Surveys conducted by the Berkshire Moth Group in 2002 -2004 created a baseline of 273 species of moth and this has been added to over the years. In 2013, the creation of a yearly public event to celebrate National Moth Night, heralded a new era of moth surveying at Waltham Place. Teams of volunteers led by David White, Les Finch and latterly Bernard Clark, donated their time to survey here at Waltham throughout the year. As well as records of day flying moths and moth leaf miners, a small team of volunteers visit at night to survey using light traps. The resulting list stands at 565 species.
Our goal is not only to determine which species of moth are active here at Waltham but to educate others as to the value of these fabulous creatures. Here at Waltham our healthy moth populations support our bats and birds and assist in the mammoth task of pollinating our diverse array of plants. Moths have had a bad press, known primarily for the harm that clothes moths do and for the damage caused by certain caterpillars on crops, yet the good they do is rarely mentioned. We aim to redress this balance and highlight their valuable role in the ecosystem. With the overall number of moths in Southern England down by 40% since 1968 it is important that we note that something is amiss in our environment. We aim to start that conversation.
Highly individual and varied in appearance, some moths are as beautifully patterned as butterflies. From the green and black mosaic of a merveille du jour to the rosy glow and black ‘felt tip’ markings on the rosy footman or the vibrant pink elephant hawk-moth. Still others carry their beauty in a different way, cleverly camouflaged to resemble bark, lichen or the Autumn leaves underfoot. The buff-tip, resembles the broken twig of a silver birch whilst others such as Chinese character have evolved to look just like a fresh bird dropping. There is always a sense of anticipation at a moth trap as we never know which of these seldom seen nocturnal visitors will pay us a visit. Occasionally we are rewarded with a rare and fabulous moth. In 2015 a patient late-night trapper was rewarded with the shimmering blue bands of the Clifden nonpareil, the holy grail of moths. Waltham has by no means revealed all of its secrets, with 20 new moth species added to the site list in 2020. Some species have an affinity to specific plants or plant families, so our current focus is on trapping in different habitats across the estate leading to the discovery of more new species.