26 October 2018 - Dr Blair's Moths

Blair's Shoulder Knot (Lithophane leautieri)
The Juniperus procumbens, growing near the base of the ancient sweet chestnut tree, is the possible food plant for this Blair's Shoulder-knot when it was in the larval stage of its development.  The pink flush on the abdomen can be seen quite easily as the moth's defence response is to play dead when touched and it then can be quite easily rolled over to see the underside of the hindwings.  Lithophanes are becoming popular again - they are made of porcelain with a design etched into the surface which makes the porcelain thinner and enables the image to be seen when a light source (like a candle) is placed behind.  The origin of the word is from the Greek for 'appearing like a stone'.  

The moth was discovered in south-western France by M Leautier but I can find nothing about him.  However the reference to 'Blair' is easier to find out.  There are two other moths similarly named : Blair's Mocha and Blair's Wainscot.  Dr. Kenneth Gloyne Blair was the man responisble for recording all three moths in the 1940's and 50's on the Isle of Wight. 

Satellite (Eupsilia transversa)
There is the tiny white satellite orbiting the orange planet (or dot) on the wings of the Satellite (Eupsilia transversa).  Click on the photograph and it can be seen more easily.  

This is a genus with only one species (monotypic) and here that one is.  The scientific name refers to the bands across (transversa) the wings; and the first part of the binomial means 'very bald' - which seems a little odd.  The larger dots are not always orange and sometimes there are two satellites...

Plutella porrectella

It could have been a Diamond Back but this is the Grey-streaked Diamond-back which is very similar to its much commoner name-sharer.  Plutella was originally connected to the Greek for 'wealth', but then it became associated with the Greek for 'smudged' as the colours seem to run into each other.  It seems that a third interpretation can be put forward - a reference to Pluto, god of the Nether World.  Porrectella links to the antennae which are 'outstretched' (porrectus) when the moth is at rest, as this one is.

Silver Y (Autographa gamma)

I have seen a number of Silver Y moths over the years and they tend to vary in the colours they display to the world, but I have never seen one so bright a purple colour.  The little 'y' marks are clearly seen - these a richer, creamier colour rather than the usual silvery white.

Feathered Thorn (Colotois pennaria)
There were four Feathered Thorn moths in the trap and all in perfect condition.  Their similarity to the fallen leaves is so beautiful. The one above is a female as the antennae are not feathered.  The Feathered Thorn can be found in parks and gardens or wherever there are broad-leaved trees.  Further information on this moth can be found here.

November Moth (Epirrita dilutata )
There is no guarantee that the moth in the photograph above is a November Moth.  It might be a Pale November Moth (Epirrita christyi) or it might be an Autumnal Moth (Epirrita autumnata).  The markings on the forewings of these moths are variable - sometimes the forewings of a single moth don't even match; the bands running across the wings are sometimes clearly defined and on other specimens they are hardly there at all.  Even the shape of the wings vary.  The moth shown above looks like a November Moth but this really means very little; just enjoy looking at its markings - so delicate and complex.

16 October 2018 - Dickensian Sprawling

Sprawler (Asteroscopus sphinx)
This is Sprawler.  Also known as Asteroscopus sphinx and before that Petasia cassinea. 
The petasia part of the scientific name seems to come from 'able to fly' but this seems somewhat odd as the majority of moths manage this without any trouble; the sphinx part of its other identity refers to the larva's habit of rearing up when disturbed - as can be seen in  the photograph beneath.  I can find no reference as to why the name was changed.

But the common name, Sprawler is an interesting one.  The OED lists the word as specifically relating to the species of moth when it was first recorded in 1832.  Seven years later Charles Dickens uses the word in Nicholas Nickleby when a character, referring to the Infant Phenomenon, declares, 'Isn't it enough to make a man crusty to see that little sprawler put up in the best business every night'.

Is the moth in the photograph sprawling?  I suppose it could be, but it might also be down to another meaning of the word : 'to crawl from one place to another in a struggling or ungraceful manner'.  When I moved the moth from the egg carton to the privet leaf (to reflect the illustration below) it suddenly became active and made jerky and rather wobbly movements before settling down to be photographed.  This sprawling reference is dated 1582. 

