Festive winter moths

Published: 11 December 2008

As the weather gets colder there are fewer and fewer insects around. However, some species can still be found despite the chilly weather. Dafydd Lewis, AES secretary, looks forward to this time of year and the appearance of one of his favourite moths...

A photograph of the Winter Moth (_Operophtera brumata_).

The Winter Moth (Operophtera brumata).
Photograph by Olaf Leillinger licensed under Creative Commons.

Towards the end of November and beginning of December is the time of year when the adult Winter Moths (Operophtera brumata) start to emerge.

There are often particular tree trunks where an abundance of this species can be seen. The males start to emerge at dusk and the females, which are wingless and hard to spot, emerge and walk up the trunks. By the time they reach eight feet or so they will have mated,  so they will sit there for a couple of hours in coitus. That's the best time to see the females, as the males they're copulating with tend to rest noticeably upside down.

For an hour or two after dusk such tree trunks can be covered with scores of males, but by late evening the trunk will be bare again.

One feature of this species is that when you breed it (catch a pair in coitus just after dusk and they will stay together for two hours) you sometimes get all-female offspring. This might be because of male killing bacteria?

Want to know more about insect overwintering?

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