When is a moth not like a buttercup?

Homes for Wildlife

Homes for Wildlife
If you love the creatures in your garden, you'll love our Homes for Wildlife project. This is the place to ask and answer questions about making your backyard wildlife-friendly.

Gardening for wildlife

Follow the adventures of Adrian Thomas, our wildlife gardening expert, and be inspired to create your own wildlife haven on your doorstep. Adrian posts here every Monday and Friday without fail, so make it a date and drop by!

When is a moth not like a buttercup?

  • Comments 6
  • Likes

This little beauty turned up in my garden moth trap this week, which curiously has the name of a plant. It is a Ranunculus, which those of you into your plant Latin names will know it is the  genus of buttercups

In fact, the moth experts out there will quickly tell me off, because it is in fact a Feathered Ranunculus. Now I can work out where the 'feathered' bit comes from - just look at those antennae on this male, which have feathering all the way along them so that they can pick up the weak scent of the females on the nighttime breeze.

But quite why this is like a buttercup - or indeed like the origin of the word Ranunculus, which comes from the Latin for tadpole - I don't know, Perhaps someone can enlighten me.

What I do know is that this rather coastal moth likes supping on the juices of overripe blackberries and Ivy blossom during its autumn flight period, while its caterpillars will happily munch on a wide variety of plants, but especially Thrift and Biting Stonecrop. It is all these things that add up into a species' Home Needs, as I like to call them, the things us wildlife gardeners should provide if we are to give a species the full suite of things it needs to survive.

And of course the first vital step is knowing that a particular creature is in your area. Now that I know that Feathered Ranunculi live somewhere nearby me, perhaps planting a bit of Biting Stonecrop might be a fun thing to try.

 

  • Hi Wildlife Friendly

    Yes, that light is all important. Even if the trap is home-made, at least splash out on an actinic light (looks like a small fluorescent tube with a soft blue light - it won't alarm the neighbours!

  • Hi Ratty

    Yes, Small Copper will use dock, but they much prefer Sorrel, which is a subtle beauty in a wildflower meadow. Nice work with your Brown Arguses - what an exquisite little gem to have in the garden.

  • Hi Jef

    Best time of year to make a moth trap? I'd say right now, because there's no time like the present! You won't catch many moths over the winter, but you will catch a few, and at least you'll be ready when the spring comes. Peak months are in July-September for species/numbers, but there's something different flying every month of the year.

  • We made a moth trap this year, I don’t think our light was bright enough as we didn’t attract a single moth. It has gone back to the drawing board and we’ll have another go next year. It isn’t such a bad thing as I have my work cut out with the butterflies this year. I’ve identified all that visited the garden and have a list of the plants they need for food and breeding, the moths will have to wait their turn.

  • I think your planting foodplants for specific creatures present is the answer because the foodplants of insects have been creating a dillema for me:  recently I learnt that Small Copper butterflies will use docks as a substitute for sorrel, but the bulk of the docks spring up in the veg garden!

    I usually leave quite a few 'innocent' weeds to grow and over recent years  have got alot of Dovesfoot gerananium springing up. During august I saw several Brown Argus butterflies here and reading up on them it seems they can use dovesfoot geraniums - so now I find myself carefully weeding around every plant in case they have eggs or caterpillars on them - all very time consuming.

    Now it has occurred to me that the best solution maybe to to keep a few areas specically for specific foodplants and try to hoe the rest very regularly so they never get big enough to have an egg on them.

  • Sorry, I can offer no further information on why it is called Ranunculus, but a very interesting read, I enjoyed it. The diminutive of rāna, is frog, and the moth does have similar colouring to a common frog? A very weak link I know.

    I have been meaning to make a moth trap for several years now and am ashamed to admit I have never got round to it. When is the best time of year to do this?