Sprawler and larva (illustration)
Sprawler was accompanied by the first December Moth of the season and a number of those scraps of tissue known as Winter Moth, November Moth and Autumnal Moth - all possible and all looking very much the same.

Sprawler has only been seen once before (exactly a year ago) and we are pleased to see a member of its new generation.

10 October 2018 - The Marvel of the Day

Merveille du Jour (Dichonia aprilina)

Out walking near Adel last night, without a coat, I noticed the relative warmth of the evening was causing some fluttering among the shrubs and bushes that line the main road - the Otley Road.  There were lights everywhere - overhead street lamps, upstairs and downstairs bed and dining  rooms, garages, shops and the headlights of passing traffic.  Through this light-saturated habitat the moths of Adel were still managing to cling on to life.  In the Quaker graveyard, set back from the road and comparatively dark, there were quite a few whirring about their business.  When I arrived back in Coxwold the trap was brought out and some of the results can be seen here.  

The Merveille du Jour (Dichonia aprilina) is not common in North Yorkshire but we get one or two every year - just as the apples are falling.  An account of the derivation of the moth's scientific name can be seen if you type 'merveille' into the search box - or click to take you here.
Without a doubt it is a startling moth.  This one was pushing its proboscis through the fine mesh of the moth cage in search of the ivy flower or ripe berry.

Red-green Carpet (Chloroclysta siterata)

Another moth that carries a rich, crunchy green on its wings is the Red-green Carpet (Chloroclysta siterata). In the photograph above the redness is not clearly shown but this moth is variable and any presence of what is described as a 'marbled reddish brown' will be sufficient to confirm its identity.  The female overwinters and the larvae feed on broadleaved trees as well as apple and rowan.

Green-brindled Crescent (Allophyes oxyacanthae)

The third green moth is another Green-brindled Crescent - number two on the Yorkshire Moths Flying Tonight list.  This is the season for this moth and the photograph shows the paler version - the darker was seen a week or so ago. This moth is found throughout the country and is described as 'abundant'. I have included it once again as it represents so many of the moths in this country - hardly seen at all, beautifully marked and so fragile.

Brown Plume (Stenoptilia pterodactyla)
The final image is that of the Brown Plume (Stenoptilia pterodactyla).  I love the Plume moths but hardly ever see them.  This one I found imprisoned in the gallery, clinging to a window pane and it was a pleasure to release it into the garden.  What a strange and ethereal moth it is.  See an earlier description and derivation of the scientific name here.

23 September 2018 - Fugitive Green

Mercury Vapour Lamp trap in the Wild Garden
The majority of the moth trapping at Shandy Hall takes place in what used to be a quarry.  Stone was taken from the ground and the resulting spoil heaps formed a miniature landscape of humps and hollows.  When the supply of stone came to an end the main part of this acre of ground became a paddock. My understanding is that the pathways that meander throughout were made by horses. Three mighty ash trees grow in the centre - all fortunately free of die-back - and the grasses and plants that encircle them are maintained to encourage as much insect life as possible.

The white sheet is important.  When a moth is attracted to the light it sometimes becomes completely disorientated and fails to enter the trap at all, coming to rest just outside.  If the trap is placed directly onto grass then those moths would be very difficult to spot and would also be in danger of  being trodden upon.   

Aethes smeathmanniana
The warmth in the middle of last week brought over a hundred moths to the trap but not a huge variety of different species. A couple of Green Carpets added some colour to the congregation but the palette was mainly brown and shades of brown.

The tiny ghost-like Aethes smeathmanniana was one exception.  Only seen once before at Shandy Hall and that was one of our UPenn interns who had identified it as a new species.  Not having seen it myself I thought this little scrap of tissue might increase the number - but it was not to be.  The moth is common throughout the UK though it is thinly distributed in North Yorkshire so it is good to be able to report that there have been two sightings in Coxwold.  Aethes refers to 'unusual' or 'strange'; the second part of the scientific name is in honour of H. Smeathman (1750 -87) a British entomologist whose main area of studies was termites.   

Celypha lacunana
The Common Marble is the name that is sometimes given to Celypha lacunana.  This moth proved too difficult to identify without Charlie Fletcher's help. It is so variable in colour that I am not certain I would be able to identify it when it next comes along, for it is very common throughout the United Kingdom.  Our other examples have all presented themselves differently.

