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2 July 2014

1 July 2014 – Shadow of the Minster

Gothic (Naenia typica)

York’s skyline is dominated by the magnificent contours of York Minster. Last night, the passing shadow of the Minster left a trace inside our trap in the York Museums Garden. 

We discovered a Gothic moth (Naenia typica).

Typica means to have a distinctive pattern. The moth’s black wings are suitably decorated with bright trimmings. Branching silvery lines expand from its thorax to the tips of its wings. These lines are punctuated in their paths by horizontal connections, forming intricate lacework. At the same time, the silver thread divides the dark wing surface into a mosaic of elongated triangular and rectangular patches. This pattern reminds me of the elaborate tracery on the windows of the gothic cathedrals. Just as the stained-glass windows of York Minster give the architecture its sacred atmosphere, the black mosaics of the moth’s wings add a layer of enigma to the moth’s appearance.

The Gothic’s behavior is equally enigmatic. Gothic is fittingly named after Naenia, the Roman goddess of funerals. Naenia is responsible for providing rest and peace to the dead in the afterlife. Like Naenia, Gothic moths preside over a world that is little known but omnipresent around us. Outside of the reaches of the lamp-lights, nighttime waste grounds, suburban woods, and wild marshes make up the Gothic’s haven. It’s characteristically reclusive and reticent. Unlike most other species of moth, the Gothic isn’t easily attracted to light. Despite being a common species in Britain, it is a rare visitor to light traps, which makes its presence today all the more unusual and noteworthy. However, I can only imagine the sight of a fluttering Gothic moth at night. When its black wings dissolve into darkness, all that remains will be the silver trimmings delineating its contour. It flies into the night, like a spirit, and disappears.

Gothic (illustration)

The illustration above is reproduced from British Moths and their Transformations (as usual).  The Gothic is shown alongside a caterpillar of the Chestnut (Conistra vaccinii) crawling up the stem of a Bilberry.  The wavy fronds of the Field Larkspur add a suitably mysterious background.

This moth hasn’t been seen at Shandy Hall so isn’t included in our list.

Post by Bowen Chang