25 June 2017 - Moths under Canvas

Engrailed (Ectropis bistortata)

With thunderstorms and tempests forecast, we set up a tent to keep any rainfall from getting into the trap and onto our moths. While it’s an effective solution for rain, it does restrict the yield of moths as it hides some of the mercury vapour light, and there’s only one entrance for the moths. Checking the trap the next morning, there were considerably fewer moths than previously but some were still new to me.

One moth caught in our trap was an Engrailed (Ectropis bistortata). Similar in appearance to a Willow Beauty (Peribatodes rhomboidaria), the horizontal markings on the Engrailed are distinct and apparent. Ectropis bistortata describes the markings on its wings as ‘turning out of the way’ and ‘twice twisted’ respectively.

Engrailed (or ingrailed) is also a term used in heraldry indicating a line indented with small curves - just like the edges of the hind-wings in the drawing below.

Engrailed (illustration)

In British Moths and their Transformations (1845), the scientific name for the Engrailed is Tephrosia abietaria but we can't source the roots of this old scientific binomial.

Honeysuckle (Lonicera)

Interestingly, the caterpillars of the Engrailed are polyphagous meaning that the caterpillar does not have one specific food plant and can feed on a wide variety. The list of food plants for the Engrailed caterpillar includes the leaves of several trees, berries, flowers, and grasses. Some from the list that are in the old quarry are honeysuckle (Lonicera), oak (Quercus), and clover (Trifolium).

Flame Carpet (Xanthorhoe designata)

Another moth we had was a Flame Carpet (Xanthorhoe designata). While it is not a new moth to Shandy Hall, there has not been an opportunity since we first saw it, for a good photograph. Luckily, we took the photograph (above) while going through the trap in the morning and the moth stayed still on an egg box. Replacing a poor photograph in a specimen tube, this moth is an excellent example of a Flame Carpet with its defined pattern. Xanthorhoe depicts ‘yellowish wavy lines’ and designata means ‘to mark out’, referring to the middle marking being clearer than of other species.

Flame Carpet (illustration)

The drawing of the Flame Carpet in British Moths and their Transformations (1845) was also difficult to locate as it had a completely different name. In the book, it is called Cidaria propugnata, Cidaria being a title of Ceres, the goddess who protected agriculture.

The larvae of the Flame Carpet feed on cruciferous plants. These plants are vegetables widely consumed worldwide. They include broccoli, cabbage, watercress but honesty (lunaria) and sweet rocket are included. One plant in abundance that they might feed on is rapeseed which is used for oil or cuisine.

Post : Walter Chen [U Penn intern]