Meetings with Moths: Discovering their Mystery and Extraordinary Lives

Katty Baird
Fourth Estate, £18.99

Meetings with Moths is one of a few recent books shining a spotlight on this oft-maligned group of insects. Baird is a professional ecologist for whom moths are also a hobby and a passion, but one she is clearly inclined to be generous with, sharing finds with friends and family and now, through this book, a wider audience. The narrative is skilfully structured, each chapter weaving together an aspect of moth biology (such as development, hibernation and migration), a few focal species, and her adventures searching for them around southern Scotland. Threats to moth populations are handled well, such that their inclusion does not detract from the cheerful tone, which is perhaps summed up by the first line of one chapter: ‘You’ll never guess what I’ve seen!’

Descriptions are economical but evocative – the box tree moth has ‘delicate pearl white wings bordered in black’ – and so enough for the uninitiated to work with. Baird’s moth recording exploits also come across as accessible, with fieldwork in gardens, parks and local nature reserves. Her discoveries show how records from everyday places can make a significant contribution, and she encourages readers to ‘go out and discover for yourself’. There are practical suggestions for how to do so, too; for example, in a particularly strong chapter on surviving the cold, she explores a citizen science project of her own devising to record overwintering herald moths. This is an ideal short introduction for moth novices, but experienced biologists are also likely to learn something new.

Dr Chris Foster