Our gardens are just as busy at night as during the day and the nightshift does as much for the garden as day workers.
Moths are key pollinators and many are just as attractive as butterflies. Some plants, such as strongly scented night stock and nicotiana, release their perfume at night specifically to attract moths but the insects also visit many other flowers, especially pale-coloured ones. 
The more diverse our range of plants and habitats, the better: they visit herbaceous borders, trees, hedges, veg plot, rockery and pond among others.
Like many butterflies, moths can be quite striking even if it’s usually too dark to enjoy the full beauty of the Elephant hawkmoth’s pink and jade green outfit. Luckily one of my honeysuckles has some light nearby, so I can see the moths supping nectar from the tubular-shaped flowers.
Over the last couple of years, I’ve also been lucky enough to see some cinnabar moths in the garden. These black and scarlet coloured insects fortunately fly during the day as well as in the dark.
But we can only enjoy the splendour of all these moths if our gardens are diverse enough to accommodate the insects at all stages of their lives. 
This means providing the food plant the caterpillars need to grow and giving them a safe place to pupate, which is generally beneath leaf litter or just under the soil surface. So excessive tidying will destroy that habitat, as will digging.
Like butterflies, many moth caterpillars feed on specific plant species, and can be quite fetching in their own right. Elephant hawkmoth caterpillars specialise in rosebay willow herb, so you might be glad of their help when facing a shed-load of weeding after your holiday. They reach 8cm, after feasting on your weeds. 
They’re green-brown with large black false eyes and a horn on the rear end. To frighten off any possible predators they also try to look alarming by rearing up, even though they’re quite harmless.
Cinnabar moth caterpillars also offer a weeding service. They’re brightly coloured in yellow and black stripes to advertise their toxicity to passing birds. 
They feed on most species of senecio: you often see them on ragwort, Senecio jacobaea, and I’ve seen them on Senecio squalidus, Oxford ragwort.  They obligingly defoliate our groundsel, eating the flowers and developing seed heads.


Plant of the week:

NICOTIANA SYLVESTRIS is the biggest and most heavily scented of the Nicotianas. Growing to 1.5m, it produces masses of white, nodding, tubular flowers, densely packed in panicles, that start to release their scent at dusk. Can be grown in sun or partial shade in a border or large pot. Plants may need support as the leaves on the stout stem growing from the basal rosette become heavy, especially in rain, and the whole plant can be blown over. Nicotianas are not cold hardy and must be sown afresh each year.


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