6 June 2012 - After the Rain

Lime Hawk-moth (Mimas tiliae)
Last night was the first time we had set the trap in the rain, and I’m sure glad that we did. We had some of the usual visitors: the White Ermine (playing dead as usual), and two Common Swifts (who I decided were male and female lovers, as they were nestled together in the same egg carton).  We also had some of the less frequent visitors, like two Heart and Darts (whom I am afraid were not interested in each other). We even had what is most likely a Dark-barred Twin-spot Carpet moth who helped teach us a helpful lesson.

Dark-barred Twin-spot Carpet (Xanthorhoe ferrugata)
This flighty bug zipped all around the trap, determined not to let us snap a photo. When he finally calmed down, we were disappointed to find that he rested with his wings upright and pressed together, making it impossible to view the patterns on his wings. But take note, all fellow moth trappers: We were later advised that we ought to have put the moth in the refrigerator for a little while until his wings lowered for our viewing pleasure. Don’t worry; this will apparently not injure the moth.

The two other species were quite cooperative; I was grateful, as I had been eager to photograph them at my initial glance. The first was the Lime Hawk-moth, or Mimas tiliae, who looked ready for combat in his blotches of camouflage-looking green wings. This moth is quite large, which is obviously why it is named after Mimas, the Greek mythological giant who waged war on the gods. Tiliae is the genus of the lime tree, their larvae’s choice food source. If you take note of the Lime Tree leaf that serves as a backdrop to his photograph, you can see the chewed-out holes. We can only assume that they are the work of the Lime Hawk-moths’ larvae.

Beautiful Golden Y (Autographa pulchrina)

The final find of the morning was The Beautiful Golden Y, or the Autographa pulchrina. Autographa is Latin for “written in ones own hand” and refers the apparent letter Y on the moth’s forewings, as though they had inscribed it there themselves. Pulchrina, an adjective formed from pulcher the Latin word for beautiful. It had a unique shape that I’d never expect to find on a moth. The bumps on its head and along its spine reminded me of the dermal plates on the back of a Stegosaurus. While I don’t like to pick favorites, I have to admit I was very impressed by the Beautiful Golden Y. When an unexpected species like this crosses my path, I can’t help but wonder about the rest of the world’s mysterious creatures like dinosaurs and deep-sea fish. Nature still has so many secrets I’ve yet to discover.

Post by Helen Levins