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20 August 2018

20 August 2018 – The Perfect Moth

Lime-speck Pug (Eupithecia centaureata)

I first saw a Lime-speck Pug (Eupithecia cenaureata) in York Museum Gardens in the late summer of 2014.  We were trapping in the gardens to see whether there was a difference in the species to be found in the centre of the city compared to those found in the country village.  For some reason this moth seemed to be special.  The Lime-speck has beguiled moth-trappers in the past: ‘the elegant attitude in which they repose, with their wings beautifully expanded’ is one lepidopterist’s observation.  I find the complexity of colour displayed on this insect’s wings to be quite remarkable.  There are shades of toffee colouring mixed in with smoky, charcoal black all clumped into a clotted cream base with hints of blue and grey – the whole looking as if it has been applied with a tiny palette knife.  When disturbed the moth walks a few steps, stops, gently beats its wings twice and then falls into a motionless pose.

In the garden at Shandy Hall we have plenty of plants that should encourage it to become resident.  Mugwort, Goldenrod, Burnet-saxifrage, Yarrow, Wild Angelica, Common Knapweed (bud illustrated) are all food for the caterpillar.

Lime-speck Pug (with Knapweed bud) 

I have been hoping to spot it one morning at Shandy Hall and finally one has appeared. 

Most welcome new species – number 434. 

Pale Eggar (Trichiura crataegi)

The Pale Eggar (Trichiura crataegi) has only been spotted once before.  Difficult to photograph as it flapped and flapped inside the specimen tube to the extent that I released it and followed it around the garden until it landed on a handy leaf.  It is a striking, compact moth with what would seem to be unlimited energy.

(Catoptria falsella)

Apologies for the mediocre photograph of Catoptria falsella, a moth that inhabits the thick moss-covered roofs of outbuildings.  Moss is the food plant and the caterpillar lives in a silken tube inside the moss clumps.  The Greek word for ‘mirror’ is katoptron and this word was thought to be descriptive of the pearly sheen on some of the species.  Falsella is, as you might expect, means ‘false’.  Apparently two species were being compared and the other was accorded the word ‘verus’ or true.  Lepidopterist word-games.

Although the image is not good, you should still be able to see the broad, shield-like sweep of white across the wing with four ‘spokes’ leading onto the wing edge. 

Lime-speck Pug (Eupithecia centaureata)

A final image of a favourite.  Now to find, at Shandy Hall, the other York species – the Toadflax Pug.