MOTHS tend to get a bad press. They’re usually either dismissed as the drab, dull cousins of butterflies, or viewed with disgust as nasty, furry, fluttering things that fly in through open windows on summer nights and hide in your bedclothes.

All of which is unfair, says York performance poet Anneliese Emmans Dean. Many moths are beautiful, she insists; their caterpillars can be striking; and many have fascinating life-cycles. Take the orange swift moth, for example. Its life as an adult after it emerges from its pupal stage is so short it doesn’t need to feed. “So it doesn’t even have any mouthparts.”

Anneliese has an amazing array of facts about moths. For example, she says, while there are only something like 60 species of butterfly in the UK, there are thousands of different types of moths. Some fly by night, some by day: and both they and their caterpillars come in strikingly different shapes, sizes and colours.

Next Saturday, Anneliese will be teaming up with local moth expert Dave Chesmore for a Moth Day at St Nicholas Fields.

In the morning, Dave will give a session on how to identify moths, before leading a moth safari around the nature reserve.

In the afternoon, Anneliese will give a multi-media performance celebrating moths in all their strangeness and beauty – including photographs and some of her own poems.

Among the caterpillars likely to spotted at St Nicks during the moth hunt is the strikingly tiger-striped cinnabar moth caterpillar.

Anneliese took this photo of one of the caterpillars on ragwort at the nature reserve just a week ago: so there should be plenty of them around, she says.

They are very useful to have about, Anneliese says. They feed voraciously on ragwort – a plant which is deadly poison to horses, so provide a real social benefit.

They are also beautiful to look at, Anneliese says: their black-and-yellow stripes, which mimic a wasp’s, sending a clear message out to any predators: ‘don’t eat me!’’ Find any patch of ragwort about this time of year – whether at St Nicks, or on the verge of a road – and you’re likely to see the striking caterpillars, Anneliese says. “They’ll be crawling up the stems, or nibbling the leaves.”

St Nicks is home to a huge variety of moths, many of them not found elsewhere in the York area. So next Saturday’s event should be quite an adventure, Anneliese says. “We might find some quite unusual ones.”

• Moth Day at St Nicholas Fields is aimed at adults and children aged over 12. Dave Chesmore’s identification session starts at 10am. He will also show some night-flying moths caught the previous night, before leading the moth safari.

Anneliese Emmans Dean’s performance celebrating moths starts at 2.30pm.

The event is free to members of St Nicks, or £2.50 for adults, £1.50 for children. Places are limited, so you are advised to book ahead, on 01904 411821 or via