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9 July 2012

9 July 2012 – Species List Breaks 200

Short-cloaked Moth (Nola cucullatella)
Short-cloaked Moth, side view

We have four new confirmed species today, bringing us to 202!

The first was the “Unidentified micromoth” in the previous post of 6 July. Dr. Chesmore identified it as the Plutella porrectella. The origin of this name is unclear. It probably first came from ploutos (wealth) but later was interpreted as plutos (washed) from its smudged appearance. However, it could just as easily come from Pluto, god of the Underworld, as many of the Greek God references in moth nomenclature had direct links to the Underworld. It does have cunning green eyes, but I don’t think they look mischievous enough to be the devil’s. See the post below for its picture.

This morning we found the Blastodacna hellerella. I believe I have seen this moth before but with a wingspan of only 11 millimeters, it was so tiny that I had never been able to capture a good photograph before it escaped. Blastos (a shoot) and dakno (to bite) refer to their larvae that mine the shoots of their foodplant. Hellerella comes from J. F. Heller, a Viennese entomologist.

Blastodacna hellerella

I almost overlooked the Celypha striana but luckily Patrick pointed it out. It is probably called celypha (meaning a husk or pod) because of the dark reticulation on its wings. Striana(streak or furrow) comes from its brown stripes.

Celypha striana
Tawny Marbled Minor (Oligia latruncula)

The next moth could be either the Marbled Minor or the Tawny Marbled Minor, but these two species differ only by their genitalia, requiring dissection. Its colors make it more likely to be the Tawny Marbled Minor (Oligia latruncula) and since this is a common species at this time of year, we are overdue for the Tawny’s arrival. Oligia, or ‘small’, describes to its overall size. Latrunculus means ‘a petty thief.’ There is a debate as to why it was given this name. Some say that it must have robbed farmers of their grasses. But since it was not considered a pest in the 1700s, it is also likely that its size enabled its stealthy habits, similar to those of a thief. Our Tawny Marbled Minor was asleep when I saw it, but who knows, maybe this was just a hoax in its plot to rob Shandy Hall of its entire 18thcentury book collection!

The photograph at the top of this post is the Short-cloaked Moth (Nola cucullatella). Nola refers to either a town in Campania or the Latin word nolo, an indication of chastity. Cucullus (a hood or a cowl) refers to the wings, which make the moth look as though it is wearing a hooded cloak. I, however, think the most notable part of this moth is that its profile view is so much more unusual than other moths that share similar top views. Its head and snout give it an animal-like quality; Patrick remarked that it resembled a rhinoceros. I know that’s an unexpected comparison for a moth, but can’t you see it as well?

Post by Helen Levins