Sunday, 21 July 2013

Come hither?

I mentioned the Yellow-tail moth the other day, and the habit of the female of sticking her tail perkily in the air when at rest, like the flag on an American letterbox. But none of the ones which came that morning were playing ball, and when I teased them very gently with blades of grass, they woke up with a start and flew off.

Van Gogh's paintbrush during the painting of sunflowers must have looked like this

This morning a nettle leaf close to the trap had a glint of gold, and here is the cause of it. The reason for the stance is uncertain but the clump of yellow hairs is only found on the female, so sex may play an unsurprising part. Update: sorry, I've been reading further and males often have a hint of yellow but nothing like as showy.

This one's a male, distinguished by feathered antennae. Compensation, maybe, for a smaller and less vivid yellow tail than the female

The tail is also thought to have a role in protecting newly-laid eggs and the Yellow-tail is an insect with other tricks up its sleeve. Its caterpillars are among those most familiar to dermatologists for causing nasty rashes on sensitive skin with their irritating hairs.

Taking a picture of the second Yellow-tail from below its obliging perch on the trap's transparent shield led me on to photograph another arrival nearby. This, above and below, is a dainty Small Emerald, one of the less common of the UK's beautiful tribe of green moths.

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