Hail to the Emperor!

At the recent Rye Meads RSPB Fun Day, Site Manager Vicky Buckel produced some Emperor Moth pheromone from the freezer, with startling results.

Emperor Moth

Hail to the Emperor!

At the recent Rye Meads RSPB Fun Day, Site Manager Vicky Buckel produced some Emperor Moth pheremone from the freezer, with startling results, as reported by Roger Emmens.

On the afternoon of the recent RSPB Fun Day at Rye Meads, Site Manager Vicky Buckel announced she had some Emperor Moth pheromone in the freezer to try out. It seems that this is a scent released by females to attract males for mating. Well, the results were astonishing.

The pheromone was impregnated in a cube of sponge half the size of a postage stamp. Vicky hung this onto a bush in the car park, and Sarah Harris stood by with a butterfly net. We had no idea if there were any moths around - none had been seen. Nevertheless, within thirty seconds of the lure being hung up, the first male moth appeared. This was quickly followed by a second, then a third... Within three or four minutes, an amazing 14 moths had arrived, flitting around the lure looking for the female. It took longer for Sarah to round them up than for them to arrive!

Vicky Buckel with moths
Vicky Buckel with some of the captured moths

We put them into plastic boxes for examination and photographing. They are amazing looking moths, quite large - maybe 50mm or more wingspan - with the orange hind wings and four startling eye-spots. They are said to be fairly common in open country: certainly there must have been at least fourteen within three or four minutes flying time away!

The pheromone was put back in the freezer to stop more love-sick moths from a fruitless journey, and after a few minutes the captured males were released again. It had been a real demonstration of the sensitivity of the males to the pheromone scent and their speed of response.

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