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4 July 2012

4 July 2012 – When Camouflage Fails

Buff Tip 
Elephant Hawk-moth
Swallow Prominent

It was too wet to do a trapping last night. Instead, I’d like to fill you in on the activities of the [Moth-Eating] Bats of Shandy Hall.

With their various designs and colors, moths are certainly beautiful and eye-catching. But in nature, these features are meant to do the opposite: to blend them into their surroundings and avoid predators. (The photographs above are some of our best examples.) Unfortunately for the moths, their camouflage does not always work. When spotted in the daytime, they are caught and eaten by birds. At nighttime, bats detect the moths using echolocation, which is just like sonar.

Some bat species, such as the Common Pipistrelle catch up to 3,000 insects each night! Here at Shandy Hall, we have spotted the Common Pipistrelle along with the Whiskered Bat, Brown Long-eared Bat, and Daubenton’s Bat so I’m sure that despite our love of moths, Shandy Hall is no exception to the food chain. A discovery under a bats’ roost this morning made this apparent.

There is a corner of the arcade where the bats tend to congregate in the rafters. Accordingly, bat droppings can always be found in the area underneath. It was here that we noticed moth wings scattered about the faeces. They were the remnants  of last nights’ uneaten scraps. Take a look at the White Ermine and Large Yellow Underwing remains in the picture below.

Uneaten moth wings in the bat droppings

This is just another way in which moths play a key role in the harmony of our ecosystems! I’m sure the bat recorders (yes, there are organizations just as batty about bats as we are about moths) would be delighted by this discovery. I’ll be sure to share with you if we have any further updates of this nature. 

-Post by Helen Levins