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17 June 2016

17 June 2016 – The Moth with the Striped Antenna

Coleophera mayrella

I was beginning to think that moth-trapping is merely a serendipitous venture, but it turns out that you really have to know what you are looking for so as not to miss any precious species. 

This little one (above) has been confirmed by Charlie Fletcher as Coleophora mayrella, a newcomer to Shandy Hall. No bigger than 7mm and matching the dark color of the trap, it would have been easily missed by untrained eyes (like mine). Luckily, a shimmer of its wings gave it away, and we were able to collect it in a vial for a closer inspection. I first thought it was a C. trifolii because of the metallic golden green, but Charlie pointed out that it is far too small for a trifolii and that its striped antenna is diagnostic of C. mayrella instead. This species isn’t, however, included in the Lewington guide so perhaps I can be excused.  

Metallosetia spissicornis (Fig 35)

Its current name refers to U. Mayer, the person who sent the specimen for identification. An alternative version of the name, Porrectaria spissicornis, coined in 1828 by Haworth gives a better reference for its appearance. Porrectus, meaning ‘outstretched’, indicates its forward-extended antenna; spissus (thick) and cornu (a horn), both denote the thickened base of the antenna. The 1845 illustration (above) records it under yet another name, Metallosetia spissicornis, a nod to its color.

(Tinea semifulvella)

Also new is this delightful Tinea semifulvella. This species is distinguished by the reddish orange cap of scales on its head and a black tornal spot. The larval form feeds on birds’ nests, animal carcasses and clothes, hence the name tinea, meaning a gnawing worm. Semi (half), and fulvus (reddish yellow), appeal to the color of its distal forewing. Below is an old illustration with an out-of-date name, ‘the fulvus-tip’.

(Tinea semifulvella)

It was also high time that I met the Peppered Moth (Biston betularia), whose evolution into the carbonaria form during the Industrial Revolution plagued every introduction to biology textbook that I have ever come across. 

Peppered Moth (Biston betularia)

Other moths I had not seen before – Garden Grass Veneer, Scalloped Hazel, Eyed Hawkmoth (which was sort of a jack-in-the-box experience for me), Common Marbled Carpet, and Least Black Arches.  The Common Marbled Carpet, to our surprise, laid a dozen eggs in the tube in which it was being kept. We will be monitoring them so fingers crossed that they hatch.

The species count is now 375.

Post : Tung Chau (UPenn)