Saturday, 30 May 2009

Lobbing eggs at the grass roots

I've been scrolling back to last year to answer my American friend Sarah's query in her comment on the post below. In the process, I came across the entry last July (14th, Vive la France!) about finding a female Green Silver Lines moth snoozing on my Mum's front door. I brought it home to photograph and ended by speculating that we might have started a colony here. Well maybe we have. I'd forgotten about this episode when I posted four days ago about finding a lovely male Green Silver Lines in the trap. Thus distribution can work, although in this case, the distance is only about three miles.

Meanwhile, last night brought two apparently very different moths which are actually both Pale Tussocks - fine, hairy beasts with lovely antennae (click on the big pic - they look like quill pens). The dark one, which scarcely seems to deserve the title Pale, is a melanistic version and an interesting indicator of the way Britain's old balance between sooty North and rural South has evened out.
Melanistic Pale Tussocks are much commoner in the South these days, while the melanistic version of the Peppered Moth (much discussed in past posts here) is much rarer in the North than it used to be. Excellent.

This other, pleasantly patterned moth which also came last night is a Common Swift, one of the five of the 500 swift moths in the world which live in Britain. They are unusual in having no proboscis and therefore do not eat, but their caterpillars make up for it by overwintering for two years before pupating. The caterpillars hatch from eggs which the Common Swift lays in flight, skimming low over a foodplant (luckily the favourite is grass roots). Imagine: starting your life as a tiny bomb.

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