Wednesday, 6 June 2012

A tale of two trappings

Here is an interesting contrast. On Monday night, Penny and I went up to Wallsend where I had to report on the lighting of one of the Diamond Jubilee beacons. We got home about half-an-hour after midnight but it was dry and not too cold, so I turned on the trap. In the morning it contained...nothing.

Then last night, when the weather turned wet and a little cooler, I thought I'd still go ahead and trust to Mrs and Mrs Robinson's trusty rainshield, often praised here, helping it a little by putting the trap under a large and dense yew tree. In the morning it contained...all these Common Swifts, plus several Heart and Darts, a Garden Carpet and some pugs. This seems to me to say something about moths' flying times. Do they, like us, go to bed relatively early?

As I said the other day, the Common Swift is my current Top Moth, and last night it excelled itself. If you look at its entry from my Moth Bible - top picture, with Richard Lewington's almost miraculously accurate paintings - and then at the catch in the second picture, you will see that all three forms are there together.

 Here they are in turn. Above, the standard, clearly-marked male. Below, the larger and rather duller-coloured standard female.

 And here below, a completely plain-coloured specimen like the one in the middle of Lewington's trio, but darker. It was a little bigger than the standard males and therefore I think it was a female, where the plain form is commoner.


Finally, below once again, what I think is a male because of its smaller size, showing the variation in patterning within the gender. Dissecting genitalia is probably the way to make sure of the last two, but I am not ready for that. Nor, I suspect, ever will be. But you can maybe see why I often get so confused. For all their differences, all these moths are Common Swifts.


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