17 August 2015 - Gold Spot in York

Gold Spot (Plusia festucae)

On 12 August we ventured to York to trap for a second time at the Museum Gardens. The night was another cold one, and we got a trap about as full as the last time we worked in York - that is to say, there weren't many moths. Usually, when I approach the trap in the morning, I can see lots of moths fluttering around; the Underwings and Barred Straws in particular like to stir up trouble, although the latter have stopped showing up lately. This time, I could only see a few cautiously moving about the tops of the egg-boxes.

When we opened the trap we found some familiar moths: Clay, Common Rustic, Dark Arches, Riband Wave, Grey Dagger, the Dun-bar, among others; we also had less-common appearances by the Shuttle-shaped Dart, a Herald, and a Marbled Beauty. Funnily enough, the only other time we've gotten a Herald was during our previous trip to York, so it appears they frequent the Museum Gardens this month. As a reminder, the Herald is the triangle-shaped moth with beautifully wavy wing edges, subtle white stripes and dots, and bright orange pools of color that creep down from its head and fade into brown.

We were also lucky enough to come across the Gold Spot, which is an incredibly distinctive type of moth that I've been hoping to see all summer. It's a mix of browns, golds, oranges, and a burnished brass color, with three large, circular white markings on each wing. It's essentially the size and shape of one of the Y moths, except for the single large tuft on its shoulders rather than three smaller ones. It's reasonably common and is a fan of damp spaces; its scientific name is Plusia festucae - rich eater of fescue grass.

Post: Ariel A Smith (UPenn)