Saturday, 25 June 2011

Unlikely twins

Anyone from Leeds has to like a moth called the Dark Arches. The same name belongs to one of the spookiest parts of our city where the river Aire turns into the Styx and winds beneath the City Station in a labyrinth of brick-lined tunnels. It's been titivated in recent years and renamed Granary Wharf but the old name persists. Rather as when the Guardian's former Northern Editor Harry Whewell was rung up to be told that in future Manchester's famous Midland Hotel would be known as the Majestic Renaissance Midland, or whatever, and replied laconically: "Not by me it won't."

There are a lot of 'arches' moths, so called because of patterns on their wings and, to annoy inept identifyers such as myself, they often vary considerably within individual species. Thus this pair, enjoying a rather uplifting essay about free range hens in their eggbox, are both Dark Arches. The really dark one is the melanistic version, still found quite frequently in formerly dirty industrial areas where natural selection favoured its camouflage. It's known as the form Aethiops, a lovely word which brings to mind that Shakespearian tag: "It seems she hangs upon the cheek of night, as a rich jewel on an Ethiop's ear." Eeh, he had a silver tongue, that Romeo.

It's been a catch of pairings, too. Here's one of the first Dun-bars of the season with a micro, almost invisible in the gloomy, Dark Arches-like recesses of the eggbox cone at the right of the picture. I haven't identified that yet and may never do so. And, below, a pretty little Marbled Minor with a minute companion and its slip showing. Veritably a moth Juliet.


ornithom said...

Hi Martin,

Interesting post on the Leeds history (and other musings!).

Your Dun-bar companion looks like Celypha lacunana. There's a short story behind that name too, but I'll leave you to look up the meaning!

Happy moffing!

Steve T

MartinWainwright said...

Hi Steve! Thanks very much, and I'll get Googling. I know what Lacuna means, specially after reading Basrbara Kingsolver's brill novel, but Lacunana... Right that's my job with the Sunday morning tea. Many thanks M