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28 May 2018

28 May 2018 – Regulars to the Gardens

White Ermine (Spilsoma lubricipeda)

The days are hot – the nights are not.  Last night registered only 10 degrees in the gardens but there was hope that there might be a good catch to give some idea of the moth population this May.  The White Ermine is one of the easier moths to identify and is very common.  The scientific name ‘lubricipeda’ means ‘swift-footed’ and this may refer to the speed the caterpillar covers the ground although Linneaus does not say specifically that this is the case; ‘spilsoma’ means ‘spots on the body’ (abdomen).  In Humphreys and Westwood’s British Moths and their Transformations the White Ermine is not mentioned.  The scientific name in the index leads us to the Spotted Buff Ermine which is a little confusing… 

Spotted Buff Ermine (Spilosoma lubricipeda)

Here (above) is that illustration of the Spotted Buff Ermine showing that the marking is consistent with what we now identify as the Buff Ermine (Spilosoma lutea).  The bristly marks on the edge of the right side of the drawing and the tufts beneath give a glimpse of the caterpillars of this moth – very hairy.  The sort that cuckoos like – and one has been heard this year in Coxwold.

Another moth that is always a shock to the senses is the Elephant Hawkmoth (Deilephia elpenor). The adult is a regular visitor to the gardens and we will look out for the caterpillar later in the year.  The binomial refers to ‘evening love’ (deilephila) and Elpenor – one of Odysseus’ companions who was turned into a pig by Circe.

Elephant Hawk Moth (Deilephila elpenor)

The illustration (below) captures the shape but is a little wayward with the colouring of ths moth.  Overall it is a mixture of green and pink that creates such a vivid showing and not this purplish tint.

Elephant Hawk Moth (Deilephila elpenor)

I was determined to identify the ‘bird dropping’ tortrix (photograph below) but even now I am not entirely certain.  The diagnostic details are the black spots on the forewings – not the grey-coloured splashes but the smaller ones, on the edge of the wing.  I have compared it with previous certified examples (by Dave Chesmore and Charlie Fletcher) that our UPenn students diligently put forward as examples of this species and it seems to match.

The following week Charlie kindly corrected me….It is Epiblema cynosbatella.  There is a tiny glimpse of the yellow palps.  

Epiblema cynosbatella

And just one more to include in this post – the Gold Spot.  A shining beauty of a moth that has a variant (Lempke’s Gold Spot [Plusia putnami gracilis]) but the difference is slight.  Except of course to Barend jan Lempke who was a lepidopterist in the Netherlands…

Gold Spot (Plusia festucae)

The other species in the trap were five Poplar Hawkmoths, May Highflyer, Sandy Carpet, Grey Pug, Mottled Pug, Clouded Bordered Brindle, Silver Y, Golden Y and two cockchafers.

Our new intern from University of Pennsylvania arrives soon so more traps will be set, more blogs will be written and (possibly) a few more species will be added to the list of 427 at Shandy Hall.