Friday, 17 July 2015

How the leopard got its spots

You may remember, O best beloved, the story by Rudyard Kipling about the leopard's spots. Well exactly the same principle - of the value of camouflage in the speckled and flecked light of woodland - applies to this beautiful creature, the Leopard Moth.

The insect goes a step further than the mammal, too. As well as the marvellously dotted pattern, the moth is equipped with wings which become almost translucent towards their tips, allowing the greenery of plants on which it rests to show through.

This was the case with my Leopard which I found - top pic - when zealously checking the greenery aroung the trap before actually lifting the lid and examining the eggboxes. The Leopard was chosen last year as the cover girl, or boy, for the website of Upper Thames Moths. Although it has been replaced for 2015 by a Lobster Moth, it is a very distinguished visitor.


Anonymous said...

Hi Martin

I didn't realise that all Leopard moths went transparent towards the end of the wing. Having seen only one, I had assumed it was worn. This was compounded by unfortunately finding it had died where I'd left it the next day!

By the way if you mean the moth on the top banner part of Upper Thames Moths, I think it's a Lappet on my version.

MartinWainwright said...

Oh help! Another blunder...

A Lappet it is

I think (and hope) I'm right about the transparency though, It's certainly been the case in all the Leopards I've encountered. Like a nightie.

I take heart from the fact that even the great Rev Gilbert White thought that swallows spent winters in underground burrows. But your corrections are invaluable.

All warm wishes