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9 July 2015

9 July 2015 – New Moth, New Intern

Elephant Hawk-moth (Deilephila elpenor)

Not new in the sense of a new species but freshly hatched – at long last.  The Elephant Hawk-moth caterpillar that went underground in August 2014 has emerged and can be seen resting on the leaf of a sweet rocket plant (Hesperis matronalis). The remains of some essential, biological liquid was still inside the pupa-case but the moth’s wings have dried overnight and it is ready to fly this evening.

Yesterday morning’s trap gave the first positive sign that the moth population is continuing to survive in the Shandy Hall gardens and it coincided with the arrival of Ariel from the University of Pennsylvania, who will be taking over the recording of the moth species and writing the blog posts. Barred Straw, Burnished Brass, Poplar Hawk-moth, Marbled Minor, Barred Yellow, Agapeta hamana, Small Fan-foot, Flame, Flame Shoulder, Green Arches, Dark Arches, Green Pug, Uncertain, Light Emerald and a great number more were identified – with a couple of puzzles yet to be resolved.

Small Fan-foot (Herminia grisialis)

As always, time indubitably marches on, and Shandy Hall has acquired its newest intern. My name is Ariel Smith – I am a rising junior at the University of Pennsylvania studying Diplomatic History. Yesterday, on 8 July, we examined the first proper moth-trap since I arrived. In the spirit of candor, before I began working here, I had never really taken any time to examine moths on my own. I was aware of them, aware that they fly around, towards light – which I suppose is poetic if you want to distill that to its Romantic notions, but really, I had no sentiment other than apathy or faint annoyance as they crowded an outdoor flame. I’ve begun to appreciate, however, the subtleties in their separate evolutions; their colors (or colours) and individual variations in pattern; and how they are some of the quietest creatures I’ve encountered. My favorites from yesterday’s catch are the Barred Yellow and the Fan-Foot; the former because it is such a bright color that seems impractical for surviving the process of natural selection, yet the species persists; and the latter because of its design, which reminds me of a hasty signature, or an ink trail.

Barred Yellow (Cidana fulvata)

Post by Ariel A Smith UPenn