Having spent a lovely summer counting and sharing our encounters of butterflies and flying insects, we wanted to share some top tips in identifying our beautiful flutterbys.
There is still time to spot some of our favourites – the Peacock, Small Tortoiseshell, Painted Lady and Red Admiral can still be seen in the warm autumn sunshine.
There are also some terrific moths out there. A good guide will help, but here are a few common differences between butterflies and moths.
1) Butterflies tend to be more brightly coloured and are found active during the day. However, there are a few day flying moths which can be mistaken for butterflies. For example, the Mother Shipton moth (similar to the Dingy Skipper).
2) Wings are key features – butterflies fold their wings vertically, whilst moths rest their wings at their side. The antennae are also different.
3) Antennae are crucial organs. A butterfly antennae is straight and thin (scaled with olfactory pits), with a club tip at the end. Moths have a feathery, saw – like antennae with no club tip.
It’s interesting how the scales and pits on a butterfly antennae (capitate type) reflect and absorb light. The antennae detect pheromones, nectar and chemical nutrients (such as sodium, which is important in males for their reproductive cells). It also plays a vital role in physical communication between individuals.
At the base of the antennae, there is an organ which is covered in nerve cells. This sensory organ (Johnston’s organ) is found in other insects. It detects scent, motion and vibration. The organ also detects magnetic fields (possibly it contains iron oxide to do this) for navigation and is important in balance transfer during flight and landing in flying insects. How brilliant.
So, what mysterious moths can we find this time of year?
The Winter Moth, Angle Shades, Silver Y, Yellow Underwing, Mother of Pearl, Mottled Umber …… and many more.
For more information about Moth identification and recording, please visit these websites.