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21 August 2015

21 August 2015 – Pine Hawkmoth

Pine Hawkmoth (Sphinx pinastri)

On 17 August we set two traps: one at Barley Studio just outside of York, and the second at Keith Barley’s garden in Warthill. I’ll confess that I didn’t have high hopes for the first one, because it was set at the studio, which is very functional – meaning there aren’t exactly sprawling gardens. We put it on the asphalt behind one of the buildings, walled in by a fence corner facing a field. There were some grasses and nettles that poked through, but for the most part, it was nothing like Shandy Hall. The second one seemed much more promising – Keith’s garden has grasses and flowers, and is in a seemingly moth-friendly area; we set it on a tree stump, surrounded by large bushes.

That night and the morning of the 18 August a deluge set in, which had not been forecast; we had no idea what to expect as we pulled up to the studio. However, we were pleasantly surprised to see a fair amount of moths – more than our last trap in the Museum Gardens at York – and very active inside the trap. There was a Ruby Tiger, around twenty Mother of Pearls, the usual variety of Underwings and Rustics, along with a Heart & Dart. There was also a beautifully colored Magpie, of deep black, yellow, and clean white; an Orange Swift, striped with a thin white band; the marble-winged Anania coronata; and two striped variations on the Riband and Small Fan-footed Waves.  More about this catch will be written by Helen Whittaker who works at the stained-glass studio.

At Keith’s garden we found the usual suspects – and one very, very unusual Pine Hawk-moth. Because we’d only encountered Poplar and Elephant Hawk-moths at Shandy Hall this summer up until now, I expected something more colorful; but this one had a symmetric and subtler design that could be appreciated nonetheless. It has distinctive black streaks in the center of its wings, with a black-barred abdomen and a greyish-brown color to its forewings, and a distinctively checkered border on its wing edge. Its foodplants are the Scots Pine, Maritime Pine, Norway Spruce, and Cedar of Lebanon, but the former is the most common, and it is about the same size as the other hawk-moths – meaning it’s one of the largest in the trap.

Pine Hawkmoth and larva (illustration)

The scientific name is Sphinx pinastri; the first referencing the murderous, riddle-loving Egyptian Sphinx, and the second referencing the pine of the moth’s food-plant. As the moth seemed fairly docile and didn’t mind our extensive photographing, I’ll argue that the genus is just for show.  Note: UK moths website refers to this moth as Sphinx – the Field Guide as Hyloicus…

Bordered Pug (Eupithicia succenturiata)

After consulting with Charlie Fletcher, we came up with a few names that hadn’t been seen at Shandy Hall this summer: the Pale Mottled Willow and the Wormwood Pug – along with names that have never been recorded at Shandy Hall. Although these weren’t trapped in our gardens, which technically doesn’t allow us to label them as “new,” we can still classify them as new to the blog: the Bordered Pug (Eupithecia succenturiata) and Tinea trinotella.

The former is exactly as it sounds: a light tan pug with two dots on each wing and a thick, dark brown border running along the edges of its wings. It has an abdomen that is half light, half dark; it’s a very distinctive moth. The Bordered Pug’s scientific name is Eupithecia succenturiata, which first references its attractive appearance and the way it rests, with its wings spread – the second component referring to a recruit substituted into the Roman century, as the pug’s little wings overlap and “substitute” the larger ones.

Tinea trinotella

The second “new” moth is a minuscule micro-moth that’s a light greenish brown; it has a couple of distinctive large black dots on its wings, a tufted tail that turns upwards at the end, and a bright yellow head. Its scientific name references the larva, which is apparently destructive to clothes. The second word references the dark blotches on its wings.

Post by Ariel A Smith (UPenn)