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11 November 2014

11 November 2014 – Autumnal Shade

(Oxypate gelatella) Autumnal Dagger

Is the moth in the hand-coloured print above the same species as the moth in the photograph below? If that is so, the Autumnal Dagger has a history of changed and altered nomenclature out of all proportion to its size.  

This species of micro moth was recorded at Shandy Hall on 15 November 2012 and blogged under the heading ‘Arriving with the Frost’, as that is essentially the meaning of its scientific name.  When it reappeared last night I wondered if it had a common name but couldn’t find any trace of exapate or congelatella in the older reference books here.  Fortunately Charlie Fletcher kindly helped me out by sending me a list of scientific names for this  moth at different times in its history :  in 1759 Clerk called it Phaelena congelatella; then Linnaeus adjusted it to P. gelatella in 1761; Phaelena paradoxa was the name given by Sulzer in 1776; Lithosia gelata by Fabricius in 1798; before 1834 it transformed into Oxypate gelatella and then, in 1906, the moth was reborn as Exapate ignotella by De Rougemont – sometime after, the name by which it is now known was bestowed upon its tiny head.  Porter’s list of vernacular names (2002) breaks a bottle of champagne  in celebration of a new name : Autumnal Shade – it is not clear if this is a ‘traditional’ name or one Porter created. 

The Autumnal Shade flies with slate-grey wings on still afternoons, just before dusk, free from the shackles of taxonomy.

Autumnal Shade (Exapate congelatella)