4 August 2020 - Botticelli Moth

(Blastobasis adustella)

Phillip Christos Zeller (1808 - 33) was a distinguished German professor and microlepidopterist.  He gave names to 186 new species of moths and was the author (along with H T Stainton, Heinrich Frey and J W Douglas) of the 13-volume monograph The Natural History of the Tineina. His collection of moths is now in the Natural History Museum in London.  This little moth was one that was named by Zeller. Blastos means a shoot and basis a step or pedestal upon which something stands. These two words refer to the antenna where a pecten (or scallop shape) can be seen. Somewhat the other end of the scale from Sandro Botticelli's The Birth of Venus.  And why not?  I tried to identify this moth from the little shoot-like labial palps curling upwards (they can be seen if you click on the photograph) but the illustration in the Field Guide is from above the insect rather than from the side.

If the rain holds off there will be another trap this evening...

17 July 2020 - Charles Bonnet and the Homunculus

 
(Argyresthia bonnetella)
A moth with a connection to Laurence Sterne's Tristram Shandy? Odd but delightfully true.  

If the scientific name, Argyrthesia bonnetella, is examined, its sources can be identified. Arguros is the word for silver and esthes translates as dress. The two words combined refer to the metallic sheen on the moth's wings. Bonnetella is in honour of the Swiss entomologist, Charles Bonnet (1720 - 93) who studied plant lice. He coined the term 'phyllotaxis' to describe the arrangement of leaves on plants and also believed that all future generations of mankind existed in the form of homunculi - miniature human beings - who grow during gestation and are born when they reach the correct 'baby' size.  In the novel, Walter Shandy fears for his son Tristram's imminent birth and is concerned that 'the little gentleman' or homunculus will have insufficient strength owing to the peculiar nature of his conception - but this is a digression too far, I fear.  Read the opening chapter and you will understand.

The little micro-moth, with its dark, oblique cross-band, was identifiable from illustrations and photographs, but required confirmation from Charlie Fletcher as I couldn't be certain.
Now I am sure I won't forget species number 442 (Hooray for a new species!) - a mothy speck to carry a nine volume, eighteeth-century novel as an association.


(Paraswammerdamia nebulella)
I doubt I would  ever have been able to identify the moth above.  Now I have examined the photograph carefully and can see where the distinguishing colourings are (white head, grey thorax and black dots), I know what species it is - but the insect  is so small I doubt I would recognise it in the future without help. The scientific name refers to para (in support of) the Dutch entomologist Jan Swammerdam (1637 - 80) who demonstrated that the various stages of an insect's development (egg, larva, pupa, adult) were all the same insect; the second part nebulella means smoky or misty recording the colouring of the moth.  And this is species number 443.  Two new species for the gardens in one night is a bonus.



Dingy Footman (Eilema griseola)
The Dingy Footman (Eilema griseola) has been photograped and recorded in the past, but not in the true dingy state - grey.  Normally this moth is a creamy yellow and has an appropriate nickname - Melon Seed, for when it is that creamy yellow, that is what it resembles.


Beautiful Plume (Amblyptilia acanthadactyla)
The Beautiful Plume (Amblyptilia acanthadactyla) is difficult to photograph.  If disturbed it zips away and is gone.  This one was persuaded into a plastic inspection tube and then nudged gently until it settled in the screw-cap. Very carefully the tube was unscrewed and the moth obligingly remained still enough to get a decent image in the camera.  The Plumes are a favourite.  'Amblus' and 'ptylon' are Greek words that mean 'blunt feather' and 'akantha' means 'thorn' alluding to the scale teeth on the lobe of the hind wing - rather difficult to see.  Foodplants for the caterpillar include Hedge Woundwort (Stachys sylvatica) which is still just flowering in  the gardens.  Crane's-bills are also plentiful and should benefit the Plume.

Hedge Woundwort (Stachys sylvatica)
Moth numbers from this trap were encouraging.  Over fifty different species including : Mother of Pearl (at least fifty in number), Common Footman (in abundance), Elephant Hawk-moth, Poplar Hawk-moth,  Beautiful Hook-tip, Snout, Swallow Prominent, Burnished Brass, Plain Golden Y, Muslin Footman, Light Emerald and Garden Pebble. 

