3 July 2023
23 June 2023 – Moth or Butterfly?
A Cinnabar (Tyria jacobaeae) paid us a rare visit this morning! Although they do fly after dark, these moths also tend to fly in the day, even in the sunshine and are often mistaken for butterflies. It’s just as well to a hungry predator, because like many similarly-colored butterflies, they are poisonous if ingested. Though their bright red color makes them conspicuous, it also sends a warning. These moths are native to the UK, but have faced some adverse survival conditions because of their larval foodplant, the Common Ragwort (Senecio jacobaea). Ragwort is poisonous to horses if eaten, and thus has been widely uprooted by equestrians and sympathetic others. Unfortunately, that means that the Cinnabar caterpillars lack their foodplant, rendering them rarer to come across. So, we consider ourselves lucky!
The Garden grass-veneer (Chrysoteuchia culmella) is a micro-moth that has suddenly begun showing up to Shandy Hall in droves! The egg-boxes in the trap were covered in them, as well as other similar micro-moths, and as the mesh trap was moved, countless were disturbed and flew away. Given how flighty the Garden grass-veneers are, it would be difficult to get a true number of their population in the trap, but I’d guess it was at least one hundred. What brings on these surges of number of particular species is a mystery. The night was warmer than usual so that might be the reason.
One last insect of note was this Orange-tip (Anthocharis cardamines) caterpillar, found camouflaged expertly in the border of the Barn Garden this afternoon. The Orange-tip is a butterfly, quite beautiful in its adult stage, named for its wings which are white with bright saffron tips. They eat cuckooflower and garlic mustard, and even sometimes the unhatched eggs of other Orange-tips. This example was discovered on a leaf of Sweet Rocket (Hesperis matronalis). I’m hoping that where there was an Orange-tip caterpillar, there will continue to be Orange-tip butterflies, for they make a lovely contribution to the early Spring garden.
Post : Autumn Cortright (UPenn Intern)