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31 May 2017

31 May 2017 – Rhubarb Digression

(Plutella porrectella) 

En route for rhubarb, I had just reached the gate when a moth flew across my path and settled on a leaf.  I had a quick look and couldn’t remember seeing it before so I returned to the house to get the camera.  It was still there when I returned and I managed to get a dozen photographs before it flew into the border and disappeared.  All the pictures were slightly out of focus but it looked like Plutella porrectella – a moth that Helen Levins (UPenn intern) had identified in 2012 and I hadn’t seen.  

According to the Yorkshire moth site this species is not common in the county so I looked up the food plant and UK moths said that it tended to be found in the vicinity of Sweet Rocket (aka Dame’s Violet or Damask Violet).  There are great clumps of this plant in the quarry and in the borders and within ten minutes I had seen three Plutella porrectella gently ghosting their paths through the grass stems and, when one settled, I managed to get the better photograph above.

Sweet Rocket (Hesperis matronalis)

The moth was given its scientific name by Franz Paula von Schrank, a German naturalist, professor and author.  Schrank was ordained as a priest and was the first director of the Munich botanical gardens.  He tended to name species by referring to Greek gods and mythical figures and it is thought ‘plutella’ is connected to Pluto, god of the Nether World. ‘Porrectella’ is from the Latin porrectus meaning ‘outstretched’ : from the antennae which are extended when the moth is at rest.  

Another member of the Plutella family is the Diamond-back Moth, the one that had everyone in a flap last year as it ‘invaded’ from the East coast.