Sunday, 25 May 2014

Crash landing

Cinnabar moths are providing a welcome splash of colour among the grey and brown arrivals at this time of year, some demurely asleep in the eggboxes while others arrive more spectacularly. This one crash-landed on the lawn just outside the trap. Its warning colouration kept away my predatory robin and other birds.

This is just as well as the moth is closely associated with poison, even in its name. From Roman times to the Spanish empire, digging for cinnabar was an alternative to the death sentence as miners of the ore, which produces mercury, seldom lived for more than three years. Cinnabar caterpillars, whose striking black and yellow stripes are another warning combination, live on ragwort which is poisonous to some animals. They are also cannibalistic on one another.

No wonder this little creature isn't bothered about hiding, the strategy favoured by most of the rest of this final catch-up on my recent glut of moths. This even applies to the excitingly-named Flame Carpet, above, as well as the interestingly-shaped Scalloped Hazel below.

Another sober moth, almost to the extent of resembling a Puritan preacher, is the Setaceous Hebrew Character, unrelated to the Hebrew Character which appears early in the year and has already featured here. They share the name because both have a prominent wing marking which resembles the Hebrew letter nun. Setaceous means 'bristly' but appears to have only the flimsiest reference to this not particularly hairy moth.

Two more new arrivals, below,  favour a variety of browns for their camouflage. The first is a Middle-barred Minor and the second a paper dart-shaped micro large enough to earn an English name, the Garden Pebble, although its official title is the rather grander Evergestis forficalis.

Finally in this section, here's an example of varying camouflage within a species. The moth below is the form combusta of the Clouded-bordered Brindle whose commoner forms are much lighter, rather as in the case of ordinary and melanistic Peppered moths.


Try as I might, I cannot get excited about the Pug family of moths which with a few honourable exceptions such as the Lime-speck and the Netted, are confusing similar and generally various shades of brown and grey. I have a special book on pugs which was kindly given to me after I talked about moths to Leeds Philosophical and Literary Society but it's still lost in one of several post-move stacks which will only finally be sorted and accessible again next month. So in case a kindly expert is passing, here are last week's spcimens with my best guesses as to their identity. Corrections most welcome.






Ochreous conceivably?


insect trish said...

cool site, love it!

Dave Wilton said...

I'd go for Currant Pug for No.2 and Freyer's Pug for No.4 but wouldn't be willing to express any opinions in public regarding the others!

Martin Wainwright said...

Hi Insect Trish - glad ypu like it. Dave, thanks very much. Sorry I find pugs so unrewarding

all warm wishes