13 July 2020 - Changed Identities

Small Fan-footed Wave (Idaea biselata)
The weather continues to complicate matters.  Last night the temperature dropped following a sunny, almost hot, day and the number of moths in the trap reflects the chilly flying conditions.  On the floor of the 'arcade' in the garden there is evidence of some moth activity.  One spot in the rafters is a favourite place for a bat feast, the stripped wings of Large Yellow Underwings littering the floor beneath, but there are only two or three evident this morning.  As bats eat a variety of flying insects perhaps a decent sized moth is worth a few of the hundreds of mosquitos or airborne beetles that make up a bat diet.

The Small Fan-footed Wave (Idaea biselata) has only been recorded in the garden once before - which is difficult to believe as it is very common throughout Yorkshire.  Although common, little is known about the caterpillar and which plant sustains the larva.  In captivity the caterpillar preference is for withered leaves indicating that it normally lives close to the ground.

Small Fan-footed Wave (Ptychopoda dilutaria)
The illustration from Humphreys and Westwood's book 'British Moths and their Transformations' is accurate.  Humphreys (the illustrator) states that 'the whole of the insects figured in this plate are from specimens in the cabinet of Mr. Bentley... who has most liberally allowed me to take all the insects I required to my own house for the purpose of copying'.  Other moths depicted on this plate include: Lace Border, Lesser Cream Wave, Mullein Wave, Latticed Heath and Speckled Yellow - all hand-coloured. 
When the book was published the scientific name was different to the one that it now has - Ptychopoda dilutaria.  Ptychos is the Greek word for a fold; dilutaria meaning 'washed out' or 'faint'.


Scalloped Oak (Crocallis elinguaria)
The photograph above shows a moth that has kept its scientific name but has slightly adjusted its common name.  'Scollop' is generally the pronounciation for the shell-fish but the spelling is usually with an 'a' - scallop.  The only scollop in the OED is the word given to a double-ended sharpened stick used by a thatcher to fix the reeds on a roof.  Where on earth is this going?

The moth itself is a regular visitor to the Coxwold gardens and is probably one of the easiest to identify

Scolloped Oak (illus Humphreys)
Once more Mr. Bentley's cabinet provides the illustrator with the specimen to copy.


 

7 July 2020 - Black and White

Peppered Moth (Biston insularia)
All the Peppered Moths I have seen in the gardens at Shandy Hall have been the whiter versions of the species - until now.  Here is Biston insularia ('insular' meaning : pertaining to an island) which is halfway between Biston betularia and B. carbonaria. This intermediate member of the species is not the result of cross-breeding and is genetically distinct.  
For a full colour range showing the degrees of variety see the UK Moths website here.  

Melanism ('black pigment') takes place in a number of other species of UK moths: Pale Brindled Beauty, Scalloped Hazel, Hebrew Character and Clouded-bordered Brindle to name but four.  The dark, black  carbonaria variety of the Peppered Moth seems to be decreasing in the county.

 
Common Footman (Eilima lurideola)
The description in the Field Guide is interesting -'rests with forewings gently curled over body'. All moths fold their wings in particular ways but to include the word 'gently' shows the authors (Waring and Townsend) have been particularly beguiled by this neat little moth. 

'Footman' was the name given to the servant who would run alongside his master who was mounted on horseback. The term developed to include the liveried footman who waited at table dressed in a garment that 'curled gently over body'.  It is a very common moth at this time of year.  If disturbed it jerks and twitches in spasms rather than just taking flight. 

 
Marbled Minor (Oligia strigils)
Tawny Marbled Minor (Oligia latruncula) and Rufous Minor (Oligia versicolor) are the other possibilities. I am pretty certain that this is a Marbled Minor. It can be identified more easily when a splash of white is visible on the wing edges folded over the abdomen, but this melanic version seems likely.  The wing markings are complex but characteristic.  Oligia is from the Greek oligos meaning 'small' and strigilis refers to the strigil or scraper used by bathers, the shape of which can be seen as a 'little line' on the forewing.

