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18 July 2016

18 July 2016 – Moth Like a Butterfly

Latticed Heath (Chiasmia clathrata)

When you have an uneventful trap, like the one we had on 15 July, all you need is a moth like the Latticed Heath (Chiasmia clathrata, synonym: Semiothisa clathrata) to brighten things up. As its name suggests, the inky bands on its wings crosshatch to form a loose web. This impressive lattice is then capped off by grainy patches towards the basal and the outer end. This moth rests in two positions: with its wings flattened out or propped up like a butterfly. The larvae feed on clover, which is plentiful in the top garden. We are just in time for the second generation, which flies between July and September. 

Latticed Heath (Chiasmia clathrata)

Its name, Semiothisa stems from ‘sēmeion’, a mark, and ‘ōthizō’, to struggle. Hübner apparently meant it as a struggle for dominance between the light and dark bands – I thought about cells and the different lineages encroaching on and retreating from one another, giving rise to the controlled chaos we now see. A conflicted moth, then. Clathratus means furnished with a grate, same idea as its common name.

Latticed Heath and St. John’s Wort
Cherry-bark Moth (Enarmonia formosana)

Drizzled in metallic orange and grey, the Cherry-bark Moth (Enarmonia formosana) is an oddball among the tortricidae which, as I now seem to complain, “all look the same.” This moth, in contrast, is instantly recognizable. It continues to amaze me how markings can exist with such precision on such a tiny scale. No smudging, no spillover; it is as if someone had made a work of inlay out of all the different colored scales and delineated them with gold wires. Something else it reminds me of, the contrasting black and gold – lacquer, maybe. The moth gave every appearance of being docile; not budging when prompted to move, then all of a sudden it shot out into the air and disappeared, leaving us with this one photograph of its effervescent beauty.

Cherry-bark Moth (illustration)

In the Humphrey’s book of illustration, this moth comes under a completely different name: Carpocapsa woeberana (The Weberian). Fig 7 shows the adult, Fig 8 the larva. The red-headed green caterpillar feeds beneath the bark of fruit trees, especially where wounded or loose, thereby causing the plant to decay.The chrysalis is shown in Figs 9, 10, and 11. 

Cherry-bark Moth caterpillar and pupae


means ‘in harmony’ and formosus ‘beautiful’ – a generous compliment if you compare it to some pretty derogatory names like D. mendica (Ingrailed Clay), meaning a bland-looking beggar. It likes to fly in afternoon and evening sunshine, so these past few days must have done it good. I imagine it in all its radiance flying toward the sun, becoming one with it…

Post: Tung Chau (UPenn)