In Lockdown with mothing to do – Pt1 – Pheromones

/ in Marek's Muse by Marek
Front photo of a moth, with a PPE face mask put over it's mouth
Good job I had the sense to wear some protection

At the beginning of the year our hopes were high for recording several targeted moths never likely to visit our garden.

We had, during the previous year, researched and visited a few new locations based on historical data collected from books and the internet which we were hoping would prove productive.

We also had our fifth visit to the Burren planned with the hope of recording the Burren Green, this corresponding to the termination of our current trapping licence in Ireland and being the climax of previous visits.

Suffice to say, like the rest of the world, we had never considered or expected the consequences of a pandemic with the impact on our lives.

Lockdown had put the kibosh on all our plans for the year and we were forced to make the most of a bum deal.

We had considered the use of pheromone lures quite early on when choosing mothing as a hobby but somehow put the idea on the back burner so to speak.

For my part being male, the thought of being on promise just to find I had been stood up seemed to knock the edge off the idea.

In lockdown however it was an opportunity for us to attract some new species of day flying moths called clearwings into our garden.

This group of moths are seldom seen by day. being rare and elusive hence a reason to produce pheromone lures.

It is worth mentioning that these lures are also manufactured to attract and kill unwelcome moths which can do substantial damage to crops.

Photo of the caterpillar of the Pea Moth eating a pea
I’ve been dying for a Pea

Our first experiment was with a lure not developed for Clearwings at all, but instead for the Emperor Moth which we thought being larger, probably less likely to be missed.

As we didn’t really know what to expect I decided to give it a try for the first time while my partner in crime was out shopping, not thinking there was any chance of an immediate result.

My study area overlooks our back garden, so I set the trap, went back indoors, and continued with my backlog of moth updates.

I had barely sat down when I noticed what looked at first like a hawkmoth doing kamikaze dives erratically in and around the garden.

My first thoughts were ‘what the heck was it, could it be, and what on earth am I supposed to do now’.

As luck had it, he stopped just long enough for me to catch it in a large pot I had to hand.

Next thing to do was to put the lure back in the freezer with the hope that this would quieten him down sufficiently giving me the opportunity to get some good shots for a new page before releasing him, be it unfulfilled,  back into the wild to find a real mate.

In all honesty the lure was money well spent even though it is unnecessary for us ever to use it again, as the page is now complete.

Over the next few weeks, we also had success with the clearwings which do not pose so much of a problem as they are caught in a trap, making the whole procedure more controlled and less nerve racking.

Just as I saw the Emperor flying at great speed into the distance my chief identifications expert arrived back from shopping asking if I had had any success!