If you have a garage or outside shed, etc, now is the time to start collecting Sallow catkins which have fallen on to the ground from the Sallow trees. Many of these fallen catkins will often contain various Tortricidae, Geometridae and Pug larvae. The way to check the catkins for larvae is very easy. Simply spread them out on white kitchen roll in some seed trays or similar, no need for any sort of lid at this stage. If you keep checking the catkins you will see signs of frass appearing on the white kitchen roll under the occupied catkins. Once you find these move them to a lidded container and keep an eye on the situation. The larvae may need fresh catkins adding and then as soon as the sallow leaves are out pop some leaves in the tub with the occupied catkins. Some catkins will have only one species and some will have more than one species on/in them. Most of these are fine kept together until they are large enough to ID. The only exception to this are Pug larvae which I find are mostly cannibalistic even when enough food is present, if you want more than one survivor its pays to house pug larvae in solitary confinement ! Its great fun with catkins at this time of the year as you never know what you might find and rear through.
We are now getting close to the one of the best times of the year to find moths on natural food sources. Any night now when its cloudy and reasonably mild its the time to go "Sallowing". This is one of the great classic tecniques used before the advent of MV lights to collect large numbers of moths in one place. Cromwell Bottom is an ideal place to try this out but any area with large numbers of Sallow in bloom is fine. You simply stick a few pots in your pocket, pack a decent torch and a butterfly net. In practice one simply walks around shining the torch on Sallow catkins until you pick out a moth feeding, they can usually be spotted by the light reflecting off their eyes. One a good night there can be hundreds of moths on each Sallow bush, but often around here one is lucky to get a few dozen per bush. If its moth sp you wish to confirm or look through a hand lens its usually dead easy to simply pop the net over them and tap them off the catkins. They are mainly Orthosia spp, but also Chestnut, Satellite, perhaps some Thorns and Pugs. The only other time of year when one can get the same effect with natural sources is in autumn when you search Ivy Blossom in the same manner.
This was originally posted by Paul Talbot in April 2008