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17 May 2020

17 May 2020 – Return

Poplar Hawkmoth (Laothoe populi)

Cold night after cold night made setting the moth trap a pointless exercise – nothing was to be found.  Apart from a group of Bee Moths (Aphomia sociella) emerging from a winter spent in a bee or wasp nest; and a Streamer (Anticlea derivata) sunning itself on a wall in early April, I have seen nothing else – although I do recall seeing a Silver Y zipping through the flowers on one of the warmer days of the month.

438 species have been recorded in the gardens at Shandy Hall – the last was on 22 May 2019 – and this selection from last night’s trap is modest.  The Poplar Hawkmoth seems to do well in Coxwold and it is often found in the trap from May to early August.  No matter how often this moth appears its striking appearance does not diminish 

Sandy Carpet (Perizoma flavofasciata)

The Sandy Carpet (Perizoma flavofasciata) is probably attracted to the Red Campion in the quarry garden as it is the food plant for the larvae.  The scientific name refers to the yellow bands or girdles (perizoma) that decorate the fore-wings in a yellow colour (flavo).  Not found too often in overnight moth traps – it tends to fly in the early evening but rests overnight.  

Buff Ermine (Spilosoma luteum)

A regular visitor to the gardens, the Buff Ermine (Spilosoma luteum) is distinctive and easily identified.  The caterpillar feeds on nettles, honeysuckle and a wide range of other plants and then overwinters as a pupa to emerge in mid May.  The marking varies but often has a ‘saddle’ of black dots across the ridge of the resting wings. 

Purple Thorn (Selenea tetralunaria)

The scientific name of the Purple Thorn (Selenea tetralunaria) refers to the four ‘lunar’ spots to be seen on the wings of the adult – the shape of one can be clearly seen in the photograph.  The moth ends to remain static once in its daytime position, anchored to an egg-box on this occasion. The shape and attitude of the wings are balletic as if a perfect pose has been found and now needs to be displayed.  A moth of great beauty.

Rustic Shoulder-knot (Apamea sordens)

Is it a Rustic Shoulder-knot or is it not?  The photograph above shows a clearly marked example of a moth that one would assume is easy to identify.  What can be determined by the scientific name?  Apamea is the name of a town in Asia Minor where Theodore, one of the ancient Fathers of the Church, lived.  It is a name that has no entomological relevance.  The second part of the binomial sordens means ‘dirty’, which it isn’t.  If the image is enlarged, three black lines (on the shoulders and where the wings join) can be seen which would fit.  If the website for Yorkshire Moths Flying Tonight is consulted it can be seen that the Rustic Shoulder-knot should be plentiful at this time – but this is an isolated example.  If I can’t be certain then perhaps an email to Charlie Fletcher will reveal all… 

Flame Carpet (Xanthorhoe designata)

Beautifully marked and as fresh as a daisy, this Flame Carpet (Xanthorhow designata) has just emerged after overwintering as a pupa.  The food of the larva has not been established although (in captivity) the caterpillar will eat wallflowers and other plants of the cabbage family.

Green Carpet (Colostygia pectinataria)

And another carpet, but this time a green one.  Records show that this species arrived in Yorkshire in 1997 and is now common.  It’s scientific name makes reference to the River Styx (Stygia), the black River of Hate in the Underworld which comes from the black lines (or rivulets) on the wings. Pectinataria refers to the comb-like antennae of the male.

Muslin Moth (Diaphora mendica

A very furry moth is the male Muslin Moth (Diaphora mendica) with wings that resemble the garb of a Carmelite mendicant friar – hence the scientific name.  The white female of this species, not the grey male, is the one that is being referred to.  Although the White Ermine (Spilosoma lubricipeda) comes to the garden as a common visitor, I have not yet been able to identify a female Muslin moth. 

Pale-shouldered Brocade (Lacanobia thalassina)

This first trap of the year closes with a Pale-shouldered Brocade (Lacanobia thalassina), another moth I have not found easy to identify.  It seems to be a question of ‘getting your eye in’ and a gap of nearly a year is quite a long time.  However, let us hope the weather is kind – warm sun, occasional refreshing rain, little wind and some luck and the number of species to identify and record may increase.  Sadly we have no intern from UPenn this year (you know why, of course) but hopefully the partnership will be restored in 2021.