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29 July 2015

29 July 2015 – Poplar and Oak

Poplar Grey (Subacronicta megacephala)

We went out on a windy morning a few days ago to find the trap full of moths – but the catch yielded much repetition. There were many Clays, Large Yellow Underwings, Common Footmen, Muslin Footmen; there must have been a dozen Uncertains and Rustics to note. We combed through the cartons, looking for something worthy of a write-up; these moths were now becoming familiar and I was able to easily recognize many of the species.

Luckily, we identified a Poplar Grey (Subacronicta megacephala), which is worthy of note because, according to our records,  we’ve only seen it once before at Shandy Hall. I say lucky because it was both lucky that we caught it in the first place and lucky that it didn’t blow away while we were noting the catch – a number of the moths tumbled out of the trap and eagerly flew off with the wind as we opened the top.

The Poplar Grey’s scientific name first means ‘nightfall’, and secondly ‘large-head’, which references the form of the larva. At first, the adult appears quite difficult to identify because it resembles many other grey, black, and white densely-patterned moths. Upon closer inspection, I was able to define its identifying characteristic: two small white dots on the far edges of each of its wings. It has striped legs, and its antennae lay flat along the sides of its back.

As it turns out, this isn’t a species new to Shandy Hall; it was recorded a few years ago, but hasn’t been photographed or written about before. It is a decent-sized dusky moth, not particularly memorable, but one of the few standouts in a trapping that was otherwise rather recognizable and repetitive.

Oak Eggar (Lasiocampa quercus)

A photograph of the Oak Eggar (Lasiocampa quercus) has been included, a moth we caught on 22 July. When I saw it, I immediately thought of the Drinker moth which is of a similar shape and colour with a similar marking on the wings – except the resting position is different. The Oak Eggar rests with its wings spread out in a neat little equilateral triangle, whereas the Drinker rests with them folded up, and is best viewed from the side. The Eggar we caught is a female, because it is a very light brown; its antennae are undecorated and without feathers.

We were fortunate enough to get a good photograph of this one; you can see the distinctive fluffy top of its head that tends down on its back like a little cloak. This is one of the few moths that actually looks sturdy. Most of the ones we find are delicate and their tiny legs flimsy as spiderwebs. This one, however, looks relatively new; it’s well colored; and it’s of a size to seemingly hold its own against the elements.

Post : Ariel A Smith (UPenn)