Monday, 20 June 2011

Hiding their lights

A lesson in patience this morning. Although the night had been reasonably mild and the light was in a prominent spot, the eggboxes yielded only a score of Heart and Darts, two Large Yellow Underwings and a half-dozen micro-moths. Until the very last box, underneath was perched this Bordered White, notable for pretending to be a butterfly by resting with its wings folded above its back, like all British butterflies, rather than flat-back, like almost all our moths.

It will never get away with this, however, because look at those marvellous antennae. No British butterfly boasts anything like that. They all have a simple club shape, one of the other ways that we can tell the two types of insect apart. Mind you, it's only the male Bordered White which boasts these TV aerials. The female would be a better impersonator with her narrow and unadorned - but unclubbed - versions. I guess the difference will have something to do with male detection of females which can take place in moths at impressively large distances.

Then I carried out the formality of checking foliage near the trap, something which seldom yields any moths in my experience, probably because I am not a very patient detective. But I promptly spotted this Common Footman, the first of the year, dozing on a leaf of our 'Pineapple' plant, an incredibly vigorous shrub which scrambles up our back wall, multiple-leaved but very sparing in its production of lupin-like yellow flowers.

The footman is sparing with its yellow too; from above it looks like its namesake in very sober livery. But this one fortuitously fluttered from its perch and ended up, briefly, upside down, before creeping into a paving-stone crack, below. It is a true Lincolnshire yellow-belly, as you can see.


worm said...

I had a common footman in my kitchen last night too Martin, and I was thinking that it would be the moth that James Dyson would design, if he could, very 90s minimal

MartinWainwright said...

An excellent comparison Oh Worm. It has that simplicity you associate with him. Mind you, every time I use a Dyson hand dryer in the Gents, I recall some article saying that such devices blow millions of germs all over the place. I have no idea whether this is true but I prefer a good old towel. Age...

All v best