Friday, 4 September 2015

Back to work

After all the excitements of the last few days, Convolvulus Hawkmoths, Garden Tigers et al, it is time to return to the more humdrum but always interesting world of my garden trap. This also means returning to the irritating world of my failure to distinguish between small and medium-sized moths whose colouring comes in a variety of greys and browns. But I shall try.

Update: and, predictably, fail on most counts. Read on...

Actually, I am really taken by the moth in my top photograph. What a delicate and distinctive pattern and how subtle the differences between the relatively limited number of shades. Penny's and my friend Sarah Meredith, noted American artist, could paint something lovely with a palette like that. Meanwhile, Nature and evolution have done an excellent job.

But what is it? I shall hazard Lunar Underwing, although neither the arrangement of its stripes nor their colou of the sections in between them seems quite right so it could instead be those hopelessly similar relatives, the Rustic or the Uncertain. Update: And actually, thanks to my anonymous Commentor's expertise, I now know that it's a moth which, though common enough, hasn't crossed my radar before, at least not so far as I can recall: the Six-striped Rustic. Six? Yes, if you look carefully, you'll see the sixth stripe just peeping out from under the attractive, slightly gingery, fur collar.

Next, I think, we have a couple of Flounced Rustics - a nice name with its intimations of an opinionated young moth flouncing around - followed what I shall temporarily call a Something Else. Update: right on the flouncers, but the last two - again thanks to my Commentor - are a second Six-striped Rustic and a Small Square-spot. I can, however, do the pretty little V-pugs below. Update (another, oh Gawd! - actually I can't. My Commentor points out that they are Green Carpets, kindly adding that the top one is really nice. Tragically, I made this blunder exactly the other way round a few weeks ago - confidently identifying a V-pug as a Green Carpet. Oh, well.

The cheerfully bright colours and distinctive shapes - to the human eye, perky - of Common Swifts are a feature of the trap too. They come in an interestingly wide range of shapes and sizes, much as humans do. This is a distinction between different types of moths; most are uniform - the Large Yellow Underwing, for example, which has three very different colour variations, all numerous in the eggboxes at the moment, but is almost always a standard size - while others such as the Swifts and the Silver Y vary greatly between the large and the tiddlers. Update: all honour to my Commentor below for pointing out that the Common Swift does not fly at this time of the year and so these are the closely related (and to me, very similar) Orange Swift. There is another cousin which I think even I could distinguish - the Map-winged Swift. But I have yet to host one in the eggboxes.

Next up, here are a couple of Crambidae micros, long, sleek racing cars of their mini-world. Update: my Commentor suggests Agriphila tristella - many thanks for that and for all the corrections. But please stay on the alert as I have another load of browny-greys coming up soon.

And finally, a small miscellanea: a 'looper' caterpillar disturbed from our vine by my plucking grapes to make our annual juice. Update: possibly a Light Brown Apple moth larva as its 'looping' motion was not very pronounced. We also have lots of Carnation Tortrix,  Cacoecimorpha pronubana, in the greenhouse.

A moth sent for ID-ing after my sister spotted it in a friend's bathroom in Bristol. Mottled or Willow Beauty, I think. Update - take a final peep at Comments. Almost certainly a Willow Beauty because of the time of the year. Very many thanks again.

and a spider in my granddaughter's garden in London. She was much intrigued and not in the least frightened. "Take it off!" she demanded. Grandpa was more squeamish and declined. Update: a final thanks to my Commentor. This post reminds me of what history essays looked like when they came back marked by the teacher. Still, we get there in the end.


Anonymous said...

Hi Martin.

Enjoying the blog as ever, really jealous of you getting to see a Convolvulous Hawkmoth, great work by your wife in spotting it. My personal list for todays moths would be, without any certainty:

Six-striped Rustic, Flounced Rustic, Flounced Rustic, Six-striped Rustic, Small Square-spot, Green Carpet(a really nice one), Green Carpet, I think the next three pics are all Orange Swift as according to Waring etc. it's the only one still flying. For both Grass Moths I would be guessing Agriphila tristella and with both Satin and Mottled Beauty apparently finishing in mid August, I would be thinking Willow Beauty for the Geo. If you hadn't said it was a 'looper' and assuming it was small, I would have been guessing Light Brown Apple Moth for the larva, but that would have been a wild swing. Nice spider pic, I can never stop the camera looking at the background instead!

Martin Wainwright said...

Hi there and yet again, thanks so much for keeping me on the straight and narrow. I'd missed the Six-striped Rustic altogether when I looked through Townsend, Waring & Lewinton. Yet what a lovely moth it is. And I got the Green Carpet and V-pug muddled in exactly the opposite way from the last time I muddled them and you corrected me. Oh dear! Thanks so much.

You're right about the problems of spider photography. Out of about a dozen I took of varios spiders spotted by the granddaughter, this and one other were the onoy ones to get the sinister-looking creatures in focus.

All v best as ever