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20 August 2013

20 August 2013 – Plumesday

Twenty-plume Moth (Alucita hexadactyla)


The Twenty-plume Moth was the first discovery on what must now be called Plumesday.  This moth was recorded in the first year of trapping but (again) it is one that I don’t remember seeing.  Dave will have identified and recorded it while my attention was elsewhere.  Happy I was to see it in the porch this morning – and instantly identifiable. It’s a very small moth, delicately constructed and the only one of its family – alucita.  The meaning is ‘six fingered gnat’.  Linnaeus gave the moth its name in 1758 “no doubt because of the sexpartite division of the wings.  Some innumerate Englishman called it the ‘twenty-plume moth'” says Maitland Emmett.

The delicate illustration by H N Humphreys is from British Moths and their Transformations pub. 1843.  The delicate photograph is by Elinor.

Twenty-plume Moth (Alucita hexadactyla) (l – underside, r – illustration)

Fifteen minutes later another plume-like moth was noticed flying across the lawn in short bursts.  It wasn’t making much headway and was being tossed by the breeze.  Fortunately it was easily captured and photographed when it was identified as Emmelina monodactyla.  The wings are tightly rolled and the ‘fingers’ only just visible in the photograph.  Emmelina is a new species so the total is now 316.

(Emmelina monodactyla)

Two plume moths in one day makes 20 August Plumesday, so here is a Joycean moth reference from Ulysses – Episode 15 [Circe] where we find : A shade of mauve tissuepaper dims the light of the chandelier.  Round and round a moth flies, colliding, escaping….

THE MOTH: I’m a tiny, tiny thing

                         Ever flying in the spring

                         Round and round a ringaring

                         Long ago I was a king

                         Now I do this kind of thing

                         On the wing, on the wing!