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7 September 2018

6 September 2018 – Four Brown Moths

Brown-spot Pinion (Agrochola litura)

The leaves on the apple trees are still green and the crop of fruit is being collected for pressing in Husthwaite. It could be a record year. However, the colour brown is beginning to appear on the margins and this gentle transformation is reflected in the moths that are being lured by the overnight light-trap.  Some can be difficult to identify at this time of year and each different species seems to vary from individual to individual and sometimes looks like another variety altogether – especially if they are brown.

Here are photographs of 4 different species that came to the light-trap last night.  (The night was cool with high, thin clouds.)

The Brown-spot Pinion (Agrochola litura) is in the list of top twenty moths to be found on the wing in Yorkshire during the beginning of September and the evidence was shown in the trap where there were at least half a dozen specimens.  That broad band of a different shade of brown is helpful but I found the two strong black marks at the wing-tips made identification certain.

The scientific name is interesting.  Litura is the word for the ‘smearing on a wax writing tablet’; an ‘erasure’ or a ‘blotch’ is another meaning. This is supposed to explain the four little black marks covering the ground colour (Agrochola) beneath. If you click on the picture it will enlarge and make it a little easier to see.    

Turnip Moth (Agrotis segetum)

There are characteristics which help identify this second moth but colours are not a good guideline.  The shading can be anything from a sandy colour, through grey and almost to black.  I found the pale dotted white lines across the wings below the thorax helpful but the slightly elongated shape of the moth was the the strongest evidence.  I still had to double check with Charlie Fletcher.  The Turnip Moth can appear at any time of the year and is both a resident and a visitor.  It feeds on carrot, beet, swede and cabbage (where it is less welcome) and on the roots of other plants.

Heart and Dart (Agrotis exclamationis)

A month ago the Heart and Dart (Agrotis exclamationis) was one of the most abundant moths on the wing in Yorkshire but the season is coming to an end for the adult of this species.  Those piercing black dart marks are quite easy to recognise.  The caterpillar will hibernate over winter in an underground cell where it will also pupate.  A light trap in a garden in summer, anywhere from Scotland to Cornwall, will attract this moth.

Dark Sword-grass (Agrotis ipsilon)

The Dark Sword-grass (Agrotis ipsilon) is larger than the other brown moths and has a crispness to its appearance – almost like charred paper.  It seems to vary between being very active and difficult to photograph to being almost comatose.  This one was happy to be lifted onto a leaf but then shot off at terrific speed.  How such energy is generated is quite extraordinary.

Brindled Green (Dryobotodes eremita)

And one green.  The Brindled Green carried a different identity in 1843 when it was illustrated by H N Humphreys Esq. in a series of plates.  It originally belonged to a group of moths known as the brocades, ‘from the rich shining patches of varied tints upon the fore-wings’.  Some of the species today still carry the name – the Pale-shouldered Brocade being one that has been recorded at Shandy Hall.  The scientific name of the Brindled Green has  been through a number of variations: Hadena protea – where Hadena refers to Hades and protea to ‘change’; Noctua protea; Noctua nebulosa; Noctua seladonia and Polia seladonia.

The little moth approaching the flower of an Inflated Catchfly in the illustration (below) is sensitively coloured by Humphreys – the tawny brindle and sprinkling of green on the thorax is well observed and beautifully hand painted. Where would the Inflated Catchfly be found?  It is a member of the campion family (Lychnis) but not a species of plant found in this neck of the woods.

Brindled Green (illustration)