Thursday, 9 June 2011

A trio of (not so) boring moths

A commentor on a recent post asked me which I considered to be the most boring of moths. I'm working on that but meanwhile here's by the far most common arrival in the trap at the moment, the Heart and Dart.

In the very first month of my blogging, June 2008, I made this species the subject of a mini competition to guess its name, giving only the clue that it described the wing patterning and was a rhyme with the structure 'blank and blank.' I got some good answers: nail and pail, wing and thing, dash and splash, pole and hole; and also an email from a New York shop called Heart and Dart which sold tea (and may still, although Googling suggests it could be defunct).

So the H&D can stimulate interest and I guess that it is also saved from the boring title by its variety of shades, shown in the picture. All three are Hearts and Darts, from more than 60 which swarmed in on Tuesday night (it is the moth of the moment here). You could argue, mind, that its choice of colour makes it even more of a candidate for boring status. I mean, small and brown, small and grey, small and slightly darker brown...

But then interest resurfaces, because I see from another pic I used back in 2008, in July, that the Large Yellow Underwing (which will soon arrive here in even bigger numbers than the H&D) chooses pretty much the same trio of colours from its palette. Is this to do with camouflage and natural selection? More research for my retirement.


Phil said...

Hi Martin, Have you ever come across Hugh Cott's Adaptive Coloration in Animals? It was published by Methuen back in the dark days of 1940, when camouflage must have assumed additional importance, but I think it's still one of the best books on the subject ever written - worth getting hold of if you've never had a look....all the best, Phil (P.S. Thanks for the honour of a spot in The Northerner - I'm dead chuffed!)

MartinWainwright said...

Hi Phil

Thanks v much, I will get a copy from the library. Camouflage is such an interesting subject - my art teacher was in a camouflage unit in the war (he would have made a hopeless soldier) and had many a tale to tell.

Penny and I were chatting over breakfast about the lack of 'military camouflage' in moths - ie blotches and the break-up of shapes which you get in human camouflage. Mind you, I know there are some examples and I shall hasten for Mr Cott to find out more.

We are the ones who are honoured, with you now automatically appearing on the N

Warmest wishes


Jane said...

Hi Martin , thanks for the search for a boring moth but I am thinking that perhaps nothing is boring if you take the time to study it properly,:-)

maybe a moth the is the antithesis of the brimstone might be what I was thinking about.

Happy Thursday

MartinWainwright said...

Hi Jane

Yes, I think you're right. But I have an arsenal of very boring-LOOKING moths and also boring-SOUNDING ones, so stand by...

all warm wishes


Iain Chambers said...

I'm curious to know if you choreographed the picture of the trio of moths neatly lined up, or did you find them snuggled like that under the trap?