Sunday, 4 May 2014

Garden Netting

With little of interest in the trap here at Westcott, Bucks over the past few days, I resorted to some netting in the sunshine late this afternoon in order to chivvy the garden list along a bit.  At least six species were active, of which Acrolepia autumnitella, Adela reaumurellaAnthophila fabriciana, Caloptilia syringellaEsperia sulphurella were caught and identified.  The sixth was something much smaller which proved too evasive for my novice netting skills! 

Dave Wilton

Caloptilia syringella, Westcott 4th May


  1. Hi Dave, you may be a novice netter but you always post excellent photos of the micros. Do you have any tips you could share? In particular, how do you keep these little chaps still and what sort of light are you using?
    Best wishes, Steve

  2. Hi Steve, I'd like to be able to say that I was made of money and had a decent SLR with £1000s worth of macro lenses, etc, but I'm afraid that's not the case!

    I actually use a knackered old Nikon Coolpix 4500 on a mini tripod for taking micro pictures. This precious piece of machinery doesn't leave the house - in any case it is useless outdoors because it has a tiny screen and you can't see a thing on it if there's the least bit of sunshine! However, it has close-focus capabilities that I don't think have ever been bettered in a compact camera and I don't know what I'll do when it eventually expires. The pictures are usually taken on a north-facing windowsill (so no direct sun) using the camera's own flash but dampened down to avoid over-exposure (I find that the lid of a large-size plastic moth pot held in front of the flash is often sufficient). The camera's flash is offset to the left of the lens so to even things up I sometimes use some more ancient technology, a Nikon SL-1 Cool-light (LEDs), hand-held to the right. All a bit Heath-Robinson and sometimes you need three arms, but it seems to work!

    As for getting the moths to pose, that's mostly down to luck and perseverance. I start by getting the camera set up and ready, then try to tap the moth out of its pot onto the centre of a smallish sheet of paper but keep the upturned pot over it to prevent escape. If that works and the moth sits still, I quickly take a picture with the pot still in place. The flash often stuns the moth into remaining still so I can then remove the pot, swivel the piece of paper to ensure that the moth is at 90 degrees to the camera lens and then take as many shots as I think I need. Of course, not every micro will oblige by sitting still (quite a few seem to be averse to sitting on any kind of horizontal surface). Those that don't are given a dose of the coldest part of the fridge to try to calm them down, but you need to be very careful not to overdo that. The whole process can sometimes be very time-consuming!

    1. Thanks Dave, that is very helpful. I have been using natural light so far, but I will try some flash next time. If it helps keep the moth still, that is a real bonus. As you say, a lot of luck and perseverance are also needed when it comes to wildlife photography.
      Thanks again, Steve

  3. I do wonder about the refrigeration technique; I know a lot of people use it; cold certainly quietens insects down, but, it seems to me, when you bring them into the warm again they often over-compensate by activating their flight muscles. The smaller the moth the quicker they return to ambient temperature and the micros very often turn out to be the most fidgety of the lot. (I think moths and especially micros become hyperactive as they approach death, too). Dave is right about having to be quick with them. The big noctuids are the most passive of the lot, but that can be spoiled by cooling them first. I've taken to knocking them out with ethyl acetate if they won't quieten- only a few seconds and they will recover within minutes and it is not unpleasant like some other poisons. You can easily tell if a moth in a photo has been drugged, so I let them start to recover before photographing them. You have to time it right and they will often (but not always!) be passive for a while until they stop feeling drunk. That's your moment. It can all be very frustrating and take a long time. Andy King.
    Dave is also right about getting the moth square-on, otherwise you've little hope of getting it all in focus.


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