Saturday, 17 October 2015


A whole load of bits and bobs today, starting not with a moth but with a wasp. On a walk with friends recently, I was intrigued by the curious deformation of a briar rose in a hedge, shown above. Back home, I Googled.

This is the work, it turns out, of Diplolepsis rosae or the Bedeguar Gall Wasp, a small creature whose practice of laying eggs in the rose's buds leads to the development of wispy thin leaves and the mossy-looking structure in my picture. The best of its various rural nicknames is Robin's Pincushion and has been used for medicinal purposes up to recent times, notably for curing diahorrea in cattle, yuk. For all that, these were the first I had seen.

I recalled them while clearing out a box of toys, Part 34,698 of our decluttering exercise, and finding this little family of similiarly mossy-looking dolls. We've always been fond of them even though they've remained unseen for years. So too - if you look at the remains of the young man doll's felt trousers - are tinea clothes moths.

In among the toys was this well-preserved body of a Rustic moth (I am pretty sure), seen above next to a pretend fly and then, closer-up, on a table-top. To protect the moths against birds, I sometimes bring the trap indoors for a spell in the morning and I suspect that is where this ex-moth came from.

In the trap itself, or strictly just outside it on the rain shield, I was pleased to find this Barred Sallow, a bright piece of Autumn colour to match the changing leaves on the trees. lovely to have another Brindled Green too, with its glinting scales of metallic green.

This next arrival is, I think, a Chestnut moth and finally I welcomed the year's first November or Autumnal moths, species which may well be my only arrivals between late November and late January. Like those lorries in Siberia whose engines are started by lighting fires beneath the wagon to warm everything up, these species have a fantastic ability to fly in sub-zero temperatures. It can take them half-an-hour to exercise their muscles sufficiently to take off but their equivalent of blood has been usefully studied by manufacturers of antifreeze.

I say November or Autumnal moths because the two species along with the Pale November moth cannot be identified on wing pattern/colour/tone but need work with a microscope or, eek, dissection. I am happy to leave the question open.


Anonymous said...

Hi Martin.

I think your amazingly well preserved moth(are you sure it's not asleep) may well be a Lesser Yellow Underwing. I wonder if you could put some sort of varnish over it and keep it. I'm not 100 per cent on the LYU and I'm even less sure that your Chestnut could be a Beaded Chestnut that's faded quite a bit, but that's what I've ended up with because of the shape of the kidney mark.

MartinWainwright said...

Spot on! I am dim. I just checked the corpse and the hindwings are indeed a lovely orange. Amazingly well-preserved as you say - in a safe, dark nook

Many thanks and all v best