Home > Moths > 21 May 2020 – A Selection

21 May 2020

21 May 2020 – A Selection

Chinese Character (Cilix glaucata)        

Photographing moths for identification is sometimes straightforward – the moth is clinging to an egg box in the trap and when the box is taken out and laid on a table or on grass, the moth doesn’t move and can be photographed easily.  Some species are even more compliant and can be persuaded to be moved into a more aesthetically pleasing pose using a paint brush and then re-positioned on a leaf or flower head. Others take flight at the slightest disturbance – the beautiful Waved Umber (Menophra abruptaria) that I was very pleased to see was gone in a second and no record of its capture remains.  

The Chinese Character (Cilix glaucata) remains emphatically still, relying on its camouflage as protection and very useful for the photographer.  But if the moth happens to be resting in an awkward place not suitable for an indentifying image then it will not easily be persuaded to move to a better position.  It flutters and dashes, first to one side then another, displaying some beautiful patterns and then closes up into its characteristic ‘bird dropping’ pose.  Spuler, A (1869-1937) a German entomologist, suggests the scientific name refers to the Greek word ‘killix‘ meaning ‘an ox with crooked horns’.  Is this what can be seen etched in white on the dark grey blotch of colour on the forewing?

Silver-ground Carpet (Xanthorhoe montanata)    

The Silver-ground Carpet (Xanthorhoe montanata) is a flighty creature and I had to follow this one around the garden until it came to rest.  A common moth in North Yorkshire, it can be seen in flight during the day as much as night.  The scientific name means ‘the yellow stream in the mountains’ referring to the wavy lines or ‘rivulets’ on the forewings.

Brimstone Moth (Opisthograptis luteolata)

The Brimstone Moth (Opisthograptis luteolata) is another moth that relies on instant flight if disturbed. It will gently move its wings before completely settling in a new position, but the opportunity to record it in a photograph needs to be undertaken swiftly.  The word ‘brimstone’ (also referring to the similarly coloured butterfly) is another word for sulphur.  The Brimstone Moth’s scientific name includes the Greek ‘graptos’ meaning ‘marked or painted with letters’ – presumably a reference to the markings on both upper and lower surfaces of the forewings.

Shuttle-shaped Dart (Agrotis puta puta)

This moth was coaxed from the moth trap onto a lilac leaf with ease.  The Shuttle-shaped Dart (Agrotis puta puta) is found all over England and Wales. Its defence is in its woody colouring.  The scientific name is probably from ‘agrotes’ meaning ‘of the field; the ‘puta’ part being related to ‘the goddess of pruning of trees’. Or, again, it could refer to ‘putris’ the rotten wood that the markings resemble.


White Ermine (Spilosoma lubricipeda )

A particularly striking example of a very attractive moth – the White Ermine (Spilosoma lubricipeda), a moth that can be found on the wing late at night. The caterpillar’s speedy crawl is referred to in the ‘lubricipes‘ (swift-footed) part of the scientific name.  The ‘spilos’ (spot) and ‘soma’ (body) makes reference to the spots on the abdomen, not on the wings of the adult.  The White Ermine is especially welcome as the larvae feed on nettles and dock.  Last night I found one on the curtains in an upstairs room with no open windows, so how it got there I cannot imagine. (Yesterday morning a European Hornet, not the invasive Asian species, was also discovered inside, buzzing and bashing against the old kitchen window.)


Pale Tussock (Calliteara pudibunda)

The Pale Tussock (Calliteara pudibunda) appears to have crash-landed onto the side of the moth trap, with its legs sprawling in front of its head and abdomen.  This moth will cling to the surface it is resting on and prefers to simulate lifelessness if it is moved.  Before insecticides it was very common in the hop fields in Kent but numbers have declined.  It is still a common moth however, and one that is instantly recognisable.

(Pseudoswammerdamia combinella)

‘Rare and local resident’ is the description of this moth on the Yorkshire Moths Flying Tonight website but it seems to have a little sanctuary in the gardens in Coxwold as I have seen it every year since moth-trapping began here ten or so years ago.  Instantly identified by the bright orangey-coloured spot it is not easy to photograph and I had to capture it in a tube, persuade it to land on the screw-top and then quickly get a picture before it took off. 

Pebble Prominent (Notodonta ziczac)      

The ‘ziczac’ part of the scientific name for the Pebble Prominent (Notodonta ziczac) is a reference to the markings on the caterpillar which form a zig-zag pattern, emphasised by the larva’s resting attitude.  The Pebble Prominent was very common when moth trapping began at Shandy Hall but numbers seem to have decreased.  The food source – sallows, willows and poplars – is still available in abundance so something else is responsible.  This moth was very agitated when it was gently moved from the trap and it only became quieter when it was released from the inspection tube

Mottled Pug (Eupithecia exiguata )

If disturbed, this pug moth will find another place to repose quite quickly but that doesn’t mean it will be easy to identify.  According to the field guide’s description the moth has a ‘forewing warm grey, leading edge curved. Central spot conspicuous, rather elongated with a series of small black wedges beyond it.  A narrow, pale outer central cross-band, angled near leading edge, with two straw-coloured smears extending towards outer edge.  This combination of of features is diagnostic’.  Which doesn’t mean that this is definitely a Mottled Pug.  It’s one of many species that are very similar and cause difficulties for the amateur enthusiast. However, it is very similar to another from Shandy Hall gardens that regional expert Charlie Fletcher identified, so I think it is one is correct.