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18 July 2015

18 July 2015 – Bend Sinister

Dark Fruit-tree Tortrix (Pandemis heparana)

On the 15th of July we came across a new species – the Dark Fruit-tree Tortrix. It was one of a large number of moths including Garden Tiger, Burnished Brass, and another Single-dotted Wave (readily recognizable because of the time spent identifying it the other day). This Tortrix was fairly easy to identify – I was already familiar with the Tortricidae family, because those moths come in such distinctive half-oval shapes, and it was clearly a shade too gloomy to be a Barred Fruit-tree. Its scientific name is Pandemis heparana. It is classified as “common” and flies from late May until September. What I found the most interesting about the one we caught is how the stripe in the middle of its wings comes together in the middle in a latch formation, as opposed to the neatly delineated stripes that are often drawn in the guidebooks. Natural variation made it as a result not completely obvious at first glance – but its distinctive shape gave it away, and even though the lighter-colored ones might be considered more pleasing to the eye, this was still an interesting find.

Dark Fruit-tree Tortrix (illustration)

The scientific name is rather convoluted.  Pandemis is from the Greek pandemos belonging to the people, common; also an epithet of Aphrodite, the goddess of love. Plato postulated that there were two manifestations of Aphrodite, Aphrodite Urania, the goddess of heavenly love, the pure love between souls whence came our phrase Platonic love; and Aphrodite Pandemos, the goddess of the baser carnal love practised by the common people. The diagonal fascia across the wings of the moth may have suggested the bend sinister or ‘fesse’ on an heraldic shield, this being a mark of illegitimacy. The namer was J. Hübner the distinguished German entomologist, author and illustrator (1761 – 1826).

Heparana refers to the liver (hepara) coloured forewing.

Post : Ariel A Smith UPenn