Sunday, 10 June 2018

Big features

Here's a meeting between two small moths with large endowments: the Snout with its Pinocchio 'nose' - actually palps which play a wider role by bringing other senses into play - and one of the vastly-antennae-ed Longhorn micros, scientifically known as Adelidae. Longhorn is much the apter name as you can see (Adelidae comes from the Greek for hidden, apparently because the caterpillars of these species are so good at hiding. That is a talent shared by most caterpillars but the Longhorns' have a distinctive habit of making a tiny case shaped like a violin into which they tuck themselves while feeding on leaf litter). What a small but interesting creature! Small wonder that the other colloquial name for them is Fairy moths.

Here they are again with a nice bright Cinnabar snoozing nearby. I didn't pose them; unlike big, sleepy hawk moths, small ones are almost impossible to entice on to fingers or scraps of foliage. They wake immediately and scarper. Anyway, there's something very satisfying about Big Nose meeting Big Ears, at least to me. 

Next up is that beautiful scrap the White Plume, obligingly perching on the trap's cowl so that I could photograph it from below as well as above. This is a common micro which you have a very good chance of seeing during the day if you push your way through cow parsley, long grass and (if like me you enjoy the post-sting tingle on your legs, nettles). 

It was a good night for moths altogether because here is another excellent species, the Figure of Eighty. Not too much imagination is required to complete the 8 and wonder what Nature was thinking about at the time. Camouflage, as always, but what makes the squiggles helpful to concealment?

There was a time, and not long ago, when the next moth would have headed this post. But I have grown blase about the wonderful abundance of hawk moths here and the Privet is no exception. That said, it always thrills me as the biggest UK moth most of us are likely to see. Only the Convolvulus and Death's Head hawks are larger.

My final composite shows why the joy which I get from moths is tempered with irritation at those which I find impossible to identify. Over the years many kind people have put me right on this blog and I apologise that your help is still needed. I do try but I cannot say with certainty whether the top two moths are a Wiullow Beauty or conceivably a Square-spot (left) and an Engrailed (right). Bit those are my guesses. Likewise, I think I have two Marbled Minors (centre and right) for all that they look very different; possibly the one on the right has wing damage. I am sure, however, that the moth on the left in the back row is, for obvious reasons, a Heart and Dart

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