Tuesday, 18 March 2014

Beauty and the least

 I put the trap on a scruffy bit of ground last night, amid infant cow parsley and near a hawthorn hedge which is just producing its first sprigs of 'bread and cheese'. The latter accounted for one of my first disappointments in life when my Mum used the old expression on a walk and suggested we children chew some because we were whining. We did and we didn't die, but it didn't taste like bread and cheese.

The two pictures above show the star of the night above: a common moth but gloriously patterned and a lesson - used by the military in past times - in camouflage. It's a male Oak Beauty. The females prudently avoid coming to light.

Also there, was a very smart Brindled Beauty, a tabby cat among moths with excellent antennae like the Oak Beauty. These are the male's prerogative in both species - appropriately because they give the moth the appearance of a Kiplingesque Indian Army major blustering about. I went back to the eggboxes in the late and very sunny morning and both moths were waking up and quite lively. Hence the antennae obligingly on show.

The micro-moths are coming in now too and with the help of my Micro moth Bible plus the wondrous number of experts who live in the Upper Thames part of the UK, I am getting better at ID-ing them. But it is a challenging task. My best crack at the above - one of three in the trap - was Agonopterix heracliana, while I guessed at  Diplodoma laichartingella, the fascinating Bagworm which makes beautiful chrysalis cases our of plant debris, for the one in the rather dodgy picture below.  

I also raised the question on the outstanding new Upper Thames Moths blog whose contributors are formidably expert and unfailingly helpful. This reply from Martin Harvey shows just how complicated micro-moth ID issues are...

The Agonopterix is very likely to be heracliana, but A. ciliella looks very similar and is best distinguished by some subtle markings on the hindwings, or by dissection. In the UTB area A. ciliella seems to be much scarcer than A. heracliana, but that becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy if we regard everything as heracliana on the grounds that it is the commoner of the two!

The second micro has prominent upturned palps, which rules out the bagworm moths and also rules out Epiblema, although I can see why you went for those. My best guess is that it is the Leek Moth, Acrolepiopsis assectella, but I can't be certain, and it is the sort of thing that I'd want to keep a specimen of if I needed a confirmed identification.

Dave Hubble has written an interesting blog on the Leek Moth:

More (enjoyable) work for me then. I'd also much appreciate the opinions of my experts here, Ben, Dave, Ray & Co. Back in the trap, meanwhile, there was also a very smart Early Grey, a March Moth and the currently customary score or so of assorted Quakers, Drabs and Hebrew Characters


Ray Walton said...

Hi Martin
I am watching quietly in the background as your posts gather momentum. Brilliant.
Fellow watchers, we're in for yet another entertaining, informative, and enjoyable series of listings ahead of us.
I retire in 6 weeks. My Moth Trap is on order.

Martin Wainwright said...

Hi Ray!

You are a gent. I'm very lucky in terms of knowledgeable authorities in my new neighbourhood - indeed I think all three of the Moth Bible's authors live within striking distance, rather like having Elijah and Samuel on your doorstep. But my favourite experts will always be you, Ben, Dave, Banished and the others here.

Great news about retirement - though I'm sure you'll leave a big work gap and be much missed. People sometimes ask kindly but anxiously if it's 'alright' beyond work, to which I can give a joyous and very emphatic YES! So long as the money is OK, of course. But it's heaven having time to do all the other things, and in less of a rush.

All warmest as ever