Monday, 1 July 2013

Lobster potting

Today's most exciting moth was hiding outside the trap and I wouldn't have seen it in my greener days. It's a Lobster Moth, a name that unites two completely different kinds of creature in a way which may initially seem surprising. You only gradually absorb the pinkish/russet tone to the trailing edge of the forewings, folded along the back.

The patterning makes good camouflage with the moth resembling a couple of leaves when at rest. It lives in woodlands and likes ones which are well-established. New plantations seem to hold less attraction for it, even when its caterpillars' varied diets of hazel, birch, oak and beech are present.

A cinnabar - and my pyjamas - for scale

I was alerted to this one's presence in the scan of surrounding foliage which I now carry out as a matter of course. Contrary to all best practice in camouflage, the narrowly-angled 'jet-plane' wings were poking out from under a leaf, a sharp, unexpected shape in contrast to the soft greenery all around.

I took this slightly blurred photograph but then - eek - my 'battery low' sign started flashing. I risked one further picture with the leaf turned up but the camera went dead. Had this been a smaller moth, that would probably have been it, because they are far more jittery and easy to wake in the morning. And I would have been sad because although this moth is not rare in southern England, I have never seen one before.

Waking up at last, and widening the angle of its wings

And finally on the move, before I hid it and its leaf under a bush to go back to sleep

Luckily, the Lobster snored on while I took the camera in for a five minute recharge, and I managed the other pictures before the red light started winking again.  Here to finish with, is a real lobster courtesy of so that you can ponder the comparison for yourself.

Update: Dave in Comments quite rightly picks me up for not mentioning the Lobster Moth's caterpillar whose bizarre appearance accounts for the species' name, with the adult's colouring a secondary factor. Check out the picture below, courtesy of the enjoyable Creepy Animals blog, for its full peculiarness. To adjust the famous poem about the purple cow:

I've never seen a Lobster 'cat'
I hope one day I'll see one
But I can tell you firmly that
I'd rather see than be one.


David Shenton said...

Lobster Moths are great aren't they.

The name comparison however comes from the larvae not the adult, have a look here...



MartinWainwright said...

Thanks so much for the prompt, Dave. I'd love to see one of these and will be on the lookout later in the summer.

all warm wishes


David Shenton said...


If your moth is a female it might be worth keeping her for a day or so to see if she will lay eggs. This is the only way thus far that I have managed to see these fantastic larvae.


MartinWainwright said...

Hi Dave

That's an interesting thought. This particular moth has flitted now, but I'll bear it mind. Better do a bit of refresher research about breeding catties though. I did it successfully with a Poplar Hawk many many years ago, so here's hoping.

All best again