Friday, 29 July 2016

Spotting spots

Spots of various sorts are the theme shared by today's extremely excellent visitors to the trap, starting with this Leopard Moth. It is one of the more primitive of the UK's moths, along with the Swifts and the Ghost moth, but in spite of that its caterpillar can grow for more than a year before pupating.

Its main interest for me is the way it uses op-art, dazzle camouflage to such good effect, with the black and white pattern breaking up its slender shape and disguising it from predators. My visitor provided a spectacular example of this, as you can see from the timing of the two photographs of it at rest, below. A bonus of its safe survival on a windowsill - passed during the day by hundreds of birds - was that some friends with children came round and I was able to lecture them (not too boringly, I hope) on dazzle technique. 

The moth has finally disappeared only this morning, presumably taking wing in the safety of night. It moved its angle slightly during the day, which saw it bathing in warm, direct sunshine at some times and dampened by drizzle at others. And it fidgeted very slightly when I bent over it with the camera. But otherwise its patterning and lack of movement gave it an impregnable defence. When discussing this subject, I can never resist using a photo of naval dazzle camouflage, which breaks up the shape of warships in exactly the same way, and here one is on the right.



My second spotty visitor is a considerable rarity although it has been here once before, on 23 July 2014, and a few other records suggest that it may be either spreading inland from its few coastal haunts, or immigrating (its usual means of reaching the UK) in larger numbers. It is a male Four-spotted Footman; the all-yellow female is the one with the four spots. Much the most striking thing about it, however, is its size which is double that of almost all the other Footman moths. You gasp when you first see it, wondering if some strange sort of hornet has called. I hope that my eggbox gives an idea of the scale.

My little picture of a footman of the human sort is to explain the moth family's name. With their grey and yellow uniforms drawn tightly round them, they resemble those servants in aristocratic households (and still in some courts today).

As if this wasn't enough, a third visitor was one of my favourite small moths because of both its appearance and its name. This is the Maiden's Blush and my example was becomingly modest: after allowing me the briefest of photo-opportunities, luckily with the camera playing ball on focus, it fluttered to freedom. Fortunately, I noted where it landed on the lawn and took the follow-up pictures. To go with my leopard and footman, I also attach a drawing of a maiden blushing, with much the same colour palette as the moth.

It was a very good night in - and near - the trap altogether and here are some of the other arrivals, I hope accurately identified:

Bordered Pug (one of the very few pug moths which I recognise)
July Highflyer, aptly named

Dusky Sallow and Brown-line Bright-Eye by the trap connector 
Red Twin-spot Carpet with micro pal

Common (but very pretty) Carpet

Small Fan-footed Wave (and my finger)


I'm puzzled by this one and will consult further. Broken-barred Carpet? Or some kind of Treble-bar? Update: No, I am now convinced that this is a July Highflyer too

Mmm... I also need help on this faded one. I would guess July Highflyer again.

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