Saturday 9 September 2023

Of butterflies and moths

A little more Wales, which seems like a while ago now. A storm moved in and whipped up waves on the lake. The castle is Conwy Castle, built between 1283 and 1287. I can't imagine how, it's completely amazing. The old town walls are apparently some of the finest and most complete in Europe and are part of a UNESCO World Heritage Site. I'd love to visit in winter when it's quiet and have a really good look round.

At the moment I've been enjoying the warm evenings, walking about the place with the dog as the sun sets. Windows are thrown open to try and capture a breath of air and lights are on as the evenings draw in. It's been lovely, although the afternoons have been a bit hot for my taste and I do love regular rain keeping everything green.

On the subject of green, let's talk about box moths. I don't know if it's the same across the country, but they have absolutely devastated box hedges here. There has been a little damage over the past couple of years, but this year, oh my. Below is a box ball a few weeks into the summer.

The other ten or so I have were in similar shape. Then in a matter of days, they were like this:

Shall we take a look at the culprit?

There must be hundreds of thousands of them. Big box hedges have been reduced to straw, it's astonishing. There were around eight box moths in the bathroom the other evening. 

I have ordered some yew plants to replace the box, but they'll take a while to grow. In the meantime I have quite a few empty pots. 

I've added a few acers and ferns though, which should be nice when they're bigger. I do like lots of green shady stuff. The back of the house faces south, so I put the shady stuff along the east-facing fence where it's not too brutally sunny. I have a prized acer at the moment (prized by me, probably not to anyone else, it's not exactly spectacular, but I have high hopes) and I am moving it round during the day to keep it out of the sun. 

Something that has surprised me is that a cloud of butterflies has turned up to feed on the ripe figs. There are a handful that are too high up to pick, and I have had red admirals fluttering around them every day, it's been lovely. No pictures, they've been too high up, but I do have a gatekeeper for you. 

I have also tackled the pond, which is a non-favourite job. Although the anticipation is worse than the actual job. Once I've got a grip of myself and plunged my hands into the murky depths it's quite satisfying. The frogs and newts have more space to swim about now that most of the waterlily and weed have been removed.

Not much news at the moment. I am working hard now the urchins are back at school and learning as much as I can about writing and self-publishing in my spare time. And also cooking the mountain of windfall apples that I have this year. I thought about getting a dehydrator and making apple rings, but I'm trying not to eat too much sugar. Although of course cooked apple has exactly the same amount of sugar, so I don't know where my logic is on that. 

I've noticed that People can be quite slow to take a homegrown apple out of the fruit bowl if it has a blemish on it. I usually have to rant at them a bit to persuade them. Ridiculous, because they taste sublime. Luckily ranting is one of my strengths.

Hope all is well at your end and that you have apples and butterflies aplenty. I'd be interested to know if box moths are as common and have done as much damage where you are. CJ xx


  1. No box moths up here in Cheshire yet as far as I’ve noticed but from occasional watching of gardening programmes on TV I understand they are a big and growing problem in the south of England. Lots of info online about how to control them.

  2. I noticed a box moth just before we left on our travels. Fortunately no box hedges in my corner. So sad about yours. So many red admirals this year and I love your gatekeeper. Not so many of those here. I spotted a beautiful small tortoiseshell the other day on my travels. One of my absolute favourites.
    I left a bowl of windfall apples for the family but I’m sure they’ll still be there when I get home. I must admit I never bite straight into one just in case. Always quarter them first. Love your holiday photos. Conwy is a fascinating place. B x

  3. Unfortunately we have box moths here in North Yorkshire. Our box ball is in the same sorry state as yours.

  4. The boys kayaking is such a great photo. I sure would like to be out there too. It looks like a lovely place to paddle around.

  5. An enjoyable post and good pictures as always.
    Shame about the box moth which has ravaged plants there and elsewhere so badly. Well done on doing the pond, a messy job but I'm sure well worth doing.
    Sadly I've not seen many butterflies recently, or indeed this year. xx

  6. Yes terrible Box moth problems here in Swindon. They have completely wiped out the hedge between our house & next door. Thankfully it's their hedge not ours, but they are gutted about losing all their box.
    Similar story all over our locality and all because some idiot didn't check their imports from Asia properly in 2007! 🤦‍♀️

  7. Re: the apples....wash them, cut them in chunks and put them in your crockpot. Peeling not needed. Set the temp on high for an hour, then low. Your house will smell wonderful and you'll be able to see when they're done. Mash them and put the measured portions in the freezer. No added sugar needed.

  8. Homegrown apples do have a better taste than some of the insipid shop bought ones. Shame about the box plants but I have an amusing picture of you moving the acer around the garden.

  9. It must be too cold for the box moths here. I do like box and would like to have a wee hedge one day but it takes forever and I am not good with delayed gratification. Love your holiday photos. It is astonishing what they could build back in the middle ages, without crane and concrete and computers to draw up plans and 3D models. Pond cleaning is on my list for the weekend. Not mine (we don't have one) but the big one down the road, with my eco volunteering group. I think there might be some wading and and boat. Apples... no teen in my house eats the ones from our trees. I use them for baking, and dried apples are good too. Have a wonderful weekend xx

  10. Yes box moth did for our hedges two years ago. We battled them for two years prior to that, picking them off by the thousand.

  11. I have been in Italy recently and found all the box there suffering the same fate as yours. I assume box moth there too but no one seemed to know. Very sad. A few years back they lost all their palms to a nasty insect as well. It'll be locusts next and 4 men on horseback.

  12. We've had the same problem with the box moth!xxx

  13. We are not far from you, Portishead, and the area has also suffered from box moth. I'd never heard of it but in August it devastated to box plants of ours. Such a shame as I really like Box but won't risk buying it again. Great photos by the way.

  14. Hi CJ, luckily I haven't heard of any box moths here in New Zealand. It is really sad to hear what they have done to your box trees. Will they recover? I love your photo of the gatekeeper butterfly, I have never seen those before. I heard the first cicada of the year yesterday and have seen monarch and cabbage white butterflies in the garden. It's Spring here and we have lots of lemons growing which we are quickly using up. Enjoy your apples! Hugs, Rose x

  15. We used to have a pond. But living in a semi-tropical climate on the Texas Gulf coast made keeping it attractive difficult. It usually looked like really bad pea soup. I told people that it was really an experiment on alternative food sources for third world nations, but they never looked like they believed me. Finally got sick and tired of the hubby never taking care of it, so I waited till he left town and went to work on it. Found a one-eyed shad in there that had taken up residence after a flood. The raccoons had already eaten the koi. A couple of truck loads of dirt later it had turned into a pet cemetery. Currently there are 2 dogs and a guinea pig in there.