11 August 2023
28 July 2023 – TRIPLE New Species Alert!
Among the hundreds of moths in the trap this morning, we found a tiny Acleris holmiana, a rosy Endotricha flammealis, and a pearly Anania lancealis.
Acleris holmiana, sometimes called White-triangle Button or Golden Leaf-roller, is a micro-moth from the Tortricidae family. It might have gone undetected in the Shandy Hall gardens for so long because of its size; its wingspan is only about 10-15mm. I thought I’d find this moth easy to identify given the two unmistakable white costal markings on the forewing, but somehow managed to miss it in the Sterling & Parsons field guide. I did find an American cousin, the White-triangle Tortrix (Clepsis persicana), which bears an uncanny resemblance. Patrick was the one who made the correct ID, and with that Shandy Hall was up to 454.
Instantly stealing the White-triangle Button’s spotlight is the Long-winged Pearl (Anania lancealis), yet another new species for Shandy Hall! Though most commonly recorded in Southern England, Anania lancealis has resident status throughout all of England and Wales. It’s a tricky identification, because this moth bears a strong resemblance to the Mother of Pearl (Patania ruralis), one of the most frequent moths in our trap as of late. Among the 97 Mother of Pearls that I recorded in the trap this morning, there was only a single Anania lancealis!
The subtle differences between these two species are wing shape (as the name Long-winged Pearl suggests), abdomen length, and the marbling pattern on the wings. For these reasons, it’s likely that I’ve previously missed this moth’s presence in the trap, mistaking it for a Mother of Pearl. It doesn’t help that, like its common cousin, the Long-winged Pearl seems to be exceedingly flighty and easily disturbed, rendering it potentially difficult to inspect it closely.
The scientific names Anania lancealis come from Greek and Latin, meaning “without pain” and “a long spear” respectively. The genus name either comes from related moths’ tendency to feed on Nettle (Urtica dioica), or a litote (a negative statement meant ironically) to express appreciation for the moth’s beauty. The species name likens the length of the moth’s wing to a Roman lancea, again highlighting the less common shape. This moth flies throughout June and July, with larvae feeding primarily on Hemp Agrimony (Eupatorium) in addition to other miscellaneous plants.
The third and final new species from this trap was Endotricha flammealis, also known as the Rosy or Rose-flounced Tabby, a member of the Pyralidae family of snout moths. I wasn’t able to identify this moth on my own, but Dr. Fletcher was kind enough to identify it for me, adding that he wasn’t surprised that we caught it, as it is expanding its range. It is more common in Southern England, but it flies all over Europe and in most Mediterranean countries.
The larvae feed on a wide range of plants initially, and during their later instars prefer leaf-litter. I think this moth’s coloration is striking – that’s what made me notice it, and snap a photograph before it flew off! Especially among the snout moths, which are usually brown, Endotricha flammealis stands out.
Each morning before inspecting and recording the trap, I peruse Yorkshire Moths Flying Tonight to brief myself on what I might be seeing in our daily catch. Recently, the Ruby Tiger (Phragmatobia fuliginosa) has been steadily climbing higher and higher in the rankings of most common, giving me hope that I’d see one before I leave Shandy Hall. Today was finally my lucky day!
These moths resemble exceedingly fluffy Ermines that have been painted a striking
blood-red color. Their coloring differs according to a geographical gradient: In the south, they are a brighter crimson that more closely illustrates their name, whereas the more Northern variants have more brown and black in their wings, as well as a darker fuzz on their head and thorax. Based on the photos of southern and northern variants available on ButterflyConservation.org, our specimen is somewhere in the middle of the darker and lighter colorations.
Much like the Cinnabar (Tyria jacobaeae), another notably red moth, the Ruby Tiger is known to eat Ragwort (Jacobaea vulgaris). This is no coincidence. Insects that eat Ragwort absorb a toxic alkaloid, which renders them equally poisonous if ingested! As a defense mechanism, moths warn potential predators of their toxicity with bright coloration. (The official term for this is ‘Aposematism’, the biological phenomenon where bright colors and patterns warn predators of poisonous prey.) Several other Tiger moths, like the Garden Tiger (Arctia caja) which was in the trap this morning, employ this same strategy. So, in case you were wondering if any of the local Tiger moths would make a tasty snack, I would advise against it!
Post : Autumn Cortwright [U.Penn intern].