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25 August 2015

25 August 2015 – Underwing Invasion

Yellow Underwings

On many occasions this year the trap has been sparsely populated with moths. One night last week was the exception.  The forecast was for overcast cloud and warmer temperatures which (the following night) would conspire to bring torrential rain down upon the Hambleton Hills.  However it was still dry when I inspected the trap at 6am and was disconcerted to see hundreds and hundreds of deranged Underwings hurtling around inside the trap.  There must have been 25 egg cartons beneath the light and every one was crammed with insect explosives. The photograph above shows the trap after nearly all of the cartons had been removed, most of the Underwings having zoomed into the surrounding vegetation and some degree of order established.  The problem is the damage caused to other, less boisterous moths.  A tiny Chinese Character had found a millimeter of space in which to hide; a Magpie had spread its wings under the lip of the plastic container in an attempt to avoid the flailing wings of the beserkers. 

Underwings (illus)

The plate from Humphreys and Westwood, British Moths and their Transformations, showing various members of the Underwing clan with Oxlip, Goat’s-beard and Common Chickweed.

Sallow (Xanthia ictericia)

It took nearly two hours before I could claim to have restored some sort of order – the known species listed and the possible unknown or new specimens housed in plastic tubes. And this one was new.  The Sallow (Xanthia ictericia) was discovered on the outside of the trap, clinging to a plastic rain-shield support.  Its name is interesting as the ictericia refers to the Greek work ‘ikteros’ – a yellow bird, similar to an Oriole, that is supposed to relieve the sufferer of jaundice by absorbing the illness into its own body.  The ‘sallow’ human gazes at the bird and the bird takes away the symptoms.  This is species 369 for the gardens at Shandy Hall.