Sunday, 24 May 2015

The rest of last night's gang

I mentioned earlier today that my lovely Puss Moth was attended by a veritable army of other overnight guests, and here are some of the more interesting (and those whose identity escapes me, as is so often the case). These first two are examples of moths with metallic markings produced by light-reflecting wing scales rather than the usual pigment; the Gold Spangle above and the Plain (although actually very far from plain) Golden Y below.

Next we have one of the most strangely-patterned of our native species, the Scorched Wing, whose curious colouring has influenced 'dazzle camouflage' which disorientates the eye and was used to good effect in naval ships during the First World War.

Common Swifts have been extremely common visitors to the trap in the last fortnight and fgeature in recent posts but the next moth is the first of the completely plain examples which occur from time to time, with none of the bold white markings of most of the type.

Next, the year's first Marbled Minor, followed by a Treble Lines, another debut, and two returnees, Lychnis and a Flounced Rustic.

Here's another nice newcomer, too: a Buff Ermine, perched alongside a capsized and sleepy White Ermine, its close relative.

My new camera (or it may be me) hasn't got the hang of accurate colour yet, so here's a second picture in which the buffness of the Buff is perhaps clearer:

And now more Carpets or similar frail but complex-patterned moths whose identities I need to resolve, given time and patience. I think the third one down is a Twin-spot Carpet and the fourth perhaps a Balsam, though it may just be a Common Carpet:

The last one above may well be a Common Marbled Carpet. That would be my bet. And I will just put in one which I do know, to cheer myself up even though I have already featured it this year. Unsurprisingly, this is a Green Carpet:

And now a couple of the Carpets' even smaller (and harder to identify) relatives, the Pug moths. I think that the first is a Common Pug and the second (more shakily cos it seems too early) a Bordered Pug and the third (also shakily) a Mottled Pug. Correction and advice warmly welcome. 

And lastly, two of my lifelong enemies: dull grey moths which I never seem to be able to nail. Could the first be that sadly-named creature, the Lead-coloured Drab? Loads of moths then, and loads of work to do too. And another excellent night isunder way as I write, at least in weather terms, so I predict much more to come.

Puss, puss

Here's a moth which would perplex my granddaughter. She has cats and moths well-sorted, the former greeted with a mixture between a purr and a miaow and the latter getting her butterfly noise unless small and squat, in which case she does her bee imitation, blowing a small raspberry.

But a Puss Moth. How do you cope with that? If she was here this weekend, I would try to find out by showing her the real thing, which is still slumbering on a gatepost. As it is, I will show her these photographs when we're down in London on grandparent duty later in the week. She's used to my grubby fingernails.

What a lovely moth! Big and beautiful and with one of the finest caterpillars in the moth world. One of these days I must try to get some eggs and see if I can breed a family. But I think that today's visitor is a male.

There was an absolute crowd of other moths in the trap after the second perfect May night in a row, but  other engagements mean that they will have to wait for my next post. Except for this handsome Figure of Eighty Moth above. Names are often fanciful in the mothy world, but this one is spot-on as I think you'll agree from the detail on the left.

Saturday, 23 May 2015

Carpet world

Suddenly it's busy.  Temperatures have risen and the rain has stayed away and that all means perfection for May moths. And for me, though the timing of my morning routines has become more complicated. I need to haul myself out of bed a little earlier to get both moths and morning tea done in time.

The first thing I noticed this morning was the number of different Carpet moths, which account for my first four photographs. Named because their delicate patterns reminded 18th century entomologists of the carpets arriving as something of a novelty from the Middle and Far East, these little moths are often nervy and flutter away when I lift the trap's transparent lid.

I need help with identifying the first, beautifully soft grey one - could it be an Early Tooth-striped? -  but I'm sure that the second is a Garden Carpet and I think the third is a Twin-spot Carpet. Sorry to be so hopeless but I stare at Richard Lewington's beautiful paintings in the Moth Bible until I am giddy, yet still cannot nail so many species. Ah me.

I do, however, know that the next moth, above, is that lovely little scrap, the