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12 June 2018

12 June 2018 – National Garden Moths

National Garden Scheme visitors (Homo sapiens)

The weather on Thursday was absolutely beautiful and it followed on from a warm night, which was fortunate for us because Friday was the National Garden Scheme open evening. While the good weather may not have lasted, neither humans nor moths were deterred by the chillier evening and we had a considerable number of moths to display and present to those who attended the event. 

Everyone was excited by the moths, especially the children, and all exclaimed interest and delight at the many different colors and variations. The kids took to the Poplar Hawk-moths (Laothoe populi), which are large and docile enough to be gently handled. As they anxiously cradled the moths, you could see how thrilled they were to be holding something so elusive and wild in the palms of their hands.

Pale Prominent (Pterostoma palpina)

Adults and children alike were especially captivated by the Pale Prominent (Pterostoma palpina) and Peppered Moths (Biston betularia), because of their unique and beautiful camouflage mechanisms. The scientific name Pterostoma palpina means ‘very long and clothed in dense rough scales’, and to an untrained eye you could completely gloss over the Pale Prominent, thinking it was nothing more than a piece of wood.

Peppered Moth (Biston betularia)

The Peppered Moth is one of the most widely studied moths and is considered to a good example of natural selection.  As you may already know, during the Industrial Revolution in England the trees in the cities became blackened with soot.  In order to escape predators the Peppered Moths needed to blend into the background. The dark-colored moths thrived in this changing habitat but the lighter colored ones died as they could no longer be hidden from predators.  We captured two with varying degrees of melanin.  The scientific name refers to Biston, a mythological figure who was the son of Mars and ancestor of a Thracian tribe who worshipped Bacchus; betularia refers to the birch, one of the food plants.

Straw Dot (Rivula sericealis)

The moth that captivated me the most was the Straw Dot (Rivula sericealis): a simple moth, but a beautiful one with its eye-catching copper shading. Rivula refers to the rivulet shapes on its forewings, while sericealis describes its silky and glossy texture.

A huge thanks to everyone who came to Friday’s event! Looking forward to our next open evening on 29 June!

Post by Gabriella Morace [UPenn intern]