Uncertain (Hoplodrina alsines)
It could equally well not be an Uncertain and be a Mottled Rustic (Caradrina morpheus).  The evidence?  Both are a similar shade of brown - sort of softly blurred caramel - and there were numerous examples in the trap. Both fly during this late June, early July time and both have been recorded once before at Shandy Hall.  Hoplon is the Greek word for a weapon and alsines refers to the Bog Stitchwort, a delightful plant found on water  margins and  one of the foodplants of the species.

28 June 2020 - Post Script

Beautiful Snout (Hypena crassilis)
I hoped there might be another Beautiful Snout in the trap and there was - still not in perfect condition but much better than the first.  The velvety, chocolate-coloured wing markings were clear and the little distinctive lines on the wing-tips easily seen. I have looked out for bilberry bushes (the larval foodplant) in the immediate locality but found nothing.  I suppose if there are repeat visits next year then it might be an indication that a colony has established itself - or it might just be the mighty winds that we have experienced recently.

Shaded Broad-bar (Scotopteryx chenopodiata)
The Shaded Broad-bar I have seen only once before in July.  The scientific name is taken from the Greek for 'wing of darkness' where the reference is to the grey, shadowy stripe across the forewings, with outlines the colour of Caramac.

These two are representative of a considerable number of moths captured on Friday night in time for the National Gardens Scheme opening - the first this year, due to the virus.  Since that balmy, sunlit evening it has rained and rained...  

24 June 2020 - From Kent to Yorkshire

Beautiful Snout (Hypena crassalis)
I knew I hadn't seen this moth before but it was a rather worn little creature and to begin with I didn't pay it much attention. The orange mark just behind the head is not a feature that might aid identification, it is where tufts of hair would normally cover the now exposed thorax. 

The shape of the wings reminded me of the Meal Moth (Pyralis farinalis) which has appeared only once before at Shandy Hall and then it was somewhat tattered - but it was clearly different when I had been through the various books. 
One moth seemed to match the wing patterns which was the Beautiful Snout, but it is not listed as one of the species that one would expect to see on the 'Flying tonight' website. Charlie Fletcher kindly confirmed its identity and tells me that it has spread across the county in recent years.  

The bilberry plant (Vaccinium myrtillus) seems to be the determining factor in the life of this moth - except for one location in Kent where a local colony of Hypena crassalis thrives but bilberry is not to be found.

Johan Christian Fabricius (1745 - 1808) was responisble for the scientific name.  Fabricius was a student under Linneaus and is considered one of the most eminent of entomologists and is responsible for the naming of nearly 10,000 species of insects. 

The Beautiful Snout is not as beautiful an example as it could be, but it is species number 441 for the garden and is very welcome.

Riband Wave (Idaea aversata)
A true moth of the garden and commonly distributed throughout the country. Wood avens, dandelions, primrose and docks - the caterpillar is partial to all.  'Riband' is another spelling of ribbon. The second part of the scientific name (Mt Ida was referred to in the last post) is aversata meaning 'on the other side of the page' where the page means the surface of the wing. Linnaeus was stating that the markings on the under side of the wings were distinctive.
The Riband Wave is a fine example of a moth that can match any butterfly with its beautiful markings.


Green Oak Tortrix (Tortrix viridana)
The Green Oak Tortrix stands out in the moth trap and is easily identifiable.  It is a micro moth, they are usually (but not always) quite small and it is a very soft-acid green colour.  Always impatient and ready to be off, it had to be photographed in the familiar plastic tube to get any sort of identifiable image.  The larvae feed on mature broad-leaved trees and the pupa can be found in a rolled or folded leaf.

July Highflyer (Hydriomena furcata)
Green is the theme and is continued in the July Highflyer (Hydromena furcata).  A fine example was found in last night's trap, obviously freshly hatched from the pupa which has developed from the overwintering egg.  Click on the image to see more closely.  The scientific name is a little strange - Hydromena translates as 'remaining as a water-pot; furcata - a two-pronged fork represented by the markings on the wings.
Other moths last night included : Agapeta hamana, Chrysoteuchia culmella, Burnished Brass, Small Fan-foot, Poplar hawk, Clay, Heart and Dart, Udea olivalis, and a couple of others that I need to triple check.

