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21 December 2011

21 December 2011 – Winter Moth

Winter Moth (Operophtera brumata) 

A light in the kitchen, close to an outside window, attracted a moth to rest on the glass.  From beneath it was quite drab in appearance and difficult to photograph.  However, catching it and bringing it inside was simple and after a short burst of frantic activity, it came to rest with its wings together in traditional butterfly position. This moth is a tiny scrap of nothing – so delicate it seemed barely alive – and 69 attempts to photograph it later, the photograph you see here was sent to Dave Chesmore who reckons it is probably a Winter Moth (Operophtera brumata).  (The colouring is brown, not orange as in the photograph.)  The brumata refers to brevissima: the shortest, ie shortest day – which is tomorrow – so its appearance is most appropriate. Operophtera is a nineteenth-century typo for Oporophtera opora: fruit and phtheiro: destroy.  This moth spends its caterpillar-days munching on apple leaves and travels by ‘ballooning’ on silken threads from one spot to another.  The adult female is flightless so it might be possible to see it on the tree trunks by night. 

Merveille du Jour (Dichonia aprilina)

Driving home later that night similar scraps of nothing could be seen caught in the headlight glare.  Were they all Winter Moths navigating their way in search of their flightless Andromeda-like partners?

The Merveille du Jour is shown once more as a reminder, as it was for Linnaeus, of Spring….(see September posting).