how they interact with other species and iredecence- theres so much to learn from these little guys!
Moths and butterflies are an extremely important group of ‘model’ organisms used for centuries to investigate many areas of biological research including such diverse fields as mimicry, embryology, evolution, navigation, pest control, population dynamics and biodiversity conservation. The long history and popularity of butterflies and moths have provided a unique data resource on an insect group unmatched in geographical scale and timescale anywhere in the world- this has proven extremely important for scientific research on climate change.
Moths are declining in the UK. Studies have found the overall number of moths has decreased by 28% since 1968.
Many individual species have declined dramatically in recent decades and over 60 became extinct in the 20th century. Sadly, among the species which have declined are many beautiful moths which were previously very common and frequently seen in our gardens and green spaces.
The new State of Britain’s Larger Moths 2013 report shows clearly that moths are in decline. The total number of larger moths recorded in the national network of Rothamsted trap samples decreased by 28% over the 40 years from 1968 to 2007.
These alarming decreases in moth populations are not just bad news for the moths themselves, but also have worrying implications for the rest of our wildlife e.g. moth caterpillars are especially important for feeding young chicks, including those of most familiar garden birds such as the Blue Tit and Great Tit, Robin, Wren and Blackbird. Cuckoos may also have been affected as they specialise in eating hairy caterpillars, which most other birds avoid, and it has been suggested that the drop in our Cuckoo population may be linked to the decline in moth caterpillars like those of the Garden Tiger.
Already, research has indicated that a decrease in the abundance of bats over farmland is related to the decline in the moths that they depend on.
It is not clear what is causing the downward trend in our moth numbers. The reasons for the loss of moths are likely to be many and complex, and may vary for different species. More research is needed to understand what is happening. However, the loss of habitats resulting from more intensive agriculture, commercial forestry, industry and urban development are likely to be major reasons.
Other things which may be causing problems for moths include changes in the way we manage our gardens, pesticides, herbicides and light pollution. Climate change is also affecting moths. Whatever the causes, the decrease in moth numbers is a warning to us that all is not well with our environment.
Now I hope you will appreciate moths more, but you may also be wondering- HOW CAN I HELP?
Well lovely people that’s what’s next, look out for my next post which is about how to attract moths into your garden.
I am also going to post more articles on moths including:
- My favourite moths.
- Most beautiful moths in the world.
- Moths of Britain that are declining.
Butterfly Conservation Europe July 2008 (PDF).
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