Why is ivy the focus of Moth Night 2017?

An annual moth-ing event is encouraging participants to focus on flowering ivy.


The silver-striped hawk-moth could potentially be seen by Moth Night participants © Roger Wasley


This year, Moth Night organisers are encouraging wildlife lovers to investigate their local patches of ivy to see which species of moth they can find.

Ivy is considered to lifeline to pollinators flying in autumn since it flowers so late in the year, after many other nectar sources are no longer available.

“A quick check of ivy blossom on a sunny autumn day will reveal bees, hoverflies, butterflies and other insects,” says Richard Fox, head of recording at Butterfly Conservation.

“After dark, the pollinator nightshift takes place and a myriad of moths come out to feed.”


The button snout moth feeds on ivy © Philip Sansum / Butterfly Conservation

A range of moth species can be seen feeding on ivy blossom, including angle shades, button snout (above), lunar underwing, silver y and pink-barred sallow.

Keen naturalists will be hoping to spot rare moths that have immigrated from Europe, such as the silver-striped hawkmoth or the clifden nonpareil, which is established in the southeast of the UK but also migrates from Europe.


The clifden nonpareil is rarely seen, but can be easily identified by its blue hindwings © Bob Eade / Butterfly Conservation

“Ivy is an undervalued natural resource,” says Mark Tunmore, editor of Atropos (a UK journal for butterfly, moth and dragonfly enthusiasts). “There is a tendency for it to be regarded as something that needs to be tidied away in the garden.”

“However, ivy offers valuable nectar for insects, shelter for bats and nesting birds, as well as a source of berries for small mammals and birds.”

UK Moth Night (12–14 October) is organised by Butterfly Conservation, Atropos and the Centre for Ecology and Hydrology. It runs for three consecutive nights, and has a different theme each year.


Read more wildlife news stories in BBC Wildlife Magazine