22 June 2020 - Moths and Beethoven

Single-dotted Wave (Idaea dimidiata)
At first I assumed it was a pug.  I was wrong.  The Single-dotted Wave (Idaea dimidiata) is the correct identification despite the fact that there are quite a number of spots on the wings of this moth.  Not a new one for the garden and I see that I made the same mistake when it was first a visitor.  The scientific name refers to one of two mountains with the name 'Mount Ida', one in Crete and one in Turkey - the one in Crete was where the gods and goddesses watched the Trojan wars. Dimidiata means to 'divide into half'.  

 
Barred Yellow (Cidaria fulvata)
No blending into the background with this brightly coloured moth. Given the name Cideria fulvata by Georg Friedrich Treitschke (1776 - 1842) we can be sure the reference is to Ceres, the goddess who protected agriculture.  Treitschke was a librettist and a translator who revised the opera Fidelio at Beethoven's request. The moth was named in 1825 and the provenance is certain.  The Barred Yellow feeds, as a larva, on the leaves of Dog-rose and Burnet Rose and probably other roses.

Others moths found on this 'day-after-the-shortest-night' included : Poplar Hawkmoth, Burnished Brass, Sandy Carpet, Barred Straw, Buff Ermine, Beautiful Golden Y, Brimstone Marble Minor, Flame Shoulder, Heart and Dart and Silver-ground carpet. Nothing surprising but a fair number of each species for a chilly night.


16 June 2020 - Platonic Harmony

Barred Fruit-tree Tortrix (Pandemis cerasana)
Some mornings everything falls into place - other mornings are more complicated.  Just as I was beginning to inspect the trap to see what was to be found, a Small Elephant Hawkmoth decided to launch itself into activity.  The wing-beats of this moth are frenetic and relentless and it will brook no obstacle.  Banging and bursting in the confined space of the trap, the Elephant Hawk set off a Poplar Hawk and the pair of them were like the balls in a pin-ball machine.  
Removing the light to make an opportunity for the two mad insects to achieve the liberty they were seeking, meant that at the same time, a considerable number of moths escaped at the same time and headed for the shrubbery.  There was one I certainly didn't recognise but it was gone before it could be captured - another (Clouded Silver) I would have liked to have photographed but off it went. Some of the moths that were under the egg-cartons were relatively unmoved but, after this upset, I found it difficult to proceed logically. 

The Barred Fruit-tree Tortrix (Pandemis cerasana) stuck to its resting place.  Its markings are quite clear.  The binomial has a couple of references : Pandemis 'of the people' is also an epithet of Aphrodite, the Goddess of Love. Plato put forward the argument that there were two manifestations of Aphrodite : Urania (the goddess of heavenly love or 'Platonic love') and Aphrodite Pandemos, the goddess of the baser, carnal love. The diagonal band across the wings of the moth may have echoed the heraldic sign of illegitimacy on the heraldic shield.  This may have all been a fantasy on the part of the distinguished German entomologist H.G. Hubner (1761 - 1826) and is quite a lot for a little brown moth to carry.

Blood-vein (Timandra comae)
The Blood-vein (Timandra ceresan) is always a crowd pleaser - or it would be if there were a crowd to see it at 6.am.  There is a smaller version but it doesn't have the pink colouring that is a trade-mark for this species.

Mottled Beauty (Alcis repandata)
There are a number of moths that look similar to the Mottled Beauty (Alcis repandata) but with the help of the Field Guide and UK Moths website the markings can identify the species reasonably accurately. It is when the moths markings begin to wear that things become more difficult. Jane Wu, our intern in 2013 wrote this post about the Mottled Beauty.

