Sunday, 31 August 2014

Y oh Y

The Silver Y is a moth dear to many, as one of the commonest species in the UK in terms of being seen. It has the obliging habit of flying by day as well as by night, nectaring on brambles or willow herb and especially busy at dusk. I am fond of it in the same way as I am of the Red Admiral butterfly described yesterday and for the same reason. It is the first moth that I can remember. I can even recall winning approval during a brief schoolboy flirtation with classical Greek by pointing out how its Linnaean name, Autographa gamma, sees its shiny mark as a Greek G - gamma - rather than an English Y. Brainbox, eh?  I was lucky to go to schools where natural history was strongly encouraged, much as environmental awareness is in classrooms today.

Silver Y's come in a variety of sizes and shapes and can be confused (especially by me) with their relations such as the Plain Golden Y and the Beautiful Golden Y - famous misnomers as both are equally lovely. We know little if anything about the psychology of moths, but it must be irritating to be called Plain anything. Mind you, such treatment can prompt a determination to excel as in the case of the writer Edith Sitwell who was treated dismissively by her mother when young as 'Poor Little E' on account of her unflattering looks.

I remember a rather odd adage from childhood days which was presumably meant to be helpful but was anything but for those to whom it was recited:

My face I don't mind it for I am behind it
It's the ones in the front get the jarr

We could apply it, I guess to the ageing and battered Silver Y in the third photo above, but he or she is most welcome as an illustration of how this moth can be found almost all the year round. That is all the more impressive because it is an immigrant whose larvae are not thought able to survive our winter. They must come over from the Continent in swarms.

I've got three pictures of the next moth, the micro Pyrausta purpuralis, because it is such a lovely shade of purple, as its name suggests. Also because these are three different individuals, all together in the eggboxes, and they usefully show the small differences in patterning which can confuse the ageing human moth enthusiast in less distinctive species.

Meanwhile, among some 250 other visitors to the trap, here is a female Orange Swift of the dark form

Followed by one of those lovely, shining metallic creatures, a Burnished Brass

And the funny little Mouse mouth which, true to its name - and the main reason for its name - scurried around for ages before settling long enough for me to take this picture.

Lastly, I was talking yesterday about the way that yellow underwings do themselves a dis-service by hiding their bright petticoats except when in flight or, briefly, if disturbed. Here is what they usually fail to show us, courtesy of a dead one whose wings are held open by two of our many curious mantelpiece objects.

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