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13 July 2014

13 July 2014 – A Moth of Contrasts

Marbled Beauty (Cryphia domestica)

Yesterday we recorded a visit from the Marbled Beauty – a moth already listed but not photographed before.  The moth’s scientific name, Cryphia domestica is a strange juxtaposition of words.  Domestica describes everything that belongs to a house : the hearth, the fireplace, the dinner-table, the softly glowing lamp and perhaps even the lichens on the outside walls which the Marbled Beauty feeds upon.  Cryphia, in contrast, describes the hidden, mysterious and arcane.  The somber colours of the moth’s wings and body are the likely inspiration for this.  The outer edges of the moth’s wings are defined by a distinctive band of black and white segments, like railway lines on an old map.  

The overall wing pattern is largely geometrical and reminds me of a Roman tiled floor I once saw in an exhibiton about Pompeii.  The mosaic had once decorated the interior of a sumptuous Roman household, but had been unearthed from the depths of volcanic dust.  It had witnessed vibrant society but had also endured years of silence and neglect – the mysterious and the ordinary combined. 

Marbled Beauty (illustration)

The moth (illustrated above) tends to run if disturbed – an unusual tactic.

Post by Bowen Chang (UPenn)