Righto, here we go on my holiday treasures. I've been trailing the fact that most are butterflies, but let's start with a moth. It's a real bobbydazzler and one which I never expected to live to see.
Welcome to the Crimson Speckled, which has the status of rare immigrant in the UK and has only been seen here about 100 times since 1900, with two anni mirabili in 1961 and 1990 when over 30 and 25 were recorded respectively.
Mine caught my eye in the big, unhedged field of a sort of clover which lay on the slope below our rented French cottage and which was my happy hunting ground for butterflies and a handful of day-flying moths, including this one. Every day, our neighbouring farmer Armand Bortolin harvested a strip to feed his goats which make prize-winning cheese, but there was enough to keep me occupied during our week's stay. Isn't French weather nice, btw?
The Crimson Speckled's botanical name is Utatheisa pulchella, the second name meaning 'pretty little one'. I cannot rest fully content, however, until I encounter the Beautiful Utatheisa, an even rarer relative with pink hindwings and orange blotches on its forewings. This is highly unlikely. Only one has ever been seen in the UK, on Skokholm island off Pembrokeshire in 1948. The experts think it got there somewhow from its native North America where the species is well known, feeds on a plant with the excellent name of Rattlebox and has been the subject of some fascinating research - see here. But let's have another peep at pulchella, looking rather as I imagine Caiaphas the high priest did at his ministrations in the Temple...