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10 June 2017

10 June 2017 – Pollen Cruncher

Micropterix …. but which?
Micropterix aruncella

I went into the garden in search of a micromoth that has been recorded on the blog, but not included as a species at Shandy Hall.  Micropterix calthella is the scientific name.  I saw the moth on a walk near Oldstead with Jeremy Purseglove in 2014 and fully expected to see it when the Marsh Marigolds were flowering in the quarry in early May.  Not a sight.

Yesterday, looking closely at the speedwell flower-heads in search of longhorn moths, Olivia spotted a tiny flash of gold.  I managed to get a photograph and reckoned it might be good enough for identification. The image wasn’t sharp enough when I looked at it on the computer so I dashed back and tried again. The moth had gone – but a similar moth was perching on a leaf close by and seemed almost like a tiny guardian of the leaf.  The photograph this time (see above) was much sharper and showed a moth most certainly of the same shape and sheen, but with two clear white stripes and a white dot on the wings. This surely must be Micropterix aruncella.  

The tiny leaf-guardian, picking up who-knows-what information on those cocked and alert antennae, is species 406.  

Charlie Fletcher tells me that the other image is either a female aruncella or a calthella but it is not possible to say which from that particular photograph.

Goat’s Beard (Spiraea aruncus)

The moth’s scientific name comes from mikros (little), pterux (a wing); and the second part refers to Spiraea aruncus (Goat’s Beard) on which the moth feeds.  Uniquely among moths, this miniature creature has mouth parts which enable it to crunch and consume pollen.

Common Liverwort (Marchantia polymorpha)

The connection with the image above is that the larvae of Micropterix aruncella feed on the Common Liverwort and ‘detritus’.  A dish of detritus is an interesting addition to the menu of food sources for moths and there is probably some in the plant pot wherein this liverwort is happily growing.