2 August 2014 - Yarrow Conch

Yarrow Conch (Aethes smeathmanniana)

Some moths have names that are repetitive and confusing, while others are named rather exquisitely. It is a delight to pronounce the name of the newest Shandy Hall moth – the Yarrow Conch (Aethes smeathmanniana).

'Yarrow Conch' does not only read well, it describes the moth perfectly. 'Yarrow' indicates the moth's main food plant (the larva feeds on knapweeds as well). The white and yellow flowers of the yarrow plants also match the palettes of the moth's wings. The wings display a backdrop of shimmery white with patches of light yellow. Two dark-brown bands cut through the moths' wings diagonally. The prominent bands are interrupted in their paths by areas of white scales.

'Conch' has two different meanings. Most commonly it is a tropical marine mollusk. The mollusk has a spiral shell with a flared lip. The wings of the Yarrow Conch are far less flamboyant, to be sure, and folded in a simple arch. The space shielded beneath the wings houses the moth's body; it is in this regard comparable to the shell cavity that houses the mollusk. 'Conch' also refers to the roof of the apse of a church. The apse is usually semi-circular in plan. The conch, therefore, is shaped like a half-dome. This imagery reinforces the architectural quality of the arched wings of the Yellow Conch.

The moth's scientific name smeathmanniana pays tribute to H. Smeathman, an entomologist who traveled from Britain to Sierra Leone in the late 1700s. 'Aethes', meaning unusual and strange, describes the moth's yellow colored wings. However, at Shandy Hall, yellow colored moths are anything but unusual – Barred Straw (Eulithis pyraliata), Buff Ermine (Spilosoma luteum), just to name a couple. But in any case, we can now add to that list with Shandy Hall Moth number 351. 

Post by Bowen Chang (UPenn)

Yarrow Conch (illustration)