Friday, 28 July 2017


I got unnecessarily excited when I first saw this moth in the trap today. Its curious resting posture had me wondering whether it was some strange version of the Burnished Brass. It was only when I came inside and consulted the Moth Bible that I realised that it was an old (albeit infrequent) familiar: the wonderfully-named Coxcomb Prominent.

The word 'coxcomb' may take you back to Shakespeare lessons in school and reading aloud in rote such curious lines as 'Also be you, look you, an ass, a fool and a prating coxcomb' (from Henry V). Although used to describe someone vain and conceited, the word comes from a mediaeval jester's cap which had a strip across the top like the crest of a cockerel.

Ready for take-off

The moth's version of this is the pale-coloured quiff on the back of its head. It goes merrily with the curious horn of fur halfway along the back of the folded wings and the fan shape - usually serrated but a little battered in this specimen, which rounds things off. An excellent moth.

Another interesting arrival was the Dark Spectacle, above and below, a moth which I have not yet put on my records list.  Update: I have now. I am sure that I will have had one or more in the past because they are not uncommon, but it is very easy to mistake them for the ordinary Spectacle, which comes in large numbers. I think that I can be excused this oversight as the Moth Bible explains how the two species were for a long time known as one by the Linnaean name Abrostola triplasia. To my great delight, as an enthusiast for moths' wonderful English names as opposed to the challenging Latin, Greek and Graeco-Latin of Linnaeus & Co, the Bible says of the confusion over the two Spectacles: 'This can make the interpretation of records, especially older ones, difficult unless the English names, which have not changed, are used." Hurray!

Two other attractive moths with very different colouring but similar patterns - the double kidney-like marks and fan of jagged arrowheads at the base of the wings - which are found with many variations in many UK species. This leads to great confusion in the faltering ID section of my brain but I think that these two are a Dark Arches and um, well actually, I shall have to ask the experts at the Upper Thames Moths blog about the second one. Update: I haven't had to bother them because Dave Wilton's latest post on UTM, headed 'The next confusing species', convinces me that this is a Straw Underwing.

Lastly a nice red and black Burying Beetle, an unusual insect in that the males as well as females have a hand in childcare. Both parents dig a little nest - hence their name - and jointly nurture their larvae with regurgitated food.


orchidwallis said...

Hello Martin

I have just discovered your site while in the process of trying to get moth info. I have found my wanted info. but will tell you about it and ask another question.

My discovered info. was about the fact that for the second year running I have found a pile of moth wings in a shed. I now know that these are from the yellow underwing moth and that the probable cause is a bat.

My still unanswered question is about a moth that I spotted on my outside wall a few years ago. I have found no picture anywhere that resembles it and it was very distinctive. It was totally a bright light green; at that point everyone thinks that they know what it was; but no! It was completely different. It was small and a perfect triangle, by which I mean:- not even the most miniscule indent anywhere.

I live in a clearing in the middle of ancient woodland on the Isle of Wight.


Martin Wainwright said...

Hi there - nice to hear from you and I'm glad that the yellow underwing question has been sorted. Like the main butterfly hibernators, the Small Tortoiseshell and the Peacock, the various yellow underwings are very adept at snuggling up in nooks and crannies.

It sounds as though you've done a very thorough search for your small green moth but have you looked at the micro, the Green Oak Tortrix, Tortris viridana? That could be the answer. Do let me know if not and I'll try to think of something else. Your base in the Isle of Wight sounds lovely and no doubt full of promise for moths.

All warm wishes


orchidwallis said...

Hello again

It would have been logical as this is oak and hazel woodland, but no! What I saw was quite different. It was very small, pure green and spread as a perfect triangle. I know practically nothing about moths but am struck when I see something unlike anything that I have seen before. The edges were absolutely clean cut.

I shall pay more attention to moths in future as I do see them resting up for the day in my porch or on shed walls and window edges.


Martin Wainwright said...

Hi Inge

Could it have been a Green Shield Bug - ? It's hard to think of a UK moth resembling your description, though the Isle of Wight is a famous first landing ground for immigrant species. A Dr Blair who lived there has no fewer than three UK moths named after him, after finding their pioneers on the island. I am happy to keep searching. All v best again M

Martin Wainwright said...

Soory - three other (moth) thoughts, though you have probably checked them out: the Triangle - the Scarce Forester - and the Forester -

all vb