Tuesday, 22 July 2014

Moon shoulder

Today's moths are a tribute to the power of pink, a colour I have rather sidelined in my many moans about the UK having so few green moths and hardly any blue ones.

Pink only really gets a field day when my knees or fingers appear in photos or in the Elephant and Small Elephant Hawks which have often featured here and are glories of our night-time world. But this time it has come in subtler form, but form nonetheless which turns the authors of my Moth Bible almost lyrical.

My first two pictures are of a Lunar-spotted Pinion, a newcomer here (although I am only in my second year of Oxfordshire trapping), of which the Bible's authors write: "A half-moon-shaped marking near forewing tip gives this moth its common name, but the marking is more like a rose petal, frequently marked with pink and mauve as well as much white."

The Rose Petal would be a pretty name for a moth but the 'lunar' tag is also a good one and noteworthy as a common simile in the naming of UK moths. This is primarily because of the crescent shape frequently encountered in wing patterning and doubtless also due to the connection between moths and the night. But I wonder, also, if there is a link to the 'Lunar men', the Enlightenment scientists of the 18th century such as Josiah Wedgwood, Erasmus Darwin and Joseph Priestley who held monthly meetings in cities such as Birmingham on the night of the full moon. They were not astrologers or witches, simply concerned to have as much light as possible to see them safely home without a tumble or falling victim to footpads. Jenny Uglow's book The Lunar Men is an absorbing account of their lives and work which took place at a time when much of the naming of our moths was carried out.

Isn't the colouring on my second moth marvellous too? It is only a 'yellow underwing' - Lesser Broad-bordered I think - but what a glow!  I went and had my morning cup of tea with great satisfaction. Almost, you might say, in the pink.


Countryside Tales said...

Lovely! Interesting about the possible connections with moth names and 19th C blokes. Are you getting huge hauls at the mo? Last week it very nearly over-whelmed me...so I'm plucking up courage to put the box out tonight. Hope all's well :-)

Martin Wainwright said...

Hi and sorry for the delay - yes, lots of moths in the lovely warm weather and a regular supply of new ones for the year. But it can get overwhelming - odd to want fewer in the box!

all warm wishes