Green-brindled Crescent (Allophyes oxyacantha)
The Green-brindled Crescent is much easier to identify, as long as it retains the sprinkling of green on its wings.  Green is a delightful colour in the moth world but it tends to fade quickly.

Green-brindled Crescent (illustration)

The illustration from British Moths and their Transformations by Humphreys and Westwood is a pretty accurate record.

Garden Rose Tortrix (Acleris variegana)
The final moth in this group was found in last night's trap which contained a Snout, a Rosy Rustic and the Green Brindled Crescent.  The Garden Rose Tortrix varies a little in how the pattern and colour appear on the wings and it is only the second to be recorded here.  No midges, no sexton beetles, no water boatmen - it was all too cold.  What will the equinox bring?  

11 September 2018 - Sallow and Button

Orange sallow (Xanthia citrago)
When I went out to see what the night had brought it was clear that it was not going to be an easy job.  Crane flies and wasps, beetles, caddis flies and midges were in the majority and although there were moths hiding in the egg-cartons, the majority were Large Yellow Underwings (Noctua pronuba), Broad-bordered Yellow Underwings (Noctua fimbriata) and dozens of Setaceous Hebrew Characters (Xestia c-nigrum).  A bright yellow Brimstone Moth and a perfect Blood Vein gave splashes of colour alongside an Orange Sallow which was in lovely condition.

The Orange Sallow has also only appeared once when it was recorded in 2014.  The link here will take you to that date where there is a short account of its biography.

(Acleris emargana )

Acleris emargana was also last seen four years ago and that was the only record for the garden at Shandy Hall.  Information about it was posted here on the blog so if you wish to see the little history for this moth, please click on the link. It flies with rapid wingbeats and when it settles it almost disappears.  It has a common name of Notch-wing Button and the notch can be seen in the photograph close to the insect's leg on the left hand side of the wing.  It is a small notch.

Going through the species list on the Yorkshire Moths Flying Tonight website it seems that most of the moths in the top thirty or so have all been recorded in Coxwold, but the two above give evidence that each variety is not numerous.

6 September 2018 - Four Brown Moths

Brown-spot Pinion (Agrochola litura)
The leaves on the apple trees are still green and the crop of fruit is being collected for pressing in Husthwaite. It could be a record year. However, the colour brown is beginning to appear on the margins and this gentle transformation is reflected in the moths that are being lured by the overnight light-trap.  Some can be difficult to identify at this time of year and each different species seems to vary from individual to individual and sometimes looks like another variety altogether - especially if they are brown.

Here are photographs of 4 different species that came to the light-trap last night.  (The night was cool with high, thin clouds.)

The Brown-spot Pinion (Agrochola litura) is in the list of top twenty moths to be found on the wing in Yorkshire during the beginning of September and the evidence was shown in the trap where there were at least half a dozen specimens.  That broad band of a different shade of brown is helpful but I found the two strong black marks at the wing-tips made identification certain.
The scientific name is interesting.  Litura is the word for the 'smearing on a wax writing tablet'; an 'erasure' or a 'blotch' is another meaning. This is supposed to explain the four little black marks covering the ground colour (Agrochola) beneath. If you click on the picture it will enlarge and make it a little easier to see.    

Turnip Moth (Agrotis segetum)
There are characteristics which help identify this second moth but colours are not a good guideline.  The shading can be anything from a sandy colour, through grey and almost to black.  I found the pale dotted white lines across the wings below the thorax helpful but the slightly elongated shape of the moth was the the strongest evidence.  I still had to double check with Charlie Fletcher.  The Turnip Moth can appear at any time of the year and is both a resident and a visitor.  It feeds on carrot, beet, swede and cabbage (where it is less welcome) and on the roots of other plants.

Heart and Dart (Agrotis exclamationis)
A month ago the Heart and Dart (Agrotis exclamationis) was one of the most abundant moths on the wing in Yorkshire but the season is coming to an end for the adult of this species.  Those piercing black dart marks are quite easy to recognise.  The caterpillar will hibernate over winter in an underground cell where it will also pupate.  A light trap in a garden in summer, anywhere from Scotland to Cornwall, will attract this moth.

