Autumn 2015. A very hairy caterpillar rescued from the tarmac path. We found a similar one a few weeks later in the holes on a brick, which we later moved into the Bug-opolis.

Autumn 2015. A very hairy caterpillar rescued from the tarmac path. We found a similar one a few weeks later in the holes on a brick, which we later moved into the Bug-opolis.

Mothing in the garden - we have done two overnight mercury vapour moth traps - on 4 July 2015 and at about the same date in 2016:

4 July 2015, we set an overnight moth trap (with heavy rain overnight) and the next morning counted many species of moth:

  • Buff arches; Bright-lined brown eye; Brimstone; Brown tail; Buff ermine; Burnished brass; Common emerald; Dark arches (lots); Dot mothElephant hawkmoth (10); Figure of 80Ghost moth - female; Grass vaneer moth spp.; Flame shoulderGrey dagger;  Heart and dart; Large yellow underwingLight arches (lots); Lobster mothPepper mothPrivet hawkmoth (5); Riband wave; Scalloped oak; Scarce silver linesSetaceous Hebrew character; Shuttle-shaped dartSmall elephant hawkmoth; Streamer; Yellow tail
  • In July 2016 we had 37 species (new ones in bold): bird cherry ermine, bright lined brown eye, brown tail, buff arches, buff ermine, buff tip, clouded border, clay, common emerald, common footman, common wainscot, dark arches, dot, elephant hawkmoth, large emerald, figure of 80, flame shoulder, grass vaneer spp, heart and dart, large yellow underwing, light arches, broad bordered yellow underwing, marbled minor, pepper moth, poplar hawkmoth, privet hawkmoth, riband wave, scalloped oak, setaceous hebrew character, shuttle-shaped dart, silver Y, snout, small magpie, sycamore, willow beauty, white line dogtooth.

In 2015, we also saw some butterflies and orange ladybird; spotted cranefly and summer chafer bugs. In 2016, another orange ladybird and caddis flies.

We'd like to repeat this moth trapping but, most of all, encourage moths to live and visit the garden. We can do this by planting plants that produce nectar throughout the year and also leaves (and roots) for caterpillars to eat.


Spring nectar plants include (information from the Butterfly Conservation charity):

  • Aubretia
  • Bluebell
  • Clover
  • Cuckooflower
  • Daisy
  • Dandelion - we had lots last year - we need to let them flower;
  • Forget-me-not - we had lots in the spring  they should self-seed.
  • Honesty - we have plants growing from seed;
  • Pansy
  • Primrose - we have some growing and can plant more;
  • Sweet Rocket - we have plants growing from seed;
  • Wallflower - we have plants growing from seed.

Late Summer and Autumn nectar:

  • Buddleia - we have at least one bush;
  • French marigold - we have lots in the meadow last year;
  • Ice plant (sedum) - we have planted chunks from the ones in my garden.
  • Knapweed - we had lots of this in the meadows last year.
  • Lavender - we hav plans and a few small cuttings.
  • Marjoram - yes in the nursery herb bed.
  • Michaelmas Daisy
  • Mint - a small plant in the nursery herb bed.
  • Red Valerian
  • Scabious - we had lots in the late summer meadow in 2015;
  • Thyme - four kinds in the nursery herb bed.
  • Ivy is especially good for Autumn-flying moths, because it flowers in October and November - we have some of this under the hedges.

Night-scented plants:

  • Summer flowering jasmine
  • Honeysuckle
  • Evening primrose
  • Sweet rocket - we have plants growing from seed;
  • Night-scented stock
  • Tobacco plants but only Nicotiana alata - we have garden varieties.

26 June 2016: brightly coloured caterpillars (of Cucullia verbasci) on a mullein (Verbascum) plant.

26 June 2016: brightly coloured caterpillars (of Cucullia verbasci) on a mullein (Verbascum) plant.

Food for caterpillars - leaves (and some roots) of:

  • Native trees, especially willow, birch and oak;
  • Native hedge species, particularly hawthorn, blackthorn, hazel, barberry, beech, spindle and privet.  We have some of these in our hedges.
  • Fruit trees and fruit bushes, especially apple, plum, cherry and currant. We have one crabapple, cherry plums, currant bushes and plans to plant others - and humans like them too.
  • Climbers, especially roses, native honeysuckle (Lonicera), clematis, hop and ivy. Honeysuckle and ivy are also good nectar sources. We have ivy in the garden.
  • Native grasses and plants generally considered weeds, including docks, bramble, plantains, dandelions, nettles and bedstraws. We have lots of all of these (nettles in the main park galore too).
  • Bedding flowers and herbaceous borders, including foxglove, primrose and thyme. We planted white and white-with-purple spots foxgloves this year. 
  • Exotic and cultivated plants: it is usually best to have native 'old fashioned' varieties but... the Elephant Hawk-moth likes fuchsias (we put a few cuttings in before the frost and hope they survived) , the Mullein caterpillar normally feeds on the native plant of the same name, but it also likes the closely related garden verbascums (we have planted some of these). It's worth trying  saxifrages (Saxifraga), dead-nettles (Lamium), yarrows - we have these growing wild (Achillea), knapweeds (Centaurea - we had lots of this in the meadow last year) and valerians (Centranthus). Some of these are also good sources of nectar for adult moths. 

Useful links

See the new CambridgeWild webpage for useful links.

Last updated: 1 February 2017