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27 September 2019

27 September 2019 – National Moth Night

Large Wainscot (Nonagria pilicornis)

If I hadn’t turned the camouflage tent upside down this morning I would certainly have missed seeing this freshly emerged Large Wainscot drop onto the grass.  At first I was sure I hadn’t seen a wainscot moth this size before but I soon discovered that it had been seen once before at Shandy Hall when a rather battered example was recorded.  That was seven years ago.  With its larvae feeding on the leaves of reed mace it is a stately and rather magisterial moth that can be found in muddy areas where the common reed grows.  In the old reference books the scientific name is Nonagria pilicornis which refers to the Greek island (Andros) that was once called Nonagria; cornis usually indicates an association with a ‘horn’ but no further enlightening information can be found.  The present scientific name is Rhizedra lutosa – ‘the muddy feeder on roots’.

Large Wainscot (Rhizedra lutosa)

The Red-green Carpet (Chloroclysta siterata) is relatively common in Yorkshire.  ‘To wash off the greenish/yellowish colour’ is the Chloroclysta part of the name, with the ‘siterata’ meaning ‘pertaining to corn’ – the inference being that the green colour of the forewing turns yellow after death.

Red-green Carpet (Chloroclysta siterata)

The Carpet moths are not always easy to positively identify – until a mental search image is in place. The autumnal coppery-red colour that underlies the green of the wings, just visible in the photograph, along with the shape of the wings, makes this garden visitor recognisable.  The female adult overwinters.

Lunar Underwing (Omphaloscelis lunosa)

Every Lunar Underwing (Omphaloscelis lunosa) seems always to be crisp and fresh with clearly defined markings and an alert and purposeful approach to life.  Some moths hide, some play dead, others become agitated and remain restless while the Lunar Underwing retains its poise.  The scientific name is specific – the omphalos is the navel, the middle point; and ‘celis’ refers to a stain that exists on the hind wing that is disc-shaped or lunar-shaped. Which can’t be seen in the photograph… 

Barred Sallow (Xanthia aurago)

There are a number of Sallows and the majority have all visited Coxwold gardens at some time or other over the last few years.  They tend to remain static when the trap is opened but if disturbed they tend not to immediately fly, preferring to take the line of least resistance.

Pink-barred Sallow (Xanthia togata)

The scientific name refers to the yellow ground colour (Xanthia) and the Roman toga (togata) which is suggested by the broad purplish band across the forewings.  This is not particularly clear in the photograph above but the arrangement of markings and blotches on the moth’s wings are more reliable for identification than the colouring.  This moth is common and can be seen all over the county and indeed the country, wherever sallows grow.

Pink-barred Sallow (illustration)

The illustration of the moth in flight was a useful identifier for the collector, if the moth was destined for the display cabinet, but not much use to the naturalist as this was not the resting position. As a little work of art it merits some attention.  

Rosy Rustic (Hydraecia micacea)

The Rosy Rustic overwinters as an egg and then the caterpillar emerges in April.  It eats a wide variety of plants including Broad-leaved Dock, Field Woundwort, potato, strawberries, and hops by tunneling into the plant stem and descending to the roots.  Here it pupates without a cocoon and emerges as an adult to look like it does in the photograph above.  For some reason I have to re-learn this moth’s name every year..

Rosy Rustic (illustration)

The patterns on the wings of the Rosy Rustic are clearly seen on the illustration of the moth in flight.

Frosted Orange (Gortyna flavaga)

Gortyna is the name of a town in Crete.  What memories the name evoked to Ochsenheimer the lepidopterist we may never know but the moth that now carries the name of Gortyna is rather beautiful.  The patterns on the wings are consistent and the moth is well distributed throughout the country flying between late August and October.  ‘Flavaga’ is yet another word for ‘yellow’.

Green-brindled Crescent (Allophyes oxyacanthae)

I thought the moth on the left was new to the garden.  I couldn’t recall seeing a species that carried a tiny white saddle-shaped marking at the mid-point on the wings. That is until I saw and recognised the moth on the left – a very nicely marked Green-brindled Crescent which also has the same marking in the same place.  This is a good example as to how confusing identification can sometimes be.  The variety of markings on the Magpie moth or the Garden Tiger moth are part of why they are delightful but they don’t confuse or mislead  Had that moth on the right not been there I might still be scratching my head over the mystery of the one on the left.  The scientific name? Allophyes means ‘changeful’.  A lesson learned.

Merveille du Jour (Dichonia aprilina)

What could be more delightful than seeing one Mervielle du Jour in the trap?  Two is the answer.  Here is that magnificent moth from two angles.  Autumn is definitely here when this moth appears.

Common Marbled Carpet (Chloroclysta truncata)

On the inside of the tent I found a moth with stitching along the base of its forewings. It seemed the best place to photograph it as it was so obligingly positioned next to the stitch marks of the tent.

It is now time to release the moths from last night’s trap.

Below, as an extra for National Moth Night, is an image from Humphreys and Westwood’s British Moths and their Transformations  pub. in 2 Vols by William Smith of London. 1843. It is a hand-coloured illustration of the recently re-introduced Clifden Nonpareil (Catocala fraxini).  The first half of the scientific name Catacola means ‘beautiful beneath’; the second half is a reference to the ash tree (Fraxinus excelsior) which Linneaus (wrongly) thought was the food plant.

Clifden Nonpareil (Catocala fraxini)