Monday, 16 June 2014

Fridge ticking moths

Goat Moth - guilty of being 'fridge-ticked'

Britain's first record of the noctuid moth Aedia funestra made the lepidopteran headlines this weekend. Trapped by Nigel Jarman at Kingsdown, Kent on June 13, it was then taken on a short journey to Dungeness where it was on show to all who wished to see it. There would have been a number of people who travelled a few hundred miles to do so, even if they had made the same journey less than a week before to see Britain's second Banded Pine Carpet, trapped by Barry Banson in his Littlestone garden. This 'exhibition' of rare moths is not confined to Dungeness - most permanent coastal MV's (such as those run at bird observatories) will let it be known when a rarity has been trapped and be more than pleased to share it with those who wish to see it. Even inland trap operators will find themselves being visited by lepidopterists to share in their good fortune - Bill Dyke's second for Britain Euchromius cambridgei that was trapped in his Surrey garden over the weekend being a recent example. A couple of summers ago a Gypsy Moth that I caught resulted in three 'rings on the doorbell'.

Such 'ticking' of moths has been light-heartedly debated on the Pan Listing Facebook site recently, cruelly christened as 'fridge ticks' after the normal practice of keeping these rare moths in the fridge to keep them calm. This practice isn't cruel, as the normal procedure for releasing a trap full of moths back into the wild is to cover the trap with a sheet until the following evening and then allowing them to fly off as the light fades. To keep one or two select specimens potted up and 'chilled' (both literally and metaphorically) does the moth no harm. There are those who see this 'fridge ticking' as a pointless pursuit, that an individual cannot possibly 'count' a moth on their list by driving to another's house, normally many miles away and on a different day of the moth's capture.

Have I been guilty of such action? Yes.

Have I felt happy in doing so? Well, yes and no...

If I'm staying at Dungeness, then the chances are that one of the local moth trappers will come up with something good, and I have made the journey to visit Dorothy Beck, Barry Banson, Sean Clancy and the RSPB reserve MV many times to see such moths. I have even driven from home to the bird observatory to open the fridge door and look at a Death's-head Hawk-moth before climbing back into the car to drive the 90 miles home. Oh, and I did that for a Spurge Hawk-moth as well.

There is no right and no wrong in this situation. It is clearly up to the individual as to whether or not a visit to a distant fridge to see a captive moth is satisfactory or not - and described like that it seems more like a case of being unsatisfactory, doesn't it. I have to admit that my UK moth list is therefore not unsullied. But there again, doesn't all of this just show up the absurdity of listing anyway?

Those who wish to share with others in their good fortune at trapping a rare moth should be applauded for doing so. Those that do the travelling obviously are happy to operate this way. And as for those that disagree with 'fridge ticking' - just look the other way and bask in the glorious light of being 'holier than thou'!


  1. Please tell me you are not serious!!!

  2. I have given a couple of moths to our county recorder on Tyneside, so they can be twitched by people from Teesside. - Butterbur and Caloptilia hemidactylella and more but i forget which now. I've never done it myself, but I see no harm...

    1. You're right Stewart - no harm at all

  3. Just curious - do you tick birds in the hand, or taken into captivity to recover after being washed up / blown in? What about some lovely flowers cut down and on display in some cottage vase?

    There is no right or wrong about fidge-ticking, just personal preference I guess. But ticking birds in the hand or in captivity is typically frowned upon in birding circles. For me ticking a moth that was taken by someone else on a night that I wasn't there, and now the moth is miles away from the trap site in someones fridge / cool box, just seems all wrong. Understand people wanting to see it to get a feel for the size/jizz etc in the hope of recognising one if you're lucky enough to pick one up on a coastal foray, but that's about it. Fully aware of a number of individuals who have huge British (fridged) moth lists and are prepared to drive 100s miles to see a new macro - bonkers! I've seen a fair few moth species in circumstances that I can't put my name to the record (either as the recorder or as part of a group effort whist on site) and therefore I don't count them on my list. eg Porter's Rustic, Radford's Flame Shoulder, Bedstraw Hawkmoth, first British Diplopseustis perieresalis, Sandhill Rustic, Star-wort, Tree-lichen Beauty, Purple Marbled ......

    1. Morning Skev. Bird in the hand? I did tick my first Short-toed Treecreeper in the hand (but have since seen one in the field - both at Dungeness). Flowers in a vase? That wouldn't cross my mind, which therefore brings into question moths in a fridge. Best burn my list and start again at zero...