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12 June 2012

11 Jun 2012 – A Colorful* Assortment

Common Marbled Carpet (Chloroclysta concinnata)
Green Carpet (Colostygia pectinataria)
Brimstone Moth (Opisthograptis luteolata)

This weekend we tested two new strategies and decided to continue with one but abandon the other. Please read on because we’d like to save you the trouble of repeating our mistakes.

First the bad. On Friday we finally decided to start setting the trap in the rain with the hope that we’d catch some new species. The rain came down hard, but in the morning we were delighted to see that the light bulb had lasted the night. Unfortunately, many of the moths were not in such good condition. Some moths only made it as far as the white sheet. On an ordinary night, this would be no problem, but in that night’s storm they had had no cover from the rain. They struggled with the water weight and fatigue and needed to a safe place to dry for a few hours before they could fly. As a result we have decided to not set any more traps in heavy rain, even if it means we might miss out on some of the species more typical to wet nights.

On the bright side, we have made a progressive change. Dr. Chesmore suggested that we start varying the locations of our trap each night. At Shandy Hall, we have two distinct garden areas: one has open lawns with neat rows of flowers and shrubs; the other grows more wildly in an old quarry behind the west wall. The hope is that by alternating between the two gardens each night, we will catch a greater variety of moths. In addition, it will lessen the odds than an unfortunate moth will be caught two nights in a row. Only time will tell if the former will occur… fingers crossed!

As for our overall results, we had some good finds in the quarry. Saturday morning was one of my favorites thus far. We found a Flame Shoulder (Ochropleura plecta) and a Scorched Wing (Plagodis dolabraria). [See sidebar for a past picture of a Scorched Wing]. I was eager to find out the meanings of their Latin names since their English names were so fiery. Plagodis means slanting, which refers to the Scorched Wing’s inward slanting wings. Dolabria means pickaxe, which also refers to its shape if you look at its protruding abdomen from a side view. As for the Flame Shoulder, Ochropleurameans pale or sallow rib; this refers to the moth’s pale streak on its wing. Plecta means twisted rope and refers to the same streak. I was a bit disappointed to find that the English names were more exciting than the Latin.

Notocelia cynosbatella 

My three favorite moths of the weekend made for a colorful assortment: the Brimstone Moth (Opisthograptis luteolata), the Common Marbled Carpet (Chloroclysta concinnata), and the Green Carpet (Colostygia pectinataria). [See above for their photos]. The Latin of the former species refers to their colors, the latter’s is a bit more interesting. Colostygia means docked or stunted, and refers to the black rivulets of the River Styx in the Underworld. Similar “rivulet” markings on the Green Carpet may be reduced to spots on its wings. Pectinataria, “toothed like a comb,” describes its antennae.

Pale Tussock (Calliteara pudibunda)

Over the weekend, we had an abundance of Poplar Hawks, Common Swifts, White and Buff Ermines, Beautiful Golden and Silver Y’s, Carpets, Pugs, Heart and Darts, and Setaceous Hebrew Characters. We also found a few unfamiliar species but not all of these species have been confirmed. We can’t wait to tell you the verdict on their identities!**

*I realize that I’ve spelled “color” the American way. I’ve considered switching to the British spelling, but since it comes more naturally for me to spell things this way, I will be sticking to the American.

**The species have since been confirmed by Dr. Chesmore. The few unidentified moths were 3 Cloud-Bordered Brindles (Apamea crenata) and a Rustic Shoulder-knot (Apamea sordens). In addition, the captions for the last two pictures have been added, stating their respective species names.Post by Helen Levins