17 July 2018 - The Moth to the Flame

(Acrobasis adventella)

In Friday’s trap there were quite a few unfamiliar moths, but it turned out none were new to the garden.

A visitor of note, however, was Acrobasis adventella: a very interesting moth, if only for its name. The genus Acrobasis comes from the word “akron” meaning a point, or a step which is stepped on, a base. The moth is so described because of the horny tooth at the apex of the scape (the basal segment) of the antenna. This moth is sometimes, but less frequently referred to as Trachycera adventella. Trachycera is an all but extinct genus that similarly refers to the rough, raised tufts on the forewings of some moths. Adventella, on the other hand, means 'stranger' and is so named because of its rarity in the region where it was discovered. It is fairly common in England, however.

Crimson and Gold (Pyrausta purpuralis)

I went away this weekend, and didn’t think much about the moths, but when I returned on Monday it turned out Patrick had set a trap the night before and as I sifted through the egg cartons, I saw an unfamiliar and richly-colored moth that was not just new to me, but new to all at Shandy Hall! The Common Purple and Gold, or (Pyrausta purpuralis), is a deep purple moth that flies during both the day and at night, and can be found across Britain. It prefers dry grassland and chalky downland habitats, as its larvae feed on corn mint (Mentha arvensis) and thyme (Thymus).

Crimson and Gold [illustration]

This moth belongs to the genus that gets singed in the candle flame; Pyrausta literally means 'to kindle a fire'. Pliny applied this name to an unknown insect that was supposed to live in fire, however ironically most of the moths in this species are day-fliers and are rarely attracted to light. Purpuralis simply means purple, from the color on its forewings. However, in Humphreys and Westwood, the moth is referred to as a Crimson and Gold, and the illustration paints the moth much darker than it appears in reality. 

And with that new visitor the garden count is up to 433 moths!

Post by: Gabriella Morace [UPenn intern]