"Eye of newt, and toe of frog,
Wool of bat, and tongue of dog,
Adder's fork, and blind-worm's sting,
Lizard's leg, and howlet's wing,--
For a charm of powerful trouble,
Like a hell-broth boil and bubble."
In the days before widely available electricity, those pioneering 19th century moth hunters had to resort to other means at their disposal. Many methods generally involved a lot of knowledge and field craft to find, eggs, larvae or pupae then rearing these through to the adult moth stage.
Catching the imago was quite tricky, by either 'dusking', not the nefarious activity of lurking in suburban car parks, but wandering, net in hand as the light fades to catch moths on the wing or by 'Sugaring'. Dusking was fine but in total darkness, a candle wasn't much use in attracting sought after specimens so bait was used. Things like red wine, beer slops and honey were all used. Moths of certain species naturally feed on nectar, tree sap and aphid honeydew, so this is a natural progression.
There are places in the New Forest where favoured sugaring sites left the patch on a tree for generations of moth collectors to return to, having been impregnated with many years worth of various sweety concoctions.
It is a much less used method nowadays, with the readily available MV light traps and portable generators on hand, but it cant be a bad thing to try some of the old ways. If for nothing else, it will hopefully increase the field knowledge of our familiar insects.
The way to do it is to make up a recipe along the lines of Macbeth's Witches, that will simulate fermenting fruit or sap and painting it in 2" strips on fence posts or trees along a line of about 50 mtrs and checking it regularly to pot up interesting customers. My brew is as follows -
1x Bottle of Brown Ale
1x Tin Golden Syrup or Treacle
1x Bag of Brown Sugar
4x Ripe Pears
1x Over ripe Banana.
All boiled and simmered together then cooled and stored in jars just like Ipin's marmalade until ready for use.
The other day I drained the beery solid mash from the pan and placed it in a plant pot tray in a south facing sunny spot below an old ash tree beside our garden. This pear and banana beer mash is like manna from heaven for the local wasp population, but it also attracted 4 Red Admirals and a Speckled Wood, then once it got dark, my first moth - a Svenssons Copper Underwing. A scarce moth in the garden... Not a lot but you have to start somewhere. My targets are Old Lady ( would be a first for me) and Red Underwing ( my only garden record was in 2009)...
|The brew on the boil...|
|Three Red Admirals getting drunk...|
|One of the Copper Underwings, Svenssons is the most likely here...|