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28 August 2015

27 August 2015 – Playing Dead

Pale Eggar (Trichiura crataegi)

Today we investigated a trap that seemed at first to be overflowing with wasps. At the beginning of the summer, we would trap out on the lawn at the top of the garden, but the wasps set up a nest there; so for the past few weeks we have been trapping in the quarry at the very back of the garden and it appears the wasps have finally infiltrated that area as well. Luckily, it was easy enough to coax them out of the trap using paintbrushes (they are quite dozy in the morning) and examine a catch that was, at last, not completely inundated by Underwings.

This trap was actually quite varied in comparison to what we’ve been getting recently. There were the typical Large Yellow Underwings, Common Rustics, Mother of Pearls, and other familiar faces – but there were also a few more distinctive moths, and the arrival of a new species, which brings Shandy Hall’s total up to 370. The former included the Small Phoenix, Feathered Gothic, Green Carpet, Svensson’s Copper Underwing, and the Centre-Barred Swallow. The latter is the Pale Eggar, an unobtrusively quiet little grey moth that we found resting on the side of the trap.

The Pale Eggar sits with its wings folded up in a little triangle, and comes in varying shades of grey. It has a distinctively darker middle section outlined by two black edges; a checkered border along the very bottom of its wings; and a distinctively fluffy head that almost looks like a furry cape. Its scientific name is Trichiura crataegi. Trichiura references its tufty and visible tail, and crataegi is one of its foodplants, as listed by Linnaeus – hawthorn. The one that we caught was no doubt unpleasantly surprised to find itself in captivity and at first attempted to play dead, but eventually couldn’t resist righting itself in the container and allowed us to capture a few decent photographs.

Pale Eggar (Illustration)

Post : Ariel A Smith (UPenn)