Fridge ticking moths

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 cambridgeithat 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'!


Fridge Ticking

oldbilluk's picture

Nice blog Steve. As one who has done more than his fair share of travelling to fridges around the UK, I feel comfortable with the concept, if not with the additional carbon burden. I did travel to Kent for both the recent new arrivals and on both occasions went home with more than just a fridge tick. On the first occasion, I got photographs of several nice beetles and also ticked and photographed Rest Harrow. On the second occasion, I went home with Short-toed Eagle, Bright Wave, Stinking Hawksbeard and probably Tall Broomrape. I'm happy and I care not who thinks it is cheating to tick such things. You are correct that most listing is absurd when analysed. I just happen to have a fully developed sense of the absurd :-)

ps. I also love a good wind up :-)


Mark Telfer's picture

I don't think pointlessness is any reason not to go fridge twitching. Most leisure activities are pointless and millions of people play golf or go fishing regardless. I think for me though a twitch has to have an element of risk otherwise there's just no excitement to it. That's what makes the difference between twitching birds and spotting trains - birds don't run on timetables! So going to see a moth in a fridge would be like going to see the elephants at the zoo - yes, you will get good views but you're still going to want to go to Africa to see them properly.

But I did fridge twitch for a Death's Head Hawk on Scilly one time!