Sunday, 20 October 2013

Identical quads

This is the most beautiful of the set, as the little grub on its upper left appears to have noted

There are four confusingly similar moths on the wing at the moment, officially known as the Epirrita family but we can call them the Greys. We're not talking tea, politics or the North of England (I once stayed at the Grey Hotel in Grey Street, Newcastle-upon-Tyne, which damaged my constant efforts at the time to counter those who condemned the North as grey, bleak and dour). No these are small and often prettily-patterned moths.

Plain and drab examples like this are apparently commoner in the South, ha ha

I say 'often' because they are infuriatingly variable, to an extreme degree in a world where patterns and colouring are notoriously unreliable. Even my Moths Bible assumes an air of despair when it says of them that the patterning 'can differ between the two forewings of the same individual'. And if you think I'm having my customary whinge about failing to ID such creatures successfully, read what else the Bible says:

The live males of each species can easily be identified by examination of the underside of the abdomen tip under a hand lens or low-powered microscope. This is facilitated by removal of some of the scales from the abdomen tip with a damp brush. Rather than man-handle live moths, another possibility is to anaesthetise them by placing them in ethyl acetate vapour until they are still. To confirm identity of the females requires examination of the genitalia.

Easy? Um.  Anyway, resisting the temptation to add to the world's mountain of quips about that recent best-selling sex book, here are some of my Epirrita in the pictures. I think that most of them are the November Moth with the odd Autumnal Moth. But if anyone reckons there is a Pale November Moth or Small Autumnal Moth among them, please let me know.

This is the one which I think could be an Autumnal Moth, cos of the size and positioning of it wing dots

Update: I meant to check out the meaning of Epirrita earlier but ran out of time. The very good moths website kept by Shandy Hall - Lawrence Sterne's fascinating vicarage - is excellent on definitions and relates this to both Greek and Latin words meaning 'streaming' and 'flowing', ascribing the name to the washed-out look of the moths' wings.  Many thanks, Shandy people.


Countryside Tales said...

Your guess is as good as mine on those Martin :-)
Interesting how autumn's moths vary so dramatically from the rich oranges and yellows of the sallows, to the green stripes of the red green carpets and brindled crescents to the, well, rather dull grey brown of these moths. Much like autumn itself so I guess they all know what they are doing :-)

MartinWainwright said...

Hi there!

It's an interesting point. I notice how the Sallows show up although they could be mistaken for dying leaves. Mind you, birds' eyes are different from ours, notto mention their brains...

All warmest