Dissection Dilemma

/ in Moth Reporting by Marek

Now that the Moth House was fully operational the recording process had become quicker and slicker especially when I began to recognise a few which I could release almost immediately.

This in turn meant that I could concentrate more on subjects that I did not know especially the smaller ones so as not to send examples of the same species for qualification by my support.

I had been told that sooner or later because of our location on the south coast that I was likely to come across examples that were maybe quite rare, and it was suggested that it was best to forward these to our county recorder.

There are many moths which decide to holiday to the UK from the continent although their numbers fluctuate considerably year to year.

These, alongside rare visitors to our area from further afield, are of great interest to the county recorder who confirms their identification and records them on a county level.

We can regard this expert as level two support and for the majority of moths he can provide these confirmations of identity for us.

There is however an even more elite group of oracles who we can regard as level three support and these professionals are our final avenue for identifications especially for the micro moths.

For the most part these identifications can be determined solely from the photographic evidence provided during the recording process.

There are, however, a number species, mainly micros (along with occasions when the candidates are too badly worn) where photographic evidence alone is no longer sufficient.

On one such occasion I remember a quote from one such oracle which read 'You give me a photo, I'll try to ID it, you give me the moth, I will ID it!'.

This posed an interesting question for me at the time in the light that I had also just seen a single picture of the moth in question on a site which had been determined by dissection.

Do I or don't I send moths for dissection if requested by the experts?

After a bit of thought the answer was rather simple in that I was using digital photography for my records and not the subjects themselves as was carried out in Victorian times.

This means that if two moths are so similar that they cannot be determined from a photograph then it made no real difference to me which title I gave them as my focus was just saving images which is not really the same as stamp collecting.

Also, if the moth is so worn that it needed to be proven by dissection then it was unlikely I would use it for my displays and I felt happier to release them unrecorded for their last few hours of flight.

The decision was made there and then that I would not be providing the actual moth for further examination as my intention was never for harming or distressing any of my models more than necessary.

This does not mean that I do not have the greatest of respect and regard for these dedicated professionals whose work is critical in determining trends, numbers and distribution to give us an insight in the health of our countryside.

I have not wandered blindly through life not noticing the rape and destruction of habitats that are crucial for the survival of our wildlife and it is these specialists who can provide the hard evidence to prove this fact.

Maybe all that will remain for future generations are pictures of the countryside and the wildlife I have been lucky enough to enjoy during my short stay here on earth.

This does not mean that there are no fatalities experienced during moth trapping which I will expand on with the introduction of the 'General' included in my next post.

Display case from the Victorian era of moths that had been sighted and pinned to the display
A Victorian cabinet post maybe!