I am delighted to announce that I have just signed to Bloomsbury to write an exciting new book - by far my most ambitious project yet. The title is still under wraps but the subtext (which may make its way into the subtitle) is that I will be spending the year of 2019 intoxicated by Britain's rare and remarkable moths.
The book will narrate a year-long quest to see Britain's rarest and most remarkable moths. It will do for moths what Patrick Barkham's The Butterfly Isles has done for Britain's butterflies, or Jon Dunn's Orchid Summer for our orchids. Indeed, it will do more – for those particular groups were already widely loved. Moths, in contrast, are slandered by public prejudice as unseen, evil, clothes-munching creatures of the night.
This book busts those myths. It coaxes moths out from the darkness into the daylight. Celebrating these insect underdogs, it rectifies ignorance, challenges prejudice and shifts opinions. It reveals that moths are so much more attractive, approachable and astonishing than butterflies – with richer tales to share, from migratory feats through mastery of camouflage to missives about the state of our planet. This book seeks to reach out beyond natural-history readership into the mainstream, there to persuade the sceptical, fearful or unaware of the unexpected beauty of these misjudged insects.
The book makes its case by recounting a suitcase full of journeys across Britain in 2019. Unlike Patrick, who could confidently anticipate encountering all 60 types of British butterfly in a summer, I cannot dream of a clean sweep. Britain has 40 times more moth species than butterflies. Instead, I will pursue quality over quantity – prioritising our scarcest and most special moths (perhaps 170 species all told). My peregrinations will extend from Scilly to northernmost Scotland. More than any other animals, moths demonstrate a very precise determination of place; one never ventures beyond 10 metres from its birthplace. Accordingly, this book imbibes the landscapes where moths reside. It is an unabashed travel narrative, but one where the protagonists-cum-voyagers comprise both people and winged insects.