Friday, 14 April 2017

Moony moth

The word 'lunar' was much-beloved of the 18th and 19th century entomologists who gave such a rich and interesting variety of names to the UK's moths. There are seven species with 'Lunar' in their name, in each case referring to a crescent-shaped mark similar to that which earns the Comma butterfly its more workaday title.

One of them came calling last night, the Lunar Marbled Brown, which is a sturdy-looking member of our fur coat brigade of moths, well-equipped to cope with the colder nights of April's unpredictable weather.  It has lovely colouring and patterning and excellent antennae. A very welcome newcomer for 2017.

'Lunar' had another meaning for the old entomologists. The 'Lunar Men' were savants of Birmingham and the West Midlands in the 18th century, who held their monthly meetings on the night of the full moon. This was not because they were wizards or worshippers of the Moon goddess. They just wanted maximum light on their way home, to reduce the risk of being mugged. The very good book shown above tells their story.

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