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16 October 2017

15 October 2017 – Connection with the Sphinx

Sprawler (Asteroscopus sphinx)

Identifying this morning’s collection of snoozing moths took longer than it should have, largely due to my own incompetence, but also because of the slight variations of colour and pattern on the wings of the insects.  Some moths are straightforward and easy to identify as they always look the same.  Others appear wearing colours of different shades or intensity.

The moth above is a case in point.  Most of the images of this moth show it with a general brown colour – but the one hiding in the egg carton this morning was grey and white; the markings on the furry back of the head show strongly in the photograph, but not so strongly in other photographs in books and online; the resting position of the legs (pushed forward in front of the moth) helped but wasn’t conclusive.  It wasn’t a Dagger, it wasn’t a Blair’s Shoulder Knot, so what could it be?

Thanks to Charlie Fletcher’s confirmation, a new species can be added – the Sprawler (Asteroscopus sphinx).  It is a little early in the year for the Sprawler.  The ‘Yorkshire Moths Flying Tonight’ has it at #38 on the list of most frequent sightings at this time of year and it is the first moth on that list that hasn’t already been recorded at Shandy Hall.  New species are becoming harder to find.

The scientific name includes a reference to the Sphinx and is thought to refer to the position the caterpillar adopts when threatened – the head is thrown back over the body in an ‘enigmatic posture’ suggestive of the riddle-posing monster. 

Placing the trap near to the ivy blossoms will not have acted as a lure for this moth as the adult does not feed.  Other moths, found this morning, that might have been attracted to the proximity of the feeding plant included Angle Shades, Chestnut, Common Wainscot, November Moth, Red-green Carpet, Dusky Thorn, Burnished Brass, Red-line Quaker, Yellow-line Quaker and Square-spot Rustic.