Light Emerald (Campaea margaritata)
 The Light Emerald (Campaea margaritata) is one of those moths that could be taken for a butterfly. In repose the rinsed green colour of the wings is displayed to its full advantage.  It is a common moth and easily recognised even when the green fades to white.  The larva will munch through Hawthorn, Silver Birch, Hazel, Blackthorn and other broadleaved plants and shrubs


Small Clouded Brindle (Apamea unanimis)
And here, at the bottom of the post, is the latest identified moth.  My reasoning tended towards a slightly worn Lychnis (Hadena bicruris) but I was off the mark.  Charlie Fletcher gave me the Small Clouded Brindle (Apamea unanimis) as the correct species.  He says this moth is often mistaken for a Common Rustic agg. and from the Guide I can see why.  Apamea unanimis reveals that the moth is identified by a town in Asia Minor (Apamea) which has no entomological connection and the Latin for 'harmony' (unanimis) or 'harmonius with' another species. Well, it is a little complicated, but it is also a new species (number 440) for the gardens at Shandy Hall, so all is well.

9 June 2020 - Ah! Bistones

Peppered Moth (Biston betularia)
In 1845 this image might have helped the amateur enthusiast to identify the startlingly bright, black and white moth that had been observed or trapped by light, as a Peppered Moth. Both male (fig. 11) and female (fig. 12) are shown in the drawing which comes from British Moths and their Transformations by Humphreys and Westwood.  Adjacent to the  moths is a Yarrow (Achillea millefolia) which, although not listed as a food source, can be found in the hedgerows where the larvae feed on a wide variety of plants, shrubs and trees.   The Yarrow is just coming into flower so the timing is appropriate .

The scientific name (Biston betularia) makes reference to the Gods of the Classics. Biston was the son of Mars (God of War) and Callirhoe (a fresh water nymph or naiad) and his name was given to the city he founded in Thrace. His followers were known as Bistones and their main preoccupation was a deep dedication to Bacchus - the God of wine and fertility.  The second part of the binomial refers to the birch tree (betula) which Linnaeus cites as a food plant.


Peppered Moth (Biston betularia)
The drawing is certainly considered but a photograph (above) gives a better indication of the true beauty of this moth.  Jackson Pollock could have learned a thing or two from the glorious abstract, 'drip style' decoration on the wings.  A piece of egg carton is not the most  appropriate background but I couldn't remember if the Peppered Moth tends to fly when disturbed or can be repositioned easily.  When I came back to it a little later, it had flown to seek sanctuary in the grasses.


Ghost Moth (Hepialus humuli)
Some years ago I had set out on a short walk to watch the sun sink.  There is a spot about half a mile from Shandy Hall where there is almost 360 degrees of visibility - if you stand on a five-bar gate when you get there.  Gazing around I noticed a moth, quite large, that was sort of hovering over the centre of the single-track road.  Like a vertical yo-yo it was rising and falling in a rather graceful and purposeful way. Another joined it after a minute or two, and then another came.  Soon there were over a dozen, all ascending and descending on invisible threads of air.  I had no idea what they were but was very pleased to see something I hadn't seen before.  Two plunged together into the hedgerow, to be followed by others.  On returning home I learned it was a 'lek' - a competitive display - by Ghost Moths (Hepialus humuli). 

In the photograph above is the male, just like the ones that were beguiling and attracting the females by pheromones.  Once seen this moth cannot be misidentified and the one that came to the trap last night was freshly hatched from the pupa, so fresh its wings were like laundered sheets.

The male of the species can be seen here in an earlier blogpost by UPenn intern, Walter Chen. 

 
Ingrailed Clay (Diarsia mendica)
The Ingrailed Clay (Diarsia mendica) is a docile moth that appears in a wide variety of shades - the Field Guide shows nine different versions - but most can be distinguished by the square spots and the black dots close to them.  The one pictured here is greyish but the moth can appear in yellowish orange, red-brown or even dark brown.  It is common throughout the country and will fly through June and July.

Barred Straw (illustration)
The image above is of a Barred Straw (Eulithis pyraliata).  For identification purposes it is an adequate representation, but because the standard form used to be the moth 'seen as if in flight', or 'on display', the naturalist is denied two indicators. When mounted in the display case the curled abdomen would not have been visible (it can be seen in the photograph below) and the gently curled hind wings would not be able to be represented meaningfully.  At rest, the living moth seems to perch rather like a mantis.   

