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16 July 2014

16 July 2014 – Blackneck Moth

The Blackneck Moth (Lygephila pastinum)

For a long time, Jean-Francois Millet’s painting, The Gleaners, formed my perception of the life of the countryside. In the painting, the peasant women are hunched over a wide expanse of field, picking up the remains of a harvest. Their clothes, from the brown apron to the dark-blue dress, seem to blend into their surroundings. You can see the evening receding in the background; you can almost feel the stillness of the air; and everywhere you can smell the odor of the earth.

If I were tasked to reproduce The Gleaners, but to incorporate a moth to the scene, I would no doubt choose the Blackneck (Lygephila pastinum) as my subject. The specimen we found in the York Museum Gardens this morning would fit the picture perfectly. ‘Lygephila‘ means the love of darkness. It tells us the Blackneck will arouse from its daytime slumber to fly at the earliest glimpse of dusk – as if in restless anticipation of night. ‘Pastinum‘, on the other hand, describes farmland that has been dug and tilled ready for planting. The wings of the Blackneck, saving for two prominent black spots at the centers, display parallel venations that resemble the fine furrows for planting seeds.

The only irony is that I first encountered this moth in the middle of a bustling city.

–Post by Bowen Chang (UPenn)