Tag Archives: twilight

Mothy Nights

With such sunny long days it might seem a little strange to be talking about night creatures, but the long drawn out twilights of late June are the best time to see moths. There absolutely hundreds of species in Wicklow, and you don’t even need a flashlight to watch them as they appear very soon after sunset and the light is usually good enough to see in for an hour-and-a-half after sunset. A very handsome and noticeable moth which appears in the twilight is this one, the Buff Ermine (Spilosoma luteum):

A beautiful female Buff Ermine flying low above meadow grasses early on a June evening.
A beautiful Buff Ermine flying low above meadow grasses early on a June evening.

These moths often rest for days in one place and are particularly noticeable on walls near windows where they are attracted to the light. Here is another photo of the same individual, after it had come to rest on a blade of grass:

A beautiful Buff Ermine at rest - the fur coat-like hairs around their bodies give them the name 'ermine', as does the colour. Ermine is the white or pale winter coat of the stoat, which was used to make fur coats.
A beautiful Buff Ermine at rest – the fur coat-like hairs around their bodies give them the name ‘ermine’, as does the colour. Ermine is the white or pale winter coat of the stoat, which was used to make fur coats.

In this case the moth is a female, which you can tell by her straight ribbon-like antennae. Males have feather-like antennae which are used to find females in the dark by following their pheromone trails.

Some moths are not so easily photographed. An extremely common species in Wicklow is the Small Magpie moth (Eurrhypara hortulata), which can easily be disturbed in the undergrowth by day, but which flies very fast an erratically and will flee if you get too close. To make matters worse they usually perch upside down on the undersides of leaves. But here’s a decent shot I managed to get in daylight:

A lovely Small Magpie moth in bright daylight.
A lovely Small Magpie moth in bright daylight.