 
Barred Straw (Eulithis pyraliata)




2 June 2020 - Tales from the Cryptic

Buff-tip (Phalera bucephala)
Like a small number of species of moths, the Buff-tip (Phalera bucephala) is one that seems to be attracted to light but doesn't quite make it into the trap itself; all the more reason for putting a white sheet beneath the lamp to make sure any strays don't disappear into the grasses.  This must be one of the most cryptic of insects and is the perfect example of blending in.  It has been photographed on the trunk of a silver birch (Betula pendula) to display how the wing patterns are similar to the colours of the bark.  The Buff-tip (adult) is active until the end of July during which time eggs are laid, in large numbers, and the larvae feed, in groups, on the leaves of birches, sallows, rowan, hornbeam and sycamore.

The scientific name connects the white patch (phalera) with the name of Alexander the Great's mighty steed - Bucephalus ('bull-headed') a horse that was impossible to ride until it was realised by Alexander that the animal was frightened by his own shadow.    

Bright-line Brown-eye (Lacanobia oleracea)
Just the two moths for this post. I would have liked to photograph the Small Rivulet that was the most noticeable moth I caught sight of this morning but an accidental elbow nudge knocked the trap, which startled the Green Carpet, which flew into the Silver Y which dislodged the Small Rivulet and it was gone.  

The Bright-line Brown-eye (Lacanobia oleracea) is not a bad substitute as it is in fresh condition with its characteristic markings all clearly visible - the orangey spots, the bright,white line forming a W and a general brown colouring. Its scientific name reveals that it is a lover of vegetables to the point where some gardeners might call it a pest, but not in the gardens here.  

30 May 2020 - Trap in the Old Quarry

The Quarry Garden in May
A pathway through the campions and grasses shows the location of the moth-trap.  I don't always trap in the quarry garden but it does seem to produce more micro moths than when the trap is positioned on the grass near the borders.  The results from last night's trap are below.


Brown Silver-line (Petrophora chlorosata)
The larva of this moth has a staple diet - bracken. As a result its habitat is moorland, heathland and woodland or anywhere where the foodplant grows.  Bracken can be unwelcome in the well-ordered garden as it spreads and is difficult to remove.  Spores (carried on the wind) and rhizomes (travelling under the soil) are its ways of dominating the landscape.  
However, there is no bracken in the garden at Shandy Hall so that is not the reason for the appearance of the Brown Silver-line (Petrophora chlorosata). The closest bracken is near the village of Oldstead, a couple of miles away, so this visitor must be adventurous. 
'Petro' (a rock); 'phoreo' (to bear) referring to the stone-colouring on the wings; 'chlorosata' meaning 'pale'.  Chlorosata was named by Giovanni Scopoli (1723-1788).  He was given the name of 'The Linnaeus of the Austrian Empire' for his advances in matters scientific, including his expert knowledge on mercury poisoning, having trained as a doctor.
 
Clouded-bordered Brindle (Apamea crenata)
The Clouded-bordered Brindle (Apamea crenata) can appear in one of two varieties.  This one is the mahogany-coloured version bearing a clearly visible, pale yellow coloured oval and kidney mark on the wings. The lighter coloured variety is more common in the gardens at Coxwold and can be seen by way of a contrast on the blog of 13 May 2017.  The scientific name consists of the name of an unrelated town in Asia Minor (Apamea) and a reference to the markings on the wings which look crenellated or 'notched' (crenata).

Snout (Hypena proboscidalis)
Not difficult to identify, the Snout (Hypena proboscidalis) has a clear, distinguishing feature - the proboscis or elephant's trunk. The elephant's trunk is a modified nose whereas the Snout has a modified mouth.  The 'hypena' is a reference to the Greek word for a moustache.  The Snout's larvae feed on the leaves of the common nettle and the adult is a pollenater as it feeds on flowers. It rests by day beneath the nettle leaves.

