Thursday, 11 August 2016


My activities have been interrupted by a day of grandparenting, but I always take the camera with me on the off chance. On this occasion, while playing some complex game in the garden, my eye was caught by a very small fluttering creature (not of the human kind) which was clearly fascinated by some ornamental sage.

Creeping up on it, I recognised a micro-moth which has been familiar in the trap in recent weeks; indeed I posted a picture of one only yesterday. But how different it was to see it in flight. Here in the mornings, sound asleep, Pyrausta aurata, has been a very attractive but inert little jewel with its purplish sheen. In flight, it was a busy and industrious creature, in behaviour not unlike an extremely small version of the Hummingbird Hawk moth.

Colloquially, it is known as the Mint moth and it certainly has a liking for herbs, specialising in the various mints but also happy with lemon balm or, in this case, sage. The camera has done me proud on this occasion and you can see how complex the plant's leaf surface is. One advantage of the moth's tiny size must be that it can explore those curious stellar formations in the structure of what, to the human eye from a distance, looks like a flat leaf.

Here are a couple of photographs to emphasise just how small this moth is. Click on them twice and see if you can find it. As always, my eye was caught by the movement of one in flight.  Movement is the greatest giveaway in hide-and-seek.

Learned footnote: thinking of the word 'herb' and knowing that Americans kindly read this blog from time to time, I have just Googled: "Why do Americans say 'erb?"  As I suspected, the answer is that this reckoned to be the original English pronunciation, taken directly from the French 'herbe' where the 'h' is silent. The American colonists and their descendants stayed faithful to this while the stayathomes brought back the silent letter during the 19th century torturing of English which happened in part to draw lines between the educated and the rest.  Other words survived this process unaffected, such as 'hour' and 'honour'.  Personally, I would like to see the American 'gotten' restored to use here.

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