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22 July 2014

22 July 2014 – Where’s the Yellow Underwing?

Least Yellow Underwing (Noctua interjecta)

Martin Handford’s ‘Where’s Wally?’ series of books for children has been one of my favourites while growing up.  In the book, the reader is asked to find the protagonist (Wally) dressed in a red and white sweater and light-blue jeans, in a setting filled with hundreds of other people.  The sheer number of characters in the illustrations can sometimes be a little overwhelming, but one (and only one of them) is special.

Yesterday I had to solve a ‘Where’s Wally?’ puzzle of my own – in the moth trap.  The trap was packed with Yellow Underwings, including the Large Yellow Underwing (Noctua pronuba), the Lesser Yellow Underwing (Noctua comes), the Broad-bordered Yellow Underwing (Noctua fimbriata) and the Lesser Broad-bordered Yellow Underwing  (Noctua janthe).  I counted 130 Yellow Underwings in total.  However, only one was a newcomer to the garden.  It perched quietly under the clear plastic covering of the trap, its distinctive orange black-banded wings hidden from sight.  The new moth was a Least Yellow Underwing (Noctua interjecta caliginosa) adhering to the stringent hierarchy of the Noctua genus where  Noctua refers to the night, being also the name of the goddess Athena’s owl. Interjecta means ‘in between’; caliginosa means ‘dark and obscure’ – both words affirming the Least Yellow Underwings humble status in the family order being the most recently named, and smallest in size of the Yellow Underwings.

Post by Bowen Chang (UPenn)