Plum Tortrix (Hedya pruniana)
This was the only micro to be seen and as usual, being a 'bird dropping' moth, is not immediately identifiable - but I am pretty certain this is the Plum Tortrix (Hedya pruniana). The pattern of markings on the wings is exquisite when seen close to.  The caterpillar dines on wild cherry, wild plum and blackthorn and can be found all over the UK

26 May 2020 - New Species in the Garden

(Isotrias rectifasciana)
This moth perplexed me.  I didn't think I had seen it before but no matter how carefully I compared my photograph with the drawings in the Field Guide (illustrations by Richard Lewington) and the photographs in Manley's British Moths I couldn't be sure of its identity.  It was small with brown, speckled markings on a creamy ground with three bands across the wings. After an hour trying to weigh up which it was, I gave up and sent the photograph to Yorkshire expert, Charlie Fletcher, who informed me it was Isotrias rectifasciana.  The Norfolk Moths website gives it the title of 'Hedge Tortrix' and records that it is scarce.  This is the first time this little moth has been recorded at Shandy Hall and brings the number of different species to 439.

The scientific name is descriptive isos meaning 'equal'; trias meaning 'group of three' - referring to the bands on the forewings; rectifasciana or 'the straight band' across the centre where other members of the Tortricids have an oblique  mark.  The food plant is not known but it is probable that hawthorn might satisfy the caterpillar.
 
Broom Moth (Melanchra pisi)
This moth caused a lot of head scratching as well.  At first it was hoped that a Knot Grass (Acronicta rumicis) had been drawn to the light of the trap - a moth that should be in this locality but has not yet been seen.  It wasn't a Knot Grass but a Broom Moth (Melanchra pisi), a moth that has only been seen once before in 2013.  I am glad to know it is still around.  The description of its habitat and food source can be seen here, on the blog that was posted by our intern, Jane Wu, on that occasion.
 
Scorched Wing (Plagodis dolabraia)
The following three strikingly marked moths were photographed with relative ease.  The Scorched Wing (Plagodis dolobraia) is always a delight but will take to the wing at the slightest provocation. I waited for it to crawl up the wooden strut of the collecting cage until it felt contented to settle.  A few purposeful but gentle wing beats indicating that it was now going to remain in the chosen spot. 
 
Small Magpie (Anania hortulata)
Like the first moth in this little group, the Small Magpie (Anania hortulata) is a micro moth even though it looks more the size and shape of a macro.  Since it was last recorded on the blog it seems to have changed the first half of its scientific name from Eurrhypara (meaning 'greasy' and referring to the glossy sheen of the wings) to Anania (meaning 'without pain' or ironically 'with pleasure'). 

 
Small Angle Shades (Euplexia lucipara)
The third moth is the Small Angle Shades (Euplexia lucipara) a very compact and attractive moth with clear and uncomplicated markings.  The scientific name refers to the position of the wings when the moth is completely at rest. 'well woven' or 'plaited' (eu plexis) they form a small ridge to make the insect resemble a leaf; lucipara refers to the 'bringing forth of light' in the form of the yellowish marking.  The moth has two generations and the caterpillar will feed on ferns, bracken, nettles, currants, birches, sallows - all found in parks and gardens throughout the country.

Other species in last night's trap were : Gold Spot, Poplar Hawkmoth, Green Carpet, Silver Ground Carpet, Spectacle, Heart and Dart, Straw Dot, Pale Tussock, White Ermine, Buff Ermine, a couple of pugs and more cockchafers than I have ever seen before.

21 May 2020 - A Selection

Chinese Character (Cilix glaucata)    
Photographing moths for identification is sometimes straightforward - the moth is clinging to an egg box in the trap and when the box is taken out and laid on a table or on grass, the moth doesn't move and can be photographed easily.  Some species are even more compliant and can be persuaded to be moved into a more aesthetically pleasing pose using a paint brush and then re-positioned on a leaf or flower head. Others take flight at the slightest disturbance - the beautiful Waved Umber (Menophra abruptaria) that I was very pleased to see was gone in a second and no record of its capture remains.  

The Chinese Character (Cilix glaucata) remains emphatically still, relying on its camouflage as protection and very useful for the photographer.  But if the moth happens to be resting in an awkward place not suitable for an indentifying image then it will not easily be persuaded to move to a better position.  It flutters and dashes, first to one side then another, displaying some beautiful patterns and then closes up into its characteristic 'bird dropping' pose.  Spuler, A (1869-1937) a German entomologist, suggests the scientific name refers to the Greek word 'killix' meaning 'an ox with crooked horns'.  Is this what can be seen etched in white on the dark grey blotch of colour on the forewing?


