Wednesday, 20 May 2015

Emperor's new clothes-line

Earlier this year I bought one of the new pheromone attractants for Emperor moths, and as is usual with my attempts at using moth pheromones I have mostly failed to go out at the right time of year to make use of it. But I had a go on Sunday, not really expecting to see anything since it is getting late in the year for Emperors to be on the wing.

I hung the pheromone on the end of the clothes-line and watched it for half-an-hour over lunch - nothing happened! But an hour or two later my wife called me in to the garden as she'd seen a large lepidopteran that she thought might be an Emperor, and sure enough it was a male buzzing round a corner of the garden, some distance from the pheromone itself, but surely attracted here by it.

In my excitement I netted the moth and took it to the clothes-line, where I immediately let it out of the net so that it could sit on the pheromone and allow me to watch it closely and get photographic proof that the lure had worked. But of course the moth had other ideas, and dived straight out of the net and away into the adjacent field. I did see it one more time when it flew back over the roof of the house, but it clearly wasn't going to risk approaching the pheromone again. So no photos, and only the briefest glimpse of the moth itself, but still a fantastic thing to see.

I also have some of the clearwing moth pheromones, and again haven't yet had much success with them. If anyone has any tips on using them I'd be pleased to hear them: what time of day has worked best for you? did you stand and watch them as soon as you put them out, or did you leave them and return to them later? if moths were attracted, did they stay at the lure for long or did they fly away?

In lieu of a photo of this year's Emperor, here is one from 2011 showing my son with one of the moths he reared from caterpillars kindly provided by Dave Wilton. The female moths that emerged did successfully attract wild males into our garden, but I've never seen any sign of them round here other than via reared female moths and now with the pheromone.

Martin Harvey (Bucks)


  1. Hi Martin, I presume you will have had the clearwing guide from ALS which gives a lot of useful info. I've had four clearwing species to pheromone lures in the garden here at Westcott and for info l've listed details below where I've noted time of day:

    Currant Clearwing (22Jun2009 12pm, 30Jun2010 3pm, 09Jun2014 4pm)
    Red-belted Clearwing (26Jun2011 12pm)
    Orange-tailed Clearwing (15Jun2009 1.30pm, 26Jun2011 2.30pm)
    Yellow-legged Clearwing (09Jun2014 3pm)

    What I haven't got a note of is how long the moths took to arrive but I never hang out the lures for more than an hour before giving up. I think it is quite important to keep a close watch on them, with a net close to hand, because some males only make very fleeting visits. My first ever attempt with a lure was for Large Red-belted in Bernwood and after 20 minutes or so I got bored staring at the little bag so did some hunting around nearby birches. As I walked back to the lure I saw a 'red-belted' clearwing appear at the lure for about 5 seconds and then disappear before I was close enough to net it. It never re-appeared...

    The lure I've had most success with is for Six-belted Clearwing. The moth hasn't appeared in the garden yet but is probably the most common species locally and I've had more than 20 records over the past five years from various sites in Bucks (the date range being between 21Jun and 05Aug). I've had more luck at sites on the clay of Aylesbury Vale than in the Chilterns but it is certainly at Ragpits and Pitstone. It is also the easiest to work with because you just plonk the lure in some bird's-foot trefoil and if you haven't had a result within 10 minutes move on somewhere else.

    Best of luck!

  2. Thanks Dave. I just wrote a comment and submitted it but it didn't save, so am trying again. Has anyone else had that problem?

    1. Not a problem that I've been made aware of until now, Martin.


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