Sunday, July 02, 2006

Moth Trapping

Ever since I was 14, and used to go out collecting butterflies and moths with my friend Paul Sherborne (where are you dude? I haven't seen you since 1977), I have wanted a moth trap. However, all the books (and more recently websites), that I consulted have told me that the sort that I wanted was called a Robinson Trap, and it has always been prohibitively expensive. Then - a few weeks ago -I was staying with Corinna, and whilst she was out at work I was pottering about on the internet. I discovered a company called Bioquip , and it turned out that they sold moth traps.

However, they, too, recommended a Robinson Trap, and eventhough they were cheaper than their competitors by a long mile, they still charged over two hundred quid plus VAT, but they did sell a range of other traps, including something called a Johnson Trap, and as the total cost was only about eighty quid, I took a deep breath and bought one. Due to a series of cock ups involving those awfully nice people at my bank, the trap didn'tarrive 'till yesterday when I was nursing a hangover after spending an evening of high jinks with the folks who are setting up our web based TV set-up (but that is another story).

As the day progressed I got more and more glum. As many of you know I am bipolar, and as alchohol is a depressent I have cut down seriously on the amount of the fermented grape that I consume. However, I do drink on social occasions, and the social occasion on friday night had been a very convivial one indeed. As a result I was inclined towards negativity anyway, and by dusk I had managed to convince myself that my penny pinching had probably meant that my new moth trap was gonna be a disaster. "I should have waited until I could afford a Robinson Trap", I mused with the black dog firmly ensconced on my shoulder. Then I thought that if I waited until I could pay out two and a half ton on a moth trap then I would never get one. After all I had never been able to get one in the past third of a century since Paul and I sat out in the garden and plotted what we would do when we could finally get one. So I became even more depressed.

That afternoon David (our saturday boy, who is the same age as I was when I first wanted a moth trap) came along with his mate Tully. They are in the process of rehearsing a rock band to play at the school concert next week. Much to my great amusement (and mild embarrassment) they are playing one of the songs which I recorded with Lionel Fanthorpe and my band The Amphibians from Outer Space some seven years ago. And a jolly good job they are doing of it as well. But I digress. I don't think that either of them realised how bloody miserable I was feeling, and they did a really good job in the garden. As an afterthought I asked them to set up the moth trap, which they did, and then went home a fiver richer, to prepare for the school dance that evening...
I went to bed, and woke up a few hours later feeling a little better. As dusk fell I was talking to Corinna on the telephone. She really is a wonderful woman because when I told her that I had to truncate the conversation in order to test out my moth trap, she demurred with a ladylike grin (which I could hear in her voice down the `phone).
Mark switched the moth trap on, and for a while nothing happened. We sat at the little circular wrought iron table that we have put beneath the trees. It is a perfect place to sit on warm summer evenings, listening to the little sounds of the garden at night, smoking cigarettes and looking into the middle distance. Graham came out and joined us for a few minutes, before drifting off - a little like a creature of the night himself - to take photographs of what was going on on his digital camera.

Now, I don't know whether this was a result of my slightly hungover psyche, or whether in an overdose of emotion following England's World Cup defeat, Graham was in somewhat of a whimsical mood, but I am sure I heard the words "fairy grotto" muttered in a gruff voice from behind the trees.

Nothing much had happened after about forty minutes and I was getting bored. We had attracted and caught numerous midges and some small tortrix moths, but nothing of interest, when something large and yellow fluttered into view, hovered briefly above the trap and then flew in. It was a swallowtailed moth (Ourapteryx sambucaria) a common but striking species.

We caught and photographed it, and then suddenly the floodgates opened.

There were moths everywhere! Without exaggeration, it was like a feeding frenzy of sharks! Mark and I were in the middle of a mothy maelstrom, as these ashen winged children of the night swooped in from all directions attracted and befuddled by the ultraviolet rays of the Mercury Vapour bulb. We caught in excess of forty species, including a rare and beautiful large elephant hawk moth - a species I have never seen alive before in its adult state!

We are presently cataloguing and photographing what we have prior to releasing them again, and going through the whole process again tonight.

Thank you Bioquip! The trap succeeded beyond my wildest dreams, and although I am sure that one day I shall be able to afford a Robinson Trap, which (everyone assures me) will nearly double the amount of creatures I can trap, I doubt whether I shall actually do it. I don't know what I would do with that many moths!

(To view the pictures of our moths so far, go to the appropriate section of our Wild Woolsery picture library, and marvel at the diversity of what flies around each night in my own back garden)


Anonymous Anonymous said...

I'm interested in purchasing a Johnson Trap, but I live in the U.S. & can't seem to find anything like Bioquips...any ideas?

My email is


7:57 PM  

Post a Comment

<< Home