Silver-ground Carpet (Xanthorhoe montanata)  
The Silver-ground Carpet (Xanthorhoe montanata) is a flighty creature and I had to follow this one around the garden until it came to rest.  A common moth in North Yorkshire, it can be seen in flight during the day as much as night.  The scientific name means 'the yellow stream in the mountains' referring to the wavy lines or 'rivulets' on the forewings.

Brimstone Moth (Opisthograptis luteolata)
The Brimstone Moth (Opisthograptis luteolata) is another moth that relies on instant flight if disturbed. It will gently move its wings before completely settling in a new position, but the opportunity to record it in a photograph needs to be undertaken swiftly.  The word 'brimstone' (also referring to the similarly coloured butterfly) is another word for sulphur.  The Brimstone Moth's scientific name includes the Greek 'graptos' meaning 'marked or painted with letters' - presumably a reference to the markings on both upper and lower surfaces of the forewings.

Shuttle-shaped Dart (Agrotis puta puta)
This moth was coaxed from the moth trap onto a lilac leaf with ease.  The Shuttle-shaped Dart (Agrotis puta puta) is found all over England and Wales. Its defence is in its woody colouring.  The scientific name is probably from 'agrotes' meaning 'of the field; the 'puta' part being related to 'the goddess of pruning of trees'. Or, again, it could refer to 'putris' the rotten wood that the markings resemble.

 
White Ermine (Spilosoma lubricipeda )
A particularly striking example of a very attractive moth - the White Ermine (Spilosoma lubricipeda), a moth that can be found on the wing late at night. The caterpillar's speedy crawl is referred to in the 'lubricipes' (swift-footed) part of the scientific name.  The 'spilos' (spot) and 'soma' (body) makes reference to the spots on the abdomen, not on the wings of the adult.  The White Ermine is especially welcome as the larvae feed on nettles and dock.  Last night I found one on the curtains in an upstairs room with no open windows, so how it got there I cannot imagine. (Yesterday morning a European Hornet, not the invasive Asian species, was also discovered inside, buzzing and bashing against the old kitchen window.)

 
Pale Tussock (Calliteara pudibunda)
The Pale Tussock (Calliteara pudibunda) appears to have crash-landed onto the side of the moth trap, with its legs sprawling in front of its head and abdomen.  This moth will cling to the surface it is resting on and prefers to simulate lifelessness if it is moved.  Before insecticides it was very common in the hop fields in Kent but numbers have declined.  It is still a common moth however, and one that is instantly recognisable.

(Pseudoswammerdamia combinella)

'Rare and local resident' is the description of this moth on the Yorkshire Moths Flying Tonight website but it seems to have a little sanctuary in the gardens in Coxwold as I have seen it every year since moth-trapping began here ten or so years ago.  Instantly identified by the bright orangey-coloured spot it is not easy to photograph and I had to capture it in a tube, persuade it to land on the screw-top and then quickly get a picture before it took off.
 
Pebble Prominent (Notodonta ziczac)   
The 'ziczac' part of the scientific name for the Pebble Prominent (Notodonta ziczac) is a reference to the markings on the caterpillar which form a zig-zag pattern, emphasised by the larva's resting attitude.  The Pebble Prominent was very common when moth trapping began at Shandy Hall but numbers seem to have decreased.  The food source - sallows, willows and poplars - is still available in abundance so something else is responsible.  This moth was very agitated when it was gently moved from the trap and it only became quieter when it was released from the inspection tube

Mottled Pug (Eupithecia exiguata )
If disturbed, this pug moth will find another place to repose quite quickly but that doesn't mean it will be easy to identify.  According to the field guide's description the moth has a 'forewing warm grey, leading edge curved. Central spot conspicuous, rather elongated with a series of small black wedges beyond it.  A narrow, pale outer central cross-band, angled near leading edge, with two straw-coloured smears extending towards outer edge.  This combination of of features is diagnostic'.  Which doesn't mean that this is definitely a Mottled Pug.  It's one of many species that are very similar and cause difficulties for the amateur enthusiast. However, it is very similar to another from Shandy Hall gardens that regional expert Charlie Fletcher identified, so I think it is one is correct.