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3 August 2014

3 August 2014 – A Small Void

Common Roller (Ancylis badiana)

When the Common Roller (Ancylis badiana) was first discovered in the light trap, all that was immediately discernible was the silver ring around the edge of its wings. When the wings are folded, the back of the moth is covered by a dark, oval shaped mark. Under sunlight, the dark patch appears to be chestnut colored (hence the scientific name, badiana. ‘Ancylis’, on the other hand, means a hook, a barb). In shade, the central patch seems darker, murkier; almost like a void.

When the Common Roller rests on a leaf, the chestnut mark looks like a small hole looking through the leaf’s surface. It reminded me of the old well in Shandy Hall Gardens – a sudden and deep sink surrounded by a carpet of greeneries and a low stone barrier. When you throw a pebble into the well, you can hear the splash of the water many seconds later. You cannot, however, ever see the water’s surface.

The colors of the Common Roller’s wings are difficult to represent. Artists and entomologists throughout the years have drawn this moth in very different ways. In Richard Lewington’s most recent volume of Micro-moths, Ancylis badiana is portrayed from a side view; the drawing doesn’t fully represent the prominent chestnut mark. In the much earlier volume of British Moths and their Transformations illustrated by H. N. Humphreys, the representation of the badiana (the only moth named ‘badiana’ in the entire volume) is even less convincing compared to the actual specimen. In fact, the illustration shown below (which is titled ‘Chestnut Straw’) bears little resemblance to the Common Roller from the garden.

Is there an error somewhere? Or is it a different coloration of the Common Roller that we’re not aware of?

The Common Roller is the 352nd species of moth to visit Shandy Hall Garden.

Common Roller [aka The Chestnut Straw] (illustration)

Post by Bowen Chang (UPenn)