Dark Sword-grass (Agrotis ipsilon)
The Dark Sword-grass (Agrotis ipsilon) is larger than the other brown moths and has a crispness to its appearance - almost like charred paper.  It seems to vary between being very active and difficult to photograph to being almost comatose.  This one was happy to be lifted onto a leaf but then shot off at terrific speed.  How such energy is generated is quite extraordinary.

Brindled Green (Dryobotodes eremita)
And one green.  The Brindled Green carried a different identity in 1843 when it was illustrated by H N Humphreys Esq. in a series of plates.  It originally belonged to a group of moths known as the brocades, 'from the rich shining patches of varied tints upon the fore-wings'.  Some of the species today still carry the name - the Pale-shouldered Brocade being one that has been recorded at Shandy Hall.  The scientific name of the Brindled Green has  been through a number of variations: Hadena protea - where Hadena refers to Hades and protea to 'change'; Noctua protea; Noctua nebulosa; Noctua seladonia and Polia seladonia.

The little moth approaching the flower of an Inflated Catchfly in the illustration (below) is sensitively coloured by Humphreys - the tawny brindle and sprinkling of green on the thorax is well observed and beautifully hand painted. Where would the Inflated Catchfly be found?  It is a member of the campion family (Lychnis) but not a species of plant found in this neck of the woods.

Brindled Green (illustration)

30 August 2018 - Enter : Autumnal Rustic

Autumnal Rustic (Eugnorisma glareosa)
'Pale ashy colour tinged with purplish rufescence, powdered with thick black irrorations.'  Humphreys and Westwood included the Autumnal Rustic in British Moths and their Transformations (1843) and described the species very carefully.  'Irroration' means 'moistened with dew' or 'bedewed'.  In 1843 the moth was recorded as having been seen in Devon but otherwise was considered to be very rare.

There were two slightly bedewed Autumnal Rustics in last night's trap, both in perfect condition and quite easy to photograph. The striking markings make it virtually impossible to mistake and just to be certain the pale hindwing can be glimpsed between the closed forewings. The moth is recorded in 2012 as being common throughout the UK, but Yorkshire Moths tells us that it is less frequently seen and rather widespread in the county. 

The scientific name causes confusion.  UK Moths has the binomial as Eugnorisma glareosa with Paradiarsia glareosa as an alternativeHumphreys has Caradrina glareosa.  I can find no definition of Eugnorisma;  Caradrina is the name of an Albanian river; glareosa means 'gravelly' and Paradiarsia means 'by the side of' - presumably when placed alongside another species for comparison.

Autumnal Rustic with Small Bindweed flower (illus)
In the drawing above the pale hindwing can be clearly seen although the ground colour of the wings is much darker than the beautiful specimen at Shandy Hall.

Square-spot Rustic, Blood Vein, Flame, Green Carpet, Marbled Carpet, Frosted Orange, Silver Y, Snout, Rosy Rustic, Flounced Rustic, Shuttle-shaped Dart, Straw Dot, Feathered Gothic (more this year than ever before), Svenssons Copper Underwing, Ypsophola scrabella and a million midges made up the rest of the catch.

The species count now stands at 435. 

25 August 2018 - Myth Moth

Sallow (Xanthia icteritia)
A pretty dismal response to last night's trap.  The temperature fell rapidly as the sun went down and I wasn't optimistic but 4 moths is very low indeed.  Partly due to using the 'rain tent' and trying to find a spot that wouldn't attract the new colonies of wasps that have sprung up everywhere.  However one of the four captured was the Sallow (Xanthia icteritia) a moth that has a number of different variations of colour and intensity of markings.  The black dot on both wings seems to be consistent and is visible in both the live specimen in the photograph and in the drawing beneath.

Sallow - 2 varieties

Caladrius (Harley Bestiary British Library)

The Caladrius (or Caladril) is a mysterious, mythical bird that can be associated with the Sallow (Xanthia icteritia).  The icteritia part of the binomial refers to the Icterus, a bird that was said to cure a jaundice sufferer by removing the yellowness (xanthia) from the human body.  It looks the ill person in the face and the jaundice transfers itself to the bird.

