By Denis O’Connor, Wharfedale Naturalists Society

IN spring 2020, with the first pandemic lockdown being rigorously observed and wildlife watching activities restricted, I found some relief in putting out my moth trap to discover what had been flying round our garden while we slept.

By the end of May I had identified 60 species, including beauties with evocative names: purple thorn, waved umber, pebble hook-tip, oak beauty and small elephant hawkmoth, to name but a few.

This spring, however, the pickings have been much more meagre with April notable for many sunny days, but clear nights when the temperature plunged and moths were grounded. Nor did a conspicuously cold and wet May improve matters even when temperatures climbed during the final few days.

By the end of the month my total number of species recorded had reached 20 with never more than four individual moths on any one night.

However, among the few moths that did show up were some to remind me of why moth trapping can be such a fascinating pastime, while illustrating the amazing variety of moths’ shapes and colours.

Outstanding was a puss moth (pictured clinging to an egg box from the trap), one of the three moths trapped on May 13 and surely one of Britain’s most attractive with its furry body and legs and intricate pattern. I seldom see it more than once or twice a year.

Among just four moths in the trap on May 18 was a clouded border, which at first glance could be mistaken for a small butterfly for it rests with black and white wings fully spread.

One of the other moths was a scalloped hazel, a brown delta-winged creature which blended so well with the wood of the trap that I almost missed it.

Moths emerge at different times of the year with each species having a characteristic flight season. I am at a loss to know what happens to those which would normally have emerged to mate and lay eggs in April and May, but were dissuaded from doing so by the weather.

Will their populations crash with a knock-on effect for future years or will some simply emerge later?

Could this be just one more twist in the downward spiral of moth and other insect numbers being recorded across Europe as a result of our weather being largely dictated by the erratic behaviour of the jet stream, ever more unstable as a result of climate change?