Friday, 18 October 2013

RAF moths

The only 'jetplane' moth of early autumn flew in last night - a Feathered Thorn. It rests with its wings swept back like an RAF Vulcan bomber, uniquely among its contemporaries which either fold their wings over their bodies, hold them up like a butterfly or stick them out sideways like today's second subject, below.

This chap is a male, a fact I established by teasing him enough to make him show his feathered antennae, more elaborate than any TV aerial I have seen, but not enough to goad him into flying off before the photography session was done. Females have to make do with plain versions, perhaps because the hunting for partners by pheromone searching is done by the male.

I love these antennae, so here they are again.

And again:

The Feathered Thorn has another distinction among it autumn fellows: it is strikingly large, as I hope I illustrate below by the inclusion of one of my attractive thumbs. We're not talking hawk moths or anything like that, but he makes a welcome change from the middling-sized chestnuts and their pals.

Continuing the aircraft theme (and moth wing shapes have been studied by aircraft designers) here is another of last night's arrivals, a Plume moth. These always remind me of the gawky Lysander aircraft which used to rescue shot-down pilots or members of the French resistance in my 1/- War Picture Library comics. This one's got trouble with its right wingtip (left in the picture below) but that didn't stop it scooting off from its eggbox and banking low over a flowerbed.

The plumes are a growing family. Although a couple of them, the Gentian and Downland Plumes, are thought to have become extinct in the last half-century, more than three times that number of species new to the UK list have been discovered.  When it comes to telling them apart, however, I am Muggins. The best I can do is to suggest, from flight seasons, that this is either a Brown (my first choice), Dowdy or conceivably Mugwort Plume. Views from passing micromoth experts would be more than welcome.

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