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17 August 2014

17 August 2014 – Dread-of-the-Sun

Feathered Gothic (Tholera decimalis)

The new exhibition in the gallery at Shandy Hall includes a contemporary print that celebrates all the moths so far recorded here by listing their names in a dispersed arrangement across the paper. On the very day of the opening a new species visited the moth trap – too late, unfortunately, to feature in the show but otherwise slightly earlier in the year than might be expected. The flight season of the Feathered Gothic (Tholera decimalis) normally begins in late August. Before it was renamed in the mid 1850’s, the Feathered Gothic was known as Heliophobus popularis, a member of the genus that meant ‘Dread-of-the-Sun’.

Perhaps it was blown here by a particularly wild gust of wind for this was surely one of the breeziest weekends of the year, certainly not the sunniest (our moth would have had no worries on that account). As we opened the moth trap egg-boxes flew across the lawn and the pages of our field guides flapped in the wind. In amongst countless Underwings was this early new arrival.

The white lines on the forewings of the Feathered Gothic might recall the tracery and architectural details of a Medieval church or, more fancifully, the soaring spires of a Gothic cathedral but its modern scientific name is more down to earth – from the Greek ‘tholeros’ meaning ‘muddy’. The Latin decimus – the tenth – makes it probably the tenth in a series described by Poda von Neuhaus (1723-1798) an Austrian entomologist and Professor of physics at Graz.

The strongly feathered antennae of the male help to distinguish it from the Bordered Gothic that flies much earlier in the year – we will have to wait until next year to see one here if, indeed, goths are to become regular visitors.

Heliophobus popularis 

Post by Alison Turnbull