20 June 2017 - Beauty Spots

(Phycitodes binaevella)
Another new moth is Phycitodes binaevella. We decided to take a photograph of the moth in the trap rather than contain it in a tube. The picture shows the moth in profile. In the guide book for micro moths, some species are shown in profile and some show the species from above. This proved to be awkward as I first tried filtering out the moths which had different resting positions and head shapes. This procedure did not work as planned as the two features do not look the same when viewed top down.

Imagining what the moth might look like from above, I first thought it was an Athrips mouffetella as the dot placements are similar. I scrolled through all the pictures once more, this time making note of the coloration and how its bottom half was grey and its top was a light brown. I found a couple which looked vaguely similar : Phycitodes binaevella and Phycitodes maritima.  Both were on the Yorkshire Moths Flying Tonight list and the pictures on the website matched. While the pictures and the moth were similar, I was still uncertain as this species appeared not to have  been recorded in our vice-county. I quickly emailed the photograph and my deductions to Charlie Fletcher and he confirmed that it was indeed a Phycitodes binaevella and there had been a couple of sightings recently. This increases our count to 411! I honestly did not expect the number of species to increase this much since the number was already so high.

Phycitodes refers to how this group of moths is similar to the Phycitae where the derivation comes from a red colour that is found in seaweed (phukos) or a precious stone phykitis.  I couldn't see any red though....;  binaevella means ‘two moles’ which describe the black dots on its forewing. 

The moth looks particularly elegant as it holds its head high showing off its beauty spots.

The larvae of Phycitodes binaevella feed on the flower-heads of the spear thistle (Cirsium vulgare) - the national flower of Scotland which is considered a weed in the UK and does well in grazed areas as the plant is unpalatable for most animals. 

Post : Walter Chen [UPenn intern]