13 July 2012 - Dry Night brings New Delights

Shaded Broad-bar (Scotopteryx chenopodiata)
We had a great catch last night that included four new species. This brings our current count to 208. I’m not sure what made the difference… could it have been the lack of rain for once? Perhaps we simply did a better job of opening the trap carefully so we wouldn’t lose the energetic flyers.

The first one to fly out was the Shaded Broad-bar (Scotopteryx chenopodiata). It was so elegant and impressive that we instantly recognized it as a new species. Skotos (darkness) and pterux (a wing) refer to the markings on the forewings, just as the case with its English name. Its larvae feed on clover which is abundant in the grasses of Shandy Hall. When I return home to America I’ll need to explain to all the pesticide-happy homeowners why they need to let the clover thrive in their “perfect” crabgrass and clover-free lawns. Save the Shaded Broad-bar!

Metzneria metzneriella
Next we uncovered the Metzneria metzneriella, a rather unfortunate name. Both names derive from the name of a German entomologist, Herr Metzner. I have to keep that in mind if I ever find an unnamed moth. The Lepidoptera world needs a Levins Levinsella more than the Whiskered Levins I tried to name on 29 June.

Eudonia truncicolella 
Scoparia ambigualis

The next two moths looked similar at first glance but I was delighted to find out that they were two separate new species. The Scoparia ambigualis was found first. It’s name comes from scopae (twigs or a besom) because its namers thought it resembled the bottom of a broom (and in one case, the end of a paintbrush). You can probably guess ambiguous came from the difficulty in differentiating it from other species, much like I initially did this morning.

The other moth, also black and white, looks to be the Eudonia truncicolella. It’s name comes from heudo (to rest), trunucus (tree trunk), and colo (to inhabit) from the moth’s habit of resting on tree trunks during the day. This information strengthens the similarity between the two species because the Scoparia ambigualis is also often found resting on rocks and tree trunks by day.

We had some other beautiful varieties that warrant a photograph, even if they are not new. The July Highflyer (Hydriomena furcata: hudria + meno means ‘to remain in a water-pot', furca is a two-pronged fork which describes its wings’ markings) had incredible shades of green and purplish grey. The Bird-Cherry Ermine (Yponomeuta evonymella) glimmered in the sun with its sleek, dalmatian-like coat. Its name comes from huponomeuo (to make underground mines) because its labial palpus resembles a miner’s pickaxe. Evonymella derives from Euonymus, the genus of the spindle tree that was incorrectly assumed to be its larvae’s foodplant.

July Highflyer (Hydriomena furcata)

Bird-Cherry Ermine (Yponomeuta evonymella)
Before I go, I’d like to share an article from last month’s Nature Studies section of the Independent that I came across today: Michael McCarthy’s Moths are just as worthy of our wonder as butterflies. It’s a great read for any moth enthusiast and the print version features an illustration of the Bird-Cherry Ermine who we’ve just photographed today (see above).

Post by Helen Levins