Noctuidae is from Latin, noctua, meanining “night owl”. The Noctuid moths are the largest family of macro-moths in the British Isles and has over 400 species. Globally there are about 21,000 species which are widespread across many continents. There are 14 main British subfamilies, including the Rustics, Underwings, Darts, Quakers, Snouts and many more. These owlet moths belong to the superfamily Noctuoidea, but the family Noctuidae contains some of the worlds largest moths, and the smallest, with wingspans ranging from 0.8cm to 30.5cm.
Owlet Moths are mainly medium sized, stout-bodied macro-moths, which are predominantly brown or greyish, some with distinct kidney or oval shapes on their forewings which are useful for identifying similar species. Some have quite bright underwings (actually called Underwings) whilst others, like the Snouts, maybe confused with Geometers such is their shape and pose when resting. But most Noctuid moths rest with their wings held closed and close to the body in a triangular, tent-like fashion.
Night fliers, fast and powerful, drinking nectar from flowers, sap or fruit to keep themselves fuelled up. They are very much attracted to light, and it is most likely one of these that fly through the window at night or buzz around your head when out after dark. Others though, like the Silver Y, maybe seen sipping nectar late in the evening, or even earlier on a hot summer’s day. The caterpillars are typically bald and fat-bodied, and feed at night. Most feed on the stems, leaves and roots of broadleaved herabceous plants, and some on the leaves of trees and shrubs. Some called ‘cutworms’ feed on grasses, and can be serious pests to cereal crops severing roots and stems clean through.
This is a distinctive moth with slightly hooked forewings, dark brown cross-lines, and very long palps, or ‘snout’, from which the moth has inherited its vernacular name. Varies in colour from brown, greyish, or purplish brown. Wingspan 25 to 38mm.
The caterpillar feeds on Common Nettle.
The adult flies in two generations in the south, June to August, and August to October, and one generation in the north and Ireland, June to August. Found in woodland, scrub, hedgerows, wetland, riverbanks, rough fields, gardens, and other places where the caterpillar foodplant occurs. Common and widespread.
Quite a stunning reddish moth which is one of the first to be seen heralding in the spring and one of the last to be seen in autumn. The adult hibernates over winter in barns and outbuildings, and other sheltered locations such as caves. It is well camouflaged amongst dead leaf litter. Wingspan 40 to 45mm.
The caterpillar feeds on Willows, Aspen, and other poplar
The adults fly March to November. Found in gardens, parkland, woodland and other places where the food plants grows. Common and widespread.
The clay is a plain moth, with variable ground colour, ranging from pinkish brown, buff and straw. It has small white markings on each forewing. The males have a black band on the underside of the abdomen. Wingspan up to 40mm.
The caterpillars feed on grasses.
It flies June to August, and is attracted to light. Found in various open habitats, including open woodland, wetland and gardens. Common and widespread.
Photographs taken July 2015, rear garden, Staffordshire.