Home > Moths > 26 August 2019 – Winnowing Fan

27 August 2019

26 August 2019 – Winnowing Fan

Small Phoenix (Ecliptopera silaceata)

I had to chase this Small Phoenix (Ecliptopera silaceata) across the lawn as it had taken off from where I was planning to photograph it in search of sanctuary.  Fortunately the spotted flycatchers have had their two broods and have now left for Africa otherwise there would have been one less of this species.  It is a male moth – you can tell as the tip of its abdomen is curled and raised.  The caterpillar feeds on Enchanter’s-nightshade (Circaea lutetiana) which will cheer the heart of many a gardener as this plant is persistent in attempting to take over as much of the garden as it can.  Every larval banquet is welcome.The scientific name doesn’t reveal much – to be wanting (from the Greek ‘ekleipo’) in the face (‘opos’); sileceata means ‘having the colour of yellow ochre’ which I couldn’t spot in this example.

Pale Eggar (Trichiura crataegi)

The egg of the Pale Eggar overwinters on the leaf of the food plant (usually birch) but the caterpillars also can be found on hawthorn, blackthorn,  as well as crab apple and hazel.  It is a neat, compact moth with distinctive stripes across its wings.  The ‘tufted tailed moth that eats hawthorn’ is the meaning of the scientific name.  This moth has turned up on pretty much the same date for the last three years.

Copper Underwing (Amphipyra pyramidea)

There are two Copper Underwings in the UK and they are very similar.  To determine which is which requires the underneath of the hind-wing to be examined, which is a skill I do not possess.  The Field Guide gives advice but it seems a considerable amount of practice is required before the examiner becomes confident.  The moth photographed is either Svensson’s Copper Underwing or just plain Copper Underwing.  The scientific name refers to ‘flying around the fire’ (amphipyra) and also to a conical hump on the back of the larva.  Ingvar Svensson (1919 – 2011) identified the species that then took the name of the highly respected lepidopterist.  The moth is quick in every movement.  It will run for cover and when it takes off it flies fast and straight.

Mother of Pearl (Pleuroptya ruralis)

 Understanding the scientific name for this moth has changed the way I look at it.  The common name is Mother of Pearl, which is pleasant and descriptive enough as the wings of the moth have a lustrous sheen to them, but when it is understood that Pleuroptya ruralis refers to the winnowing fan used in the countryside (ruralis) to separate the chaff from the grain it somehow makes it seem more valid.  The Mother of Pearl is a micro-moth despite its size and is very common. It possesses the ability to curl its antenna (see the photograph) and I seem to remember seeing one of its kind searching with its proboscis so I assume the adult does feed.  The common nettle is the food plant for the caterpillar.