September Moths

Below are some adult moths (and one caterpillar) that are active during September. ‘Foodplant’ and ‘breeding plant ‘refers to the plant eaten by the caterpillar. The following moth species are nocturnal.

All images J. Harding

This is the larva of the Pale Tussock moth. This larva can often be found on or near the ground in September. The tuft of pink hair marks the location of the tip of the abdomen. It pupates under or near the tree it fed on. The foodplants are varied and include native trees and shrubs such as birch, oak, and Common Hazel. The adult moth flies in May and June. The moth comes to light and does not feed, relying on fat stored by the larva.
Rosy Rustic. This light-attracted moth flies from August to October. It breeds on Broad-leaved Dock, Ribwort Plantain, horsetails, and Flag Iris.
Beaded Chestnut is a very numerous moth in wooded habitats, including gardens, during September. Its foodplants are buttercups, clovers, chickweeds, and, when larger, broadleaved trees and shrubs, especially Common Hawthorn. This moth comes to light in abundance.
Pink-barred Sallow. This has a short flight time, appearing in September and October. The adult comes to light and feeds on Common Ivy and over-ripe blackberries. The breeding plants are willows and poplars, and later on docks.
The Lunar Underwing is an abundant species. The adult flies mainly in September and October and takes nectar from ivy and sugar from over-ripe blackberries. It is named for its moon-white underwing, appropriately ‘clouded’ with hazy sooty markings, redolent of faint cloud partly obscuring the moon. It appears in some numbers at light traps, and its ground color varies from pale yellow to grey. The breeding plants are Yorkshire Fog and other grasses. 
The Willow Beauty has at least two generations, the first June-August the second from late August to October. Alder Buckthorn, birches, Common Yew, and Scots Pine are among its wide range of foodplants. It likes woods and mature gardens. The adult moth comes to light and enjoys nectar from Creeping Thistle and Common Ragwort.
Ripe and over-ripe blackberries are eagerly sought by September moths and butterflies.
Moths are a major prey item for birds, especially familiar garden birds like the Wren, Robin, and Blue Tit. Birds learn to forage for moths early in the morning in areas where outdoor lights are left on at night.

Calm, mild September nights often yield large populations of moths. A car journey home at around 10 pm along our rural hedged roads will often give an indication of the level of abundance, with ghostly wings flitting in and out of view in the car lights. A glance upward at hedge-top height might reveal bats that will dip down to snatch a moth meal. Some moths are disorientated by light and will flutter against the base of hedges, kerbs, or walls that the light falls on. If a car is parked with lights on for some minutes, these moths can fall prey to frogs and hedgehogs emerging from cover nearby.

Moths are very important food web components. A healthy moth population is a sign of environmental health. When you see plenty of moths in your headlights, feel good about the area you are in!