Saturday, 9 July 2016


Some moths are instantly recognisable, even for an observer as challenged as I am when it comes to identification. One such is the hairy, hunched visitor to the trap last night: the Drinker, whose name has interesting origins.

Seen here with a small friend

And now he's gone; but the Drinker is looking a trifle wary

It comes from the habit of the very handsome caterpillar of climbing the grass stalks on which it feeds to sip at moisture - usually dewfall, sometimes rain, suspended at the top. Whether this gives the adult moth its rather concentrated look, like a pub regular hunched over his pint, is another matter. Either way, I owe the Drinker a debt of thanks as it played a part in developing my interest in butterflies, moths and Nature more widely.

Many thanks to the RSPB for this
One of the problems involved in awakening this in children is the difficulty of spotting wildlife, or at least of doing more than glimpse a fluttering insect or darting bird. A caterpillar is an ideal companion and object of study for a young person; and in the long hot summers of my youth (actually probably as wet as they seem to be today), Drinker moth caterpillars were easy to find exactly because of their dew-supping habit. My friends and I reared plenty of adult moths; and I have to admit that, as was the way in those days of completely inadequate cameras, they often ended up pinned on 'setting boards' before ending up in boxes. I still have some.

Head-on view
Drinkers come in both genders, as in the famous picture by Degas of two human ones, left, but I wrote 'his' in my reference to being hunched over a pint because my moth is unquestionably a male Drinker, more disposed than the female to come to a light trap and coloured a reddish brown as against her buff and sometimes yellowy tones. He shared the Eggbox Saloon Bar with at least 250 other moths, notable among them the Marbled Coronet and Poplar Grey below.

There was also a handsome Buff Arches, seen below asleep and then after being disturbed by my clumsy fingers and thumbs. This had the happy result of the moth spreading its wings and showing more of their fascinating pattern, including what looks like a swirl of Arabic script. It doesn't usually deign to put on this show.

Its relative the Burnished Brass was nearby,  below, in this case a form juncta by the narrowest of margins - a very slender line of reflecting/refracting metallic scales crosses the central brown band on the wings which is solid in the different form aurea - as I have mentioned previously, scientific debate continues about whether the two forms should be honoured with the title of separate species.

There was also this crash-landed Buff-tip in the most peculiar position I have ever seen for this moth, which normally furls its wings tightly to resemble - uncannily - a broken-off beech twig. Here it looks more like a kitten sticking out a very large tongue.

Slumberers on the trap's transparent shield meanwhile included this Beautiful Hook-tip below, a current regular visitor which I can never resist showing, while nearby on the grass was a ghostly White Satin moth, a new arrival for this year.

And finally, here is a neat little Common Emerald on a leaf of one of our rapidly burgeoning sunflowers just by the trap.

A lot of moths then - and these are only a sample. I have a very big backlog and am trying to find time to get its contents online.


La Biosfera de Lola said...

Hola acabo de descubrir tu blog, es fascinante, me encantan las polillas y tus fotos son preciosas. Un saludo.

Martin Wainwright said...

Hola! Muchas gracias por tus amables palabras. Es muy amable de tu parte.

Las polillas sonos in Euro football France v Portugal in Paris!

All very best