Apr 212020

Alan has sent me this list of moths that he has caught in his moth trap this year. The chances are that if you do not have a moth trap yourself you will never have heard of these species before. If you do know about moths then you will know most of these, as they are quite common. Most Lepidoptera (moths and butterflies) have English names, This is unusual for insects, as most only have a scientific name. But what amazing names!

Most of these English names have been stable for many years and indeed go back to Victorian times. The names are often quite beautiful, always interesting, and sometimes quite bizarre. Whoever named the moths had a good imagination.  But do they help to identify the moth? Can you work out, by looking at Alan’s photographs, which name applies to the moths shown. To make it just a bit easier I have highlighted 5 names to choose from for the 5 moths. Click on the link under each moth photo to see if you are correct. Try them all first! Don’t cheat.

Common Quaker

Small Quaker

Oak Beauty

Hebrew Character

Dotted Border

Beautiful Plume

Shoulder Stripe

Twin-spotted Quaker

Early Grey





Clouded Drab

Common Plume

Pale Mottled Willow


Nut-tree Tussock


Lunar Marbled Brown

Brindled Beauty

Brindled Pug

Double-striped Pug

Muslin Moth

I set up my first moth trap in 1984 and trapped regularly for many years. Sally and I now run a few traps in the garden each year. It’s fun and it gives a glimpse into the amazing biodiversity of moths. So how did I get on? One correct! The Early Grey – but I knew what that looked like anyway, so I cheated really. If anyone gets any of the moths named correctly  I will be impressed. Now you know the answers can you even work out what those who named them could actually see?

Recently the “Atlas of Britain and Ireland’s Larger Moths” has been published”. It contains about 25 million records of moths,  mainly from amateur naturalists like Alan and others in our RSPB group. The Atlas covers almost 900 species of moth. These records, during the collection phase and now are providing the data to identify moths in decline and helping to support appropriate conservation measures.

Like the majority of “mothers” Alan takes photographs and releases the moths in dense cover to fly again the next night.

Sorry if this post looks a bit of a mess in the email version. I can’t control that. It looks OK on the website.



 Posted by on 21 April 2020 at 9:47 pm

  2 Responses to “Moths – What’s in a Name?”

Comments (2)
  1. They’ve got some great names. So many more moths than butterflies in the UK to remember!

  2. Well after failing spectacularly to name any correctly, I did as you suggested Malcolm, and looked at why they had their names. Only 2 struck me. The Brindled Beauty, because I thought the fine speckled patterning was like the effect you see on man made items e.g. bricks. Obviously borrowed from nature. The other moth was the Lunar Marbled Brown. Even though it appeared grey in colour to me I thought I could see small moon like crescents on the wings. But as to the others, your guess is as good as mine!