Saturday, 20 June 2015

Drip, drop

Ah the pitter-patter of rain... I'm not complaining, as an apprentice vegetable-grower with a salad to provide for supper tonight, but it's tough on the moths. Mind you, their wing scales seem to have the sort of waterproofing which lanolin gives to sheep's fleeces and which other products also provide, often less effectively, for macs and gaberdenes.

This Scarlet Tiger, for instance, was perched amid raindrops on the moth-trap's plastic shield. He (or she) looked a little uncomfortable when I arrived, but responded obligingly to a tickle and showed a splash of that lovely scarlet underwing in the second picture. Think Folies Bergere... Then, after a bit too much provocation, he or she whirred away into the sky. You may well see these moths at the moment as they are frequent day-fliers, like the Cinnabar which also has splashes of bright red. Both look like frenzied helicopters of the Queen's Flight (the red bit), as opposed to the graceful soaring and gliding of butterflies.

My second moth this morning is the strangely-shaped Barred Straw, a moth which may also be disturbed by day - it would be the small, fluttery thing like a micro flying duster which skitters away when you brush through nettles. Its curious resting posture, shared by a number of other smaller moths, must surely have something to do with sexual attraction which is the be-all and end-all of life for most moths.

A Figure of Eighty also spent the night in the trap; its good condition shows the reason for its name nice and clearly, though why this particular species should have evolved into something which looks as though graffiti 'artists' have given it a daub, I do not know.

Finally, Penny the eagle-eyed spotter of moths in the house, exclaimed at this midget micro-moth which settled on a wall during supper last night. By experimenting with various torches, to overcome the chiarascuro effect from a nearby light, I have satisfied myself that it is a Light Brown Apple moth, or Epiphyas postvittana. Update: but Ben Sale provides welcome correction (yet again). It is the Carnation Tortrix, Cacoecimorpha pronubana.

But I am sometimes wrong because I am perpetually baffled by the way that the real-life micro-moths seldom exactly resemble Richard Lewington's excellent paintings. This is no slur on his work, just a comment on the remarkable variation of patterns and sometimes colours within a species.
So this could also be the Barred Fruit-tree Tortrix or Dark Fruit-tree Tortrix. Tortrix, btw, comes from the Latin for a shield, which this tribe resembles. Update: as my kind anonymous Commentor points out below (but in gentler terms) I was having a senior moment here. Where my notion came from, I do not know, but the name 'tortrix' actually comes from the Latin for 'twisting', or even 'torturing', which I think refers to the species' caterpillars' effect on fruit crop leaves. They are also known as 'leafrollers'.  As Wikipedia says:  "Notable tortricids include the codling moth and the spruce budworm, which are among the most well-studied insects on the planet because of their economic impact."  However, MW clearly hadn't studied them enough.


Bennyboymothman said...

Cacoecimorpha pronubana for that :)


Anonymous said...

Hi Martin

I had read somewhere that the Tortrix name was something to do with the Latin for 'to twist'. I hadn't heard of the shield explanation.

Martin Wainwright said...

Hi both and apols for the delay - more granddaughtering...

Thanks so much Ben. So I'm wrong again. I should have remembered as we have a pronubana colony in our greenhouse

Anon, you are absolutely right and I had a complete senior moment. I am about to post a grovelling update. Old age...

Warmest wishes, both