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The surprising tale of our winter moths

Not one of the five or six overwintering butterfly species usually venture out in the winter, they usually safely tucked up in hibernation. So it may be surprising that out of the four hundred moths in the UK, 11 are considerably more active in the winter months.

The most notable of these moths is the small winter moth, named that way because it usually flies between November and February. This is the moth that can be seen fluttering around headlights at night or sat on the outside of window frame in a lit room at night. Sadly these are in steep decline and are less frequently seen. Only the males have wings and the female is a grub-like insect that cannot fly and over time has degenerated into a mere stubby vestiges in which their sole purpose is to lay eggs. She sits in a tree trunk wafting pheromones into the air which in turn attracts the males to fertilise her.

The winter flying moths are all relatively dull and brownish or grey as there is no need to be brightly coloured at night. Nearly all of the females are wingless and hardly move.

Some of the species of winter moths have rather interesting names including: pale brindled beauty; spring usher; juniper carpet and dotted border.

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