The RSPB encourages the public to give moths a home in their gardens this summer by planting food for moths and their caterpillars.
Morwenna Alldis, spokesperson for the RSPB South West said: “In our UK gardens and green spaces we have recorded a staggering 2,400 different species of moth to date. And yet these furry flutterers are often overshadowed by their flashy cousins, the butterflies, who paint our summers with a rainbow of colour. But let’s not forget that moths have eye-catching markings too – a jersey tiger moth, cinnabar or elephant hawk-moth can out-bedazzle any painted lady.
“Similar to butterflies, moths undergo several stages of metamorphosis before reaching adulthood. They start life as caterpillars, which then pupate in a silken cocoon, before poking-out a feathery antenna to read the air for the first time. In fact, moth’s antennae help them to sense smell and navigate their flight. Most of our UK moths fly at night, whereas butterflies are daytime lovers. And when a moth lands it typically keeps its wings open, unlike butterflies who tend to close their wings when resting.
“Here at the RSPB we think it’s time to start showing our garden moths some love. Moths are vital pollinators for some of our wild flowers and trees. Perhaps a harsh truth to stomach, but moths are vital links in nature’s food chain too. They are also an important food source for bats and birds. At this time of year moth caterpillars are fed to many of our garden bird chicks including blue tits, great tits and robins. By following our simple planting top tips, you too can help give moths a home in your own garden.”
Plant Food for Moths
Morwenna explains: “Moths need to drink nectar for energy, so grow nectar-rich plants which flower throughout spring, summer and autumn. If you have the space, create a moth-friendly border around your garden. If space is limited, simply plant the below in amongst your other flowers or in pots scattered around your garden.
For night-flying moths in summer plant:
· Nicotiana alata - grow in the flower bed
· Jasmine - a climber to grow up a trellis
· Honeysuckle - a climber to grow up a trellis or into a tree
· Hemp-agrimony - a perennial plant about 1m tall, with soft, lilac heads of flowers, that will form a bigger and bigger clump each year
· Sweet rocket - a beautiful plant for the flower border you can grow from seed each year.
For night-flying moths in autumn try:
· Michaelmas daisy
· Sedum spectabile
Feed Your Caterpillars
Morwenna continues: “As well as providing sustenance for adult moths it’s vital to give young, soon-to-be moths something to munch whilst in their caterpillar phase. Butterfly Conservation advises that whilst some moth caterpillars will eat a variety of plants, most species rely on just a few specific types, if not only one. So the best method to ensure you’re keeping every caterpillar happy is to grow a variety of plants – the greener your garden the better.
“Native plants are preferable (although the caterpillars of the elephant hawk-moth delight on fuchsias); especially native trees such as birch, oak and willow, which are a favourite dinner for moth caterpillars. To get a better idea of what native plants you should choose, look around you local area and mimic what already grows there naturally.
“Planting a native hedge that includes a variety of species, is also an excellent way to nourish caterpillars, as well as providing safe highways and byways for our small garden mammals to move. It’s also really beneficial to leave an area of your garden un-mown so that some of your native grasses and weeds can thrive to feed the caterpillars, including: dandelions, docks, brambles, nettles and bedstraws.
If You Build It They Will Come – Enjoy Spotting Your Garden Moths
Morwenna says: “You’ve spent a few hours in the garden adding some nectar giving and caterpillar munchable plants and your garden is now a veritable moth Eden – next step is to take time out to enjoy the benefits of your work and spot the moths and caterpillars that now call your garden home. Take a night time stroll around your garden and let your torch reveal your garden moths enjoying a sip or two of nectar from your flowers. If you have an outside light, turn it on and see what moths are attracted to it – always have your moth guide to hand. Or set-up an overnight moth trap – an exciting activity, that always thrills children and adults alike and opens your eyes to the tremendous variety of wildlife that we share our homes with.”
To find out how you can give even more nature a home in your garden and create your own personalised plan based on your location, visit: www.rspb.org.uk/plan