The Caladrius is a white bird that lives in the chamber of the king and is also capable of healing the sick.  If the bird looks at the face of the ill person then that person will recover as the bird will draw the sickness into itself.  It will then fly towards the sun to have the disease burned out of its own body.  In a drawing from the Harley Bestiary in the British Library there is an image of a king (with crown) lying upon his sick-bed. The benevolent  Caladrius is perched on the bed-rail and looks as if it is just about to fly to its fiery purge.

Caladril  (Alne church)
Just down the road from Coxwold is the village of Alne which has a beautifully carved north doorway.  In the photograph above you may be able to see how the Caladrius, with wings spread, has its beak very close to the head of a person lying prone upon a bed.  Clearly this individual is being cured rather than being rejected by the power of the bird.

The other moths were a Pale Eggar, a Broad-bordered Yellow Underwing and a Flounced Rustic.

20 August 2018 - The Perfect Moth

Lime-speck Pug (Eupithecia centaureata)
I first saw a Lime-speck Pug (Eupithecia cenaureata) in York Museum Gardens in the late summer of 2014.  We were trapping in the gardens to see whether there was a difference in the species to be found in the centre of the city compared to those found in the country village.  For some reason this moth seemed to be special.  The Lime-speck has beguiled moth-trappers in the past: 'the elegant attitude in which they repose, with their wings beautifully expanded' is one lepidopterist's observation.  I find the complexity of colour displayed on this insect's wings to be quite remarkable.  There are shades of toffee colouring mixed in with smoky, charcoal black all clumped into a clotted cream base with hints of blue and grey - the whole looking as if it has been applied with a tiny palette knife.  When disturbed the moth walks a few steps, stops, gently beats its wings twice and then falls into a motionless pose.

In the garden at Shandy Hall we have plenty of plants that should encourage it to become resident.  Mugwort, Goldenrod, Burnet-saxifrage, Yarrow, Wild Angelica, Common Knapweed (bud illustrated) are all food for the caterpillar.

Lime-speck Pug (with Knapweed bud) 

I have been hoping to spot it one morning at Shandy Hall and finally one has appeared. 
Most welcome new species - number 434. 

Pale Eggar (Trichiura crataegi)
The Pale Eggar (Trichiura crataegi) has only been spotted once before.  Difficult to photograph as it flapped and flapped inside the specimen tube to the extent that I released it and followed it around the garden until it landed on a handy leaf.  It is a striking, compact moth with what would seem to be unlimited energy.

(Catoptria falsella)
Apologies for the mediocre photograph of Catoptria falsella, a moth that inhabits the thick moss-covered roofs of outbuildings.  Moss is the food plant and the caterpillar lives in a silken tube inside the moss clumps.  The Greek word for 'mirror' is katoptron and this word was thought to be descriptive of the pearly sheen on some of the species.  Falsella is, as you might expect, means 'false'.  Apparently two species were being compared and the other was accorded the word 'verus' or true.  Lepidopterist word-games.

Although the image is not good, you should still be able to see the broad, shield-like sweep of white across the wing with four 'spokes' leading onto the wing edge. 

Lime-speck Pug (Eupithecia centaureata)

A final image of a favourite.  Now to find, at Shandy Hall, the other York species - the Toadflax Pug.

18 August 2018 - Back to the Trap

Centre-barred Sallow (Atethmia centrago)
I am not certain how the weather has affected moth-trapping nationally this year.  Numbers are certainly down in the gardens at Shandy Hall - particularly those members of the variety known as 'underwing'.  Perhaps it is too early to say. August is supposed to be the  warmest month in the UK so perhaps there might be an increase in their numbers.  
We have trapped and recorded a number of the Sallow family over the years and the arrival of these tawny-winged insects seems to be the herald of a change in the seasons.  The Centre-barred Sallow in the photograph is as fresh as a daisy and one of the easiest to identify.  After over-wintering as an egg (laid on a twig or a crevice in the bark of an ash tree) the caterpillar lives inside a bud.  As it develops it spends the day hiding at the base of the tree, emerging at dusk and climbing at speed to feed on the leaves higher up the trunk.  The larva spins a cocoon beneath the ground and the pupa hatches after a few weeks.  How any of them survive is beyond me.

Feathered Gothic (Tholera decimalis)

A pair of Feathered Gothics - one male and one female. My ideal photograph would show the feathery antennae of the male and the simple, single strand of the female but when I tried to  position them accordingly they became animated and started rapid little runs in unpredictable directions.  The female is the upper one in the image - the slight curve to the forewing helps in identification.  This moth survives the winter as an egg after the female has broadcast eggs from the air onto the grassland beneath - rather like the swift moth family.  The larva grows and feeds on Sheep's fescue grass and the adult emerges in late July, which is why this pair look so freshly made.

                                                 Flounced Rustic (Luperina testacea)                                                        

The third species is just a particularly good example of a Flounced Rustic (Luperina testacea) which is found throughout the county and is common nationally.

Gabriella has now returned to the University of Pennsylvania.  She was a bonus to the moth world at Shandy Hall and we send her thanks for her diligence, care and dependability.

31 July 2018 - Black and White Moths

Ypsolopha sequella

The heavy rains this weekend were welcome after such a long dry spell, and I swear I could hear the entire garden breathe a deep sigh of relief. Ever dutiful to our moth-catching responsibilities, Patrick and I did not let the winds or rain deter us from setting up a trap on both Friday and Sunday nights. The process was a bit more involved, requiring us to set up a tent around the trap to protect it and the creatures inside from a watery doom. But in the end all was well, and as I write this post the sun reigns over Shandy Hall once again, and I’ve a few interesting moths to talk about.

This moth is Ypsolopha sequella, a perky and energetic little fellow who hasn’t visited the garden since September 2012. Its calico-like pattern is striking, and when we caught it in a tube it did a series of impressive jumps and flips. It is fairly common across Britain, despite its long absence from Shandy Hall, and lives in woodlands feeding on Field Maple and occasionally Sycamore. Ypsolopha means high-crested, while sequella means ‘following’ or ‘next,’ for no discernible reason other than it might have been ‘the next’ moth for Clerck to discover. 

Marbled Beauty (Cryphia domestica)

Another moth was the Marbled Beauty (Cryphia domestica), a delicate insect with a strong, intricate pattern. It feeds on lichens growing on rocks, walls, roofs and trees, and it often associated with old buildings and urban areas even though it also inhabits open country, orchards, calcareous woods and coastal cliffs. Its name is charming, with Cryphia meaning ‘hidden’ or ‘secret’ from the cryptic pattern on its forewings, and domestica means ‘belonging to the house,’ from its tendency to eat the lichen growing on houses.

Sunday night’s trap was not at all fruitful –perhaps because of the dropping temperatures, strong winds and relentless rains— and there is not much to report from it. There were a handful of moths, the most numerous being Garden Grass Veneers, Footmen (of both the Common and Melon Seed variety), and Dun-bars.

So, not the most exciting start to my final week at Shandy Hall –but I’m happy just to have seen some rain before I go.

Post by Gabriella Morace [UPenn intern] 

26 July 2018 - A Misfit Moth

Antler (Cerapteryx graminis) 

First, I must apologize for the lack of activity on the blog: due to some unfortunate and unforeseeable computer problems, I am left forlorn and laptopless as my time at Shandy Hall begins to end. Secondly, I must apologize on behalf of all humanity, for the lack of moths in the gardens: climate change and rising temperatures have caused many caterpillars’ foodplants to dry up, in addition to the continual loss of natural habitats. So I’ll present you today with a collection of a few particular moths from the traps we’ve been setting this past week. 

We’ve been getting quite a few Antler Moths (Cerapteryx graminis) recently, a favourite of mine because of its good-looking, woodsy charm. Its markings are distinctive and beautiful, and look almost exactly like the skeletal horns for which it’s named. The Antler Moth resides in grasslands, mainly open country and pastures, and feeds on hard-bladed grasses, including Sheep’s-fescue, Mat-grass and purple Moor-grass. Both its vernacular and scientific names are extremely literal: Cerapteryx comes from keras meaning ‘horn’ and graminis means simply ‘grass.’

Agapeta zoegana

A moth that I almost missed because of its similarity to Agapeta hamana is the Agapeta zoegana, a vibrant yellow creature with poignant golden brown marks. Agapeta means beloved/ desirable from its beautiful appearance and zoegana is the name of the Swiss entomologist who discovered it, who happened to be a pupil of Linnaeus. So, this moth is a member of an esteemed legacy of entomologists. Lucky little moth!

Acleris forsskaleana

Another common but attractive moth is the Acleris forsskaleana. This moth has yellow forewings and has funky reddish-brown, net-like patterns. Its habitat is extremely wide-spread and can be found in woodland, scrub, hedgerows, parks, orchards, and gardens –really anywhere as long as it can get its fix of Field Maple and Sycamore. Acleris means ‘unallotted’ and is a genus set up to accommodate species who don’t fit in anywhere else; a genus of misfits.

So that’s it for this week’s lepidopterist roundup! A bit of a hodgepodge, but these moths all deserve some time in the spotlight. Cheers!

Post by: Gabriella Morace [UPenn student]

17 July 2018 - The Moth to the Flame

(Acrobasis adventella)

In Friday’s trap there were quite a few unfamiliar moths, but it turned out none were new to the garden.

A visitor of note, however, was Acrobasis adventella: a very interesting moth, if only for its name. The genus Acrobasis comes from the word “akron” meaning a point, or a step which is stepped on, a base. The moth is so described because of the horny tooth at the apex of the scape (the basal segment) of the antenna. This moth is sometimes, but less frequently referred to as Trachycera adventella. Trachycera is an all but extinct genus that similarly refers to the rough, raised tufts on the forewings of some moths. Adventella, on the other hand, means 'stranger' and is so named because of its rarity in the region where it was discovered. It is fairly common in England, however.

Crimson and Gold (Pyrausta purpuralis)

I went away this weekend, and didn’t think much about the moths, but when I returned on Monday it turned out Patrick had set a trap the night before and as I sifted through the egg cartons, I saw an unfamiliar and richly-colored moth that was not just new to me, but new to all at Shandy Hall! The Common Purple and Gold, or (Pyrausta purpuralis), is a deep purple moth that flies during both the day and at night, and can be found across Britain. It prefers dry grassland and chalky downland habitats, as its larvae feed on corn mint (Mentha arvensis) and thyme (Thymus).

Crimson and Gold [illustration]

This moth belongs to the genus that gets singed in the candle flame; Pyrausta literally means 'to kindle a fire'. Pliny applied this name to an unknown insect that was supposed to live in fire, however ironically most of the moths in this species are day-fliers and are rarely attracted to light. Purpuralis simply means purple, from the color on its forewings. However, in Humphreys and Westwood, the moth is referred to as a Crimson and Gold, and the illustration paints the moth much darker than it appears in reality. 

And with that new visitor the garden count is up to 433 moths!

Post by: Gabriella Morace [UPenn intern]

12 July 2018 - Golden Argent

(Argyresthia goedartella)

With the sun still unrelenting, the trap this past Monday was teeming with agitated insects of all kinds: bees, beetles, flies, mosquitoes and, of course, moths. Amongst all these creatures hidden amongst the egg cartons, there was an extra surprise - a new moth! So now we’re up to a satisfying 432 species recorded in the garden at Shandy Hall. 

This shiny little newcomer is called Argyresthia goedartella and with those neon orange scales overlaid upon a white “y” shaped pattern, it looks like a traffic cone warning all predators to 'Stay Away'. The larvae feed on catkin and in the springtime they congregate under bark where they will eventually pupate. Argyresthia means “silver dress” from the metallic gloss on its forewings; goedartella is given in homage to the Dutch entomologist, J. Goedart. 

Although this moth is new to the garden it has been mentioned on the blog once before when it was found in a trap we set in the Yorkshire Museum Gardens in August 2015..

July Highflyer (Hydriomena furcata)

The July Highflyer (Hydriomena furcata) is very variable in color and patterns, but this one is a beautifully marked and a deep, rich green color. Hydromenia means “to remain in a water-pot,” while a furca is a two pronged fork referring to the markings on the wings.

(Aethes rubigana)

While the days are still very hot, the nights are relatively cool and the trap on Wednesday morning turned out to contain only a handful of different species, only one of which was new to me: the Aethes rubigana. Aethes means unusual or strange, most likely because yellow is an uncommon color in the Tortricoidea family; rubigana comes from the rusty looking markings on the wings.

All in all not a bad week for the moths at Shandy Hall –all 432 species.

Post by: Gabriella Morace [UPenn intern]