Friday, 14 June 2013

Marvelous moths and brown butterflies

I was very disappointed whilst watching the final episode of this years' Springwatch BBC series, yesterday evening. An infuriated response was triggered from my sofa, upon hearing presenter Martin offer viewers that distinction between moths and butterflies is, generally butterflies are colourful and fly during the day, whilst moths are generally brown and fly at night. I am glad that he did not say that moths are small and butterflies large, (unless I missed that bit!). 
It is a commonly held miss-comprehension that moths a small dull boring brown things that fly around at night (and are a pest because they eat our clothes), whilst butterflies are hailed as the jewel of the meadow, dainty fluttery kaleidoscopic colourful creatures. Whist a significant proportion of moths and many butterflies do fit neatly into these categories, (except the clothes-eating, to the best of my knowledge there is only one species that does this and its the caterpillars that do the damage, not the moth itself!) there are numerous exceptions that defy the 'rule'. 
The Elephant hawkmoth for example. a carnival-coloured-creature of bright lime-green and pink. Or how about the Hummingbird hawkmoth, an exotic visitor that hovers around our flowers on summer days bringing a dash of Mediterranean sunshine. 
Sadly, I have not yet managed to capture photos of either of these glorious moths, however here are a few of other species; some favourite examples from my archives. 

This glorious and striking red and back Five spot Burnet is a day-flying moth, here photographed on Common Spotted Orchid (left) and White Clover (right)

The Meadow Brown (above) and Small Skipper (below) are very lovely, brown, butterflies. 
Beautiful and intricate, and brown!

Above is a photo of a female Clouded Buff moth, its bright flame colour caught my eye as it flew across the brown woody heather on a local heathland, disturbed by my passing feet.

The best little brown butterfly - the Dingy Skipper - even the person who named it doesn't sound impressed!

Butterflies and moths are having a very difficult time at present, with many species in serious and dramatic declines, due to habitat loss, and the effects of recent late springs and wet summers. Please visit the website of your local Wildlife Trust, Butterfly Conservation or Buglife (or many other conservation organisations who are doing great work and need your support) to find out about more about these wonderful insects and what we can all do to help.  

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