You may remember that a few months ago I told you all about the environmental association Vita Nativa and how they were on the hunt for ‘borboletas nocturnas’, which translates to ‘night time butterflies’, but are of course what we call, a lot more plainly, moths. Which I don’t think really does them justice, as these fair and fluttery nocturnal insects can be just as beautiful (but also odd and space-alien like) as their daylight counterparts. Not to mention being very important for pollination and excellent bio-indicators for the health of the entire ecosystem. Vita Nativa says they are the best candidates to tell them ‘bedtime stories’ about what’s going on in the environment as a whole.
There are more than 2600 known species in Portugal, but there are still huge gaps in knowledge - and to help fill those gaps, at the beginning of the year Vita Nativa joined the Rede de Estações de Borboletas Nocturnas (Nighttime Butterfly Station). The project, which took its inspiration from the hugely successful Garden Moth Scheme in the United Kingdom, have set up stations all over Portugal (and even in Madeira) and Vita Nativa is ideally located to cover the east Algarve side of things, and have set up their station at Quinta de Marim in the heart of the Ria Formosa natural park, in Olhão.
I first wrote about them back in January when they were just getting started and were excitedly seeing what they could find. However, being winter there weren’t very high numbers, but at the time they said that come summer there would be a lot more to report. And there is...
Due to the pandemic, they haven’t been able to hold any events for a while, but on 25th June, they were finally allowed to start hosting activities with the public again. So, they went out into the darkness and spent two hours letting people in on some secrets and ‘shining a light’ on the mysterious world of nocturnal butterflies.
But how do they find them?
Well, unlike ‘daytime butterflies’ that, I imagine, you have to chase around the garden with a net, Vita Nativa says that moths can be discovered using a much more ‘passive method’. Moths, as I’m sure you’ve guessed, are drawn, well... ‘like a moth to a flame’ to their light traps - which consist of a special lamp and a container where the moths simply can’t resist entering and they can be easily examined, identified and counted.
What did they discover this time?
During this 2 hour session, which was attended by 7 onlookers, they recorded 20 different species of moths - 5 of which being new species for the Quinta de Marim Station.
This brings the total up to 176 species that the station has discovered.
Want to find out more?
More information about all the nighttime butterfly stations set up in Portugal can be found here www.reborboletasn.org/projeto. And, if you fancy going on their next after-hours moth hunt, or indeed to find out about their other varied projects to help study and conserve nature and wildlife here in the Algarve, then follow them on Facebook at the Associação Vita Nativa, or go to their website http://vitanativa.org/en/