26 June 2023
20 June 2023 – Bee, Straw, Emerald and a Ghost
The latest trap contained a bounty of moths that were new to me, and plenty of old friends as well. There were 28 species in total: some showed up in number, like the Straw Dot (Rivula sericealis) and the Buff Ermine (Spilosoma luteum) (each having 14 representatives in the trap) and some, like the lovely Light Emerald (Campaea margaritata), having only one lone ambassador.
The Bee Moth (Aphomia sociella) was hidden at the very bottom of the trap. Its name is initially deceptive: it doesn’t look like a bee at all! The name actually comes from this moth’s habit of seeking out bee and wasp nests in which to lay their eggs. Similar to the cuckoo’s use of other birds’ nests, the Bee moth disguises its eggs among the hive’s own eggs in the hope that the bees will protect it as one of their own. Once the eggs hatch, the Bee Moth larvae feed on old cells and debris in the hive, and even their adopted brethren, the bee eggs and larvae. Bee Moths are for this reason considered an agricultural pest to commercial beekeeping, for in numbers, they can significantly damage the hive’s infrastructure and reproductive system. Given that we have at least three bee communities in the walls of the old granary alone, it seems likely that such a moth would appear.
Another interesting catch was the Barred Straw (Eulithis pyraliata). I wasn’t quite sure at first if this was a moth at all, for its wings are such a peculiar shape! Save for the Spinach (Eulithis mellinata), the Barred Straw is quite unusual in its appearance: long legs stretch out in all directions, and wings barely touch at all, exposing the moth’s entire body. This moth’s name also comes from its food choices. The larvae feed on various bedstraws, a family of plants including Cleavers or Goosegrass (Galium aparine) – a very pesky weed at Shandy Hall. We’re happy to let the Barred Straw eat its fill!
Another notable moth is the ethereal Light Emerald (Campaea margaritata). Britain has relatively few green moths, so it was a treat to spot such lovely emerald tones in the trap! The scientific name Campaea, meaning “a bending” in Greek, comes from the Light Emerald caterpillar’s tendency to contort into a loop. Margaritata is derived from Margarita, meaning “pearl,” which references the moth’s color.
The Hepialidae are the most primitive family of moths. They make their appearance as the first entry in the Field Guide to the Moths of Great Britain and Ireland and cannot be mistaken for any other species. They are on the wing from dusk until full darkness and the males can be seen gathering in numbers to perform a rather hypnotic display. Like the pendulum on a clock they sway rhythmically in the air while releasing a scent to attract females of the species. If the wind drops this is the time to see them.
Post : Autumn Cortright. UPenn Intern