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8 July 2020

7 July 2020 – Black and White

Peppered Moth (Biston insularia)

All the Peppered Moths I have seen in the gardens at Shandy Hall have been the whiter versions of the species – until now.  Here is Biston insularia (‘insular’ meaning : pertaining to an island) which is halfway between Biston betularia and B. carbonaria. This intermediate member of the species is not the result of cross-breeding and is genetically distinct.  

For a full colour range showing the degrees of variety see the UK Moths website here.  

Melanism (‘black pigment’) takes place in a number of other species of UK moths: Pale Brindled Beauty, Scalloped Hazel, Hebrew Character and Clouded-bordered Brindle to name but four.  The dark, black  carbonaria variety of the Peppered Moth seems to be decreasing in the county.


Common Footman (Eilima lurideola)

The description in the Field Guide is interesting -‘rests with forewings gently curled over body’. All moths fold their wings in particular ways but to include the word ‘gently’ shows the authors (Waring and Townsend) have been particularly beguiled by this neat little moth. 

‘Footman’ was the name given to the servant who would run alongside his master who was mounted on horseback. The term developed to include the liveried footman who waited at table dressed in a garment that ‘curled gently over body’.  It is a very common moth at this time of year.  If disturbed it jerks and twitches in spasms rather than just taking flight. 


Marbled Minor (Oligia strigils)

Tawny Marbled Minor (Oligia latruncula) and Rufous Minor (Oligia versicolor) are the other possibilities. I am pretty certain that this is a Marbled Minor. It can be identified more easily when a splash of white is visible on the wing edges folded over the abdomen, but this melanic version seems likely.  The wing markings are complex but characteristic.  Oligia is from the Greek oligos meaning ‘small’ and strigilis refers to the strigil or scraper used by bathers, the shape of which can be seen as a ‘little line’ on the forewing.

Uncertain (Hoplodrina alsines)

It could equally well not be an Uncertain and be a Mottled Rustic (Caradrina morpheus).  The evidence?  Both are a similar shade of brown – sort of softly blurred caramel – and there were numerous examples in the trap. Both fly during this late June, early July time and both have been recorded once before at Shandy Hall.  Hoplon is the Greek word for a weapon and alsines refers to the Bog Stitchwort, a delightful plant found on water  margins and  one of the foodplants of the species.