Monday, 6 September 2010

Zebra legs

I am always being rude about 'yellow underwing' moths, so today I shall make amends. They are very trying, because they come to the trap in such large numbers. I would never be a good scientist, because such a mass of data overwhelms and, I'm afraid, bores me. A Darwin or Wallace would work patiently through them, delighted to have so much evidence. And without a lot of evidence, scientific theories can unravel. It is interesting how many concepts, especially those seized upon by journalists, turn out to be based on very small samples.

Anyway, after that portentous introduction, here at the top is one of the most handsome of the tribe (which has at least eight members): the Broad-bordered Yellow Underwing. Apart from its bold patterning, which comes replete with a mop of head hair on specimens less life-worn than this one, look at those fine zebra-crossing legs. Legs decorated in the manner of woollen stockings are quite common in moths and it's easy to overlook them in the initial disappointment that the wings are dull and brown.

Also visiting: this Red-green Carpet (I think and hope; I've had problems before in distinguishing it from the July Highflyer).  Regular readers know about my weakness for green moths, in the almost complete absence of blue ones, a mysterious gap about which I've speculated in the past. It must be something to do with the role of light in insect wing colouring, but I still remain in the dark, like a moth.


worm said...

Interesting on the blue/green subject, as I was reading your post, I thought, well what about the Forester Moth? and then I realised that that's a day flying moth, so rather more akin to a butterfly. Hmm.

MartinWainwright said...

Hi W (I'm going to try to do my Dabbler post today, thanks to you btw) I think it must be to do with light. I did a Google last time I mentioned it but didn't get very far. I must check out my E B Ford book on moths as he has quite a lot on colouring (although I think I have done this before and come away still unsure about blue)
All v best

worm said...

well as a definate amateur I would hazard a guess similar to yours - as butterflies and day flying moths see predominantly in the ultraviolet spectrum that the blue colouring is for courtship display to other butterflies rather than as explicit protection from birds and other predators, (although I had heard somewhere that owls are the only birds that see blue), but Im not sure if this is really true

everyone is really looking forward to your piece!