Home > Moths > 31 July 2016 – China Clay

31 July 2016

31 July 2016 – China Clay

Double-striped Pug (Gymnoscelis rufifasciata)

My final, farewell trap of the summer attracted a great number of species, some of which have enjoyed a steady presence since my very first week (Diamond Back, Poplar Hawk-moth, Snout, Flame Shoulder), while others have come and gone (Smoky Wainscot, White Ermine, Double Square-spot). It is hard to believe that in the past two months I have seen and committed to memory some 200 species, most of which I had no prior knowledge. And my work ethic was pretty much informed by the thought that nature alone composes the sacred calendar of the moths – I am merely the scribe.

I was aware that the number of species photographed and identified has been slowly climbing, but I had no idea it was so close to 400. And still they come. Today, we found another new species: the Double-striped Pug (Gymnoscelis rufifasciata).

Most pugs that end up in the trap are either too worn or too ambiguous to identify. This one though, with its delicate small size and triangular wing shape, seemed worth a try. Double-striped Pug was my first guess, but even then I could not reconcile the velvety red and black pattern on the official photographs (UK Moths and Yorkshire Moths) and the markings on our moth seemed neither here nor there. One can sort of see the remnants of the central cross-lines and the shading along the trailing edge, though I don’t know how much of it was my own imagination.  Fortunately Charlie Fletcher confirmed the identity.

‘Gumnos’, meaning naked, and ‘skelos’, the leg, refer to the spur-less posterior tibia. Rufus, the color red and fascia, a band, define the characteristic tint of the markings (much faded in our sample). It is a common and widely spread species and feeds on holly and gorse.

Tung Chau (UPenn) identifying moths

With that addition, the species count has risen to 398, that is, 25 new species since I arrived! I am leaving today for London but I refuse to say my goodbye because, unlike us, there is no end, no geographical barrier to the world of moths. A few days ago, I received from my father a picture of a moth in our house in China. It was a Clay, a frequent visitor to our trap here. I know the moths will keep coming, that they will keep brewing changes in a world that will one day, so to speak, come into light.

Post: Tung Chau (UPenn)