Saturday, 11 June 2016

Number One

As Moth Night notches up the second of its three days, it's a pleasure to welcome a distinguished arrival: number One in the Moth Bible, the very first moth in the book. I'm glad that it enjoys this position because in other ways the Ghost Moth doesn't get a very good deal.

It cannot feed, having no proboscis to suck nectar, and has unusually short antennae - those remarkable features of insects which we humans lack - as you can see from the photos. It is, in short, a 'primitive species' as the Moth Bible says. But it does also have some unusual and cheery features.

The female lays her eggs in flight, for example, like an insect bomber aircraft, while the males sometimes lay on an extraordinary show to attract a mate. The fly in pendulum-like movements over a particular spot, at the same time emitting a rather goaty smell.  Females are duly attracted. In the mothy world as well as our own, it clearly takes all sorts.

Another interesting pair of arrivals were two slightly different forms of the Burnished Brass, a notable example of UK moths with 'metallic' colouring whose shiny nature is due to both reflection and refraction from wing scales. There has been a big debate within the moth world over whether this species should be divided into two; one with the central brown band intact (a form currently known as juncta) and the other with a metallic section cutting across the band, known as form aurea).  Both mine have the metallic band but you will see that it is very much thinner in the top photo than in the second one.  It is that sort of variation within the main variation which continues to hold up the efforts of those who want to split Burnished Brasses into two species.

Can you see the little face peeping over the back of the second Burnished Brass, above?  That's a micro-moth snuggling up alongside. It's easier to see from the other side, here:

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