Autumn Events Part 1: Bat & Moth Night

How lucky we were last month to come together (in a socially-distanced manner) to enjoy the gorgeous season and all that the arboretum has to offer?  Sadly because of the new lockdown we are not holding any public events in November, but we were delighted to invite you into the woods in October for our Bat & Moth Night and Autumn Open Day with Tree Planting. This is the first of two blog posts about that weekend.

On Friday evening visitors arrived to the magic of a candlelit campfire area. After a hot drink by the fire in the roundhouse they were invited on a torch-lit walk around the site. We carried fancy bat-detecting gadgets and had moth-trapping devices set-up around the woods.   We partnered with Butterfly Conservation to run the event; their staff, Matt and Jen, had even painted a sticky treacle mixture onto trees for two days ahead of the event to attract moths for our viewing pleasure.  

The time of year and the temperature on the night meant that we heard very few bats via our detectors (and saw even fewer with our torch light); a few moths were attracted to the bright lights of the moth traps, but the sticky treacle mixture attracted more hornets and slugs than lepidoptera (moths or butterflies!). You’d be forgiven for reading that and thinking our Bat & Moth Night was a damp squib, but Matt and Jen are so passionate, knowledgeable and engaging that everyone had a really wonderful time. And what isn’t there to enjoy about the excitement of going on a torch-lit walk around an old arboretum and discovering lots of fascinating new things about wildlife?  

We heard a redwing and discovered that they migrate at night to avoid predation. We were told all about the differences between the native European hornet and the non-native Asian hornet, and the gory way in which the latter preys on honey bees.  Apparently the oldest recorded bat in the UK was 41 years old! After mating in the autumn, a female holds a male’s sperm all winter before fertilising an egg.  The privet hawk moth lives in its pupal stage (inside a chrysalis) for upwards of 18 months! And whilst there are 59 known species of butterfly in the UK, there are around 2,500 species of moth.

If you’re interested in what bats sound like (adult humans can’t hear them without the help of a detector to tune into their frequencies) then it’s well worth having a listen to some recordings here.  We know from the Bat & Moth Night, and a recce two weeks earlier, that we have common pipistrelle (Pipistrellus pipistrellus), soprano pipistrelle (Pipistrellus pygmaeus), serotine (Eptesicus serotinus), and Daubenton’s bats (Myotis daubentonii) at the arboretum.

The identified moths that we saw at the arboretum that night included the black rustic and a satellite moth.  We also heard a tawny owl, deer and dark bush crickets.

Staff, volunteers and visitors were all buzzing at the end of the night, and we really hope to hold more events like this in the future.