The Moths of Brixham

Many spiritual writers from past and present encourage us to see the holy in everyday moments, to be “alert to the sacred in our midst” (to quote Fr Gregory Boyle), as I was reading and thinking about on holiday this summer.

Swallowtailed 1
The celestial Swallow-tailed moth

We enjoyed 10 early-August days in a little bungalow in Brixham, Devon. On our arrival, a Jersey Tiger moth flew up from the hedgerow along the pathway to the house and landed on the front door, as if to welcome us in.

Jersey tiger 8
Jersey Tiger moth

Jersey Tigers are a bit of a speciality in this part of the world: my moths book describes these extraordinarily exotic looking insects as “quite numerous” in this area but generally quite scarce elsewhere in the country.

I’ve spotted one near here before, on a previous visit to Brixham, and also one on the Isle of Wight, and possibly somewhere else, which may have been France. So probably just the twice in the UK.

Jersey tiger 7
Jersey Tiger, head-on view

This was our first summer visit to Brixham with a light trap, so it was with quite a thrill of anticipation that I set it up on the shed roof on several nights during our stay.

Jersey Tiger 2

Jersey Tigers fly at night as well as on warm days (we saw quite a few while out and about during the day), and are attracted to light. Each night, between 2 and 6 of these utterly butterfly-like moths graced the trap with their bright orange hind wings and zebra-striped forewings.

Jersey tiger 1
Jersey Tiger in flight

As well as being some of the wildlife highlights of the holiday, encounters with Jersey Tigers were also sacred moments – divine expressions breaking out amongst the mundane, pointing to a brighter world.

…the Tiger moth at the front door serving as an angelic welcome party hinting at Joy that beckons us enter.

Jersey Tiger 4
Jersey Tiger, through the glass

Although the Jersey Tigers were a stunning and magical centrepiece of the holiday’s butterfly-and-moth-ing, there were numerous other lepidopteral species that fluttered and flapped their flightsome way into the trap (to be photographed and released unharmed the next day), such as these:

Canary Shouldered Thorn 1
Canary-shouldered Thorn, with its distinctive bright yellow thorax
Canary Shouldered Thorn
The brilliantly coloured Canary-shouldered Thorn
Devonshire Wainscot
Devonshire Wainscot (as the name suggests, a local species)
Iron Prominent
The intricately patterned Iron Prominent
Lackey moth
Lesser Broad-bordered Yellow Underwing
Lesser Broad-bordered Yellow Underwing
Marbled Green
The handsome Marbled Green
Pebble prominent 2
Pebble Prominent (a beautiful, new species to me)


Peppered Moth
Ruby tiger
Ruby Tiger
Swallow prominent
Swallow Prominent


Willow Beauty
Willow Beauty

Like all winged beasts, messengers from heaven offering glimpses of eternity to us earthly creatures.

The total list of those identified were:

  1. Bright-line Brown-eye
  2. Broad-bordered Yellow Underwing
  3. Canary-shouldered Thorn
  4. Common Footman
  5. Common Rustic
  6. Common Wainscot
  7. Dark Arches
  8. Devonshire Wainscot
  9. Garden Carpet
  10. Heart and Dart
  11. Iron Prominent
  12. Jersey Tiger (of which there were 6 on the last night: 10/8/20)
  13. Knot Grass
  14. Lackey
  15. Large Yellow Underwing (many)
  16. Lesser Yellow Underwing
  17. Lunar Yellow Underwing
  18. Marbled Green
  19. Pebble Prominent
  20. Peppered Moth
  21. Ruby Tiger
  22. Silver Y
  23. Square-spot Rustic?
  24. Swallow Prominent
  25. Swallow-tailed moth
  26. White-point
  27. Willow Beauty

(and several other species not identified)

Swallowtailed 2
The cherubic Swallow-tailed moth

[PS: The title’s designed to be sung to the tune of the Clash classic The Guns of Brixton. As an old ex-punk, just my sense of humour reflecting the contrast between the quaint Devon fishing port and the South London Borough infamous for its riots in the ‘80s!]

(All photos taken by me, but not copyright – i.e. feel free to use them, with my blessing!)