Sunday, 23 June 2013

Shining brightly

I am giving the moths a night off after yesterday's excitements, and also in an attempt to catch up. We are now in the insects' high season and Oxfordshire is proving high indeed, even though the weather continues to be a bit middling.

Where was I, before yesterday's magnificent Privet Hawk diverted me? Ah, yes. The night before, the first Burnished Brass of the year flew in, or rather three of them did. They are the finest illustration in UK moths of the effects of light refraction in wing scales.

Here's one of the other ones, nestling up to an equally sleepy White Ermine
A thorough understanding of this will not be obtained from me, but from web pages such as this one. But essentially, the moth plays that trick you often see on badges in novelty shops where the picture changes depending on your angle of viewing; or a sign saying 'Stop' on a red background magically becomes 'Go' on a green one.

The effect is created by layers of filmy scales on the insect's wing, placed like tiles on a roof, whose different levels of light penetration create the 'magic'. The phenomenon is most beautifully seen in the iridescent blue Morpho butterflies of South America. Local children used to catch them to sell as souvenirs by fly-casting silver sweetpaper on fishing lines. The picture above is an example, a plate brought back from Brazil by my older sister who is frequently over there, fomenting radicalism (currently with some effect by the look of things). Such knick-knacks are falling into disrepute as the educative role which they played in the past is superseded by the glorious pictures available on the web.

Much else was snoozing beside the Burnished Brass; at the littlies' end for example, this tiny but curiously tufted micro-moth Phtheocroa rugosana, above, and a flight of Straw Dots which rest like so many triangular darts. Superficially these look plain in their colouring, but closer inspection reveals the two little dots within misty corneas of blue.

Observe the observer: what big eyes you have, Mr Straw Dot

And here are the false ones on the forewing

Here's a lovely Mottled Beauty too, which has come out quite well in the tricky photographic conditions of the black bowl which does funny things - possibly even refraction? - to the camera's ability to cope with different light.

Update: sorry, I should have got this one, as its quite a rare moth which I featured earlier in the month - an Oblique Carpet. Many thanks to Ben and Dave (see Comments). The four dots look like a clincher but they are almost to small to see (for my eyes) in my Moth Bible

Update: and this one is the micro Aphelia palanea from the Tortrix family - take a bow, Ben Sale (see Comments again)
And now the usual Bafflers, above. I temporarily reckon them to be a Silver Ground Carpet and a Dingy Footman - alas for the latter's dreary name even if it is deserved. In my temporary caption to the photo, I called it 'boring moth'. (Update: See Comments meanwhile, for the truth; or the pic captions added above)

And lastly, a Clouded Silver pretending to be a butterfly on the lawn a few feet from the trap. Quite a few of the smaller moths do this occasionally instead of folding their wings on their backs like a sheath which is one of the ways of identifying them from butterflies. Talking of the latter, tomorrow I will feature one, while the moths enjoy their weekend off.


Bennyboymothman said...

Cor Martin! Check your Silver-ground Carpet have an Oblique Carpet, nice! a very local moth.
Also your suspected Footman is infact a Tortrix, Aphelia paleana.
I shall be trapping tonight having not trapped since Friday night.

All the best now

David Shenton said...

A second Oblique Carpet, that's just showing off now Martin.

Nice moths again.



Martin Wainwright said...

Hi there both experts!

And many thanks once again

The Oblique Carpet seems to like this part of the world and I am very happy to be its host. Good luck tonight - I'm having a second evening off, or rather the moths are, but hope to light the lamp again tomorrow evening.

All warmest wishes