Home > Moths > 14 November 2012 – † – The Case of the Printer’s Dagger

15 November 2012

14 November 2012 – † – The Case of the Printer’s Dagger

Mottled Umber (Erannis defoliaria)

Last night was relatively warm, a new moon and somewhat overcast – the combination of such benevolent ingredients produced four new species to Shandy Hall, but three were nearly overlooked.  The first was Erannis defoliaria (Mottled Umber) and a striking moth it is.  There were two in the trap, one slightly larger and with more clearly defined markings.  The underwings are a delicate off-white colour and the moth’s legs are brown striped with cream.  If disturbed it tends to play dead so the photograph was taken by persuading the moth onto the seed-head of a Phlomis.  The moth’s Latin name means ‘the lovely one (erannos) that eats all its food plant’.  The female is wingless and can be found on tree trunks.  I’ll have to see if there is one to be found.  This moth was definitely new.

Feathered Thorn (Colotois pennaria)

The second and quite spectacular moth was nearly overlooked as I mistook it for an August Thorn.  The white spot near the tip of the wing is a diagnostic mark (it can just be seen in the photograph) as are the feathery antennae.  The Feathered Thorn is the last of the Thorn family to fly and rests with its wings flat. Its name means ‘with docked or stunted ears’ (from the Greek: kolos and otoeis); pennaria meaning ‘feather’ which refers to the antenna.  The moth in the photograph was disturbed quite quickly and made a bid for cover in the morning sun.  It stayed close to the ground for a few moments then, with antennae held clearly aloft, it flew into the lower branches of an apple tree.  A sharp clap of the hands protected it from a marauding wren that dived down from the higher branches in an attempt to swallow it.

Scarce Umber (Agriopis aurantiaria)

This moth was resting just inside the trap and looked a little delicate.  It seemed familiar but then again not.  I forwarded the photograph to Dave Chesmore and he asked to see the moth as a live specimen, so I took it to the university where he confirmed that it was a Scarce Umber – and the first he had seen. The name Agriopis aurantiaria means ‘the golden-forelocked wild-faced one’ – the golden hairs can be seen quite clearly in the photograph.

Grey Pine Carpet (Thera obeliscata)

And finally this Grey Pine Carpet was found at the bottom of the trap.  It was thought it might be a Spruce Carpet (Thera britannica) but has been confirmed as Thera obeliscata – which is an appropriate Latin name for a literary house associated with the printed text, as obeliscata may refer to this: [ † ] the printer’s dagger.  Obeliskos refers to any pointed instrument – a spit or a spire perhaps – but RD Macleod (Key to the Names of British Butterflies and Moths. 1959) suggests that the marking of a printer’s dagger can be seen on the forewing and that’s good enough for me.  The Grey Pine Carpet rests on Anaphalis margaritacea.

Four new records for Shandy Hall gives a total of 255