Sunday 18 September 2022

Colour-marking Convolvulus Hawk-moths!

Well I didn't expect to be writing about this, not this year, not ever, but I will remember this year, Mothing-wise, forever!

Mothing pals know how much effort we went to in the last few years to attract my first Convolvulus Hawk to the garden, eventually culminating in success only last year. (Covered HERE ). So when I recorded another this year, barely a week in to July, while at work, kindly brought to my attention by a fellow Lep-lover of an English teacher, I was already a happy chappy. 

Six weeks later, what followed still just seems like madness to me - I've now recorded 23 more 'Connies' in the garden so far this year! Dates pulled from the fantastic, NorfolkMoths website:

A steady stream of Southerly air to the UK, opened up what seemed to be a Convolvulus highway, passing straight through little ol' Litcham (mid-Norfolk), with quite often more than one of these amazing beasts gracing the garden at the same time. It became the thing to do, to pull out a chair just before dusk and wait for them to turn up. Of all those recorded, only 2 have been actually in (well technically ON) the trap in the morning. Another couple visited the garden Nicotiana's in the middle of the night, but the rest have all turned up like clockwork, at dusk, to nectar on the Nicotiana's, paying no attention to the MV light right next to them. The best bit is, I didn't actually plant any of these this year. Not one. They were all self-set from the Nicotiana jungle we grew in the garden last year. Despite the complete lack of care (or even knowing there were even there!) and being left to do what nature does, these grew through just as well as the ones we nurtured last year and in fact, came through at staggered times, way better than I could've ever planned myself. Spot-on!

Top two pics a couple weeks apart:


This smaller patch of the shorter, coloured flowers at the back of the garden were nearly always ignored and I only saw a single 'Connie' visit them briefly one night:

So after the first few, I started thinking that surely this must be the same one or two that are feeding the same areas each night. No way I'm lucky/jammy enough to be getting different individuals passing through each night, right? I needed to know, so decided to start catching and colour marking each one.

I'd love to have been more accurate in this but I wasn't always around at the right time every single evening and there were a few nights I couldn't net this boheMOTH (see what I did there?!) for love nor money - one night, as embarrassing as this is, after a swing and a miss, I even did the whole check the net for a hole thing! 😂

Didn't do bad in the end though, managing to catch and colour mark 11 individuals. 

Red dots = how many marked that night:


So although I missed a few, it also helped to confirm that on some of the nights where I already had one in a net, the other that turned up after was definitely a second Moth and not the same doing the rounds. These 3 were in enclosures while a 4th (which I missed with the net!) was nectaring, so definitely 4 in total that night:

 It was quite a smooth operation in the end: net the Moth > trasfer to enclosure > draw a small line on a wing with different colours for each > photograph and record > release same night, or morning when weather took a turn.

'Left-Red 23-08-22'

'Right-Green 03-09-22'

'Left-Blue 05-09-22'

'Right-Red 06-09-22'

'Left-Green 07-09-22'

'Right-Blue 07-09-22'

'Right-Yellow 07-09-22'

'Left-Purple 08-09-22'

'Right-Purple 11-09-22'

'Left-Yellow 12-09-22'

'Right-Black 13-09-22'

 As of right now, there is a zero recapture rate with all these. Not seen a single one back again. I've not had another to the garden since these chilly Northerlies have been blowing but will be curious to see if they carry on where they left off, if/when the winds swing back round again any more this year. I can't stop wondering that if I've seen this many this year, than how many showed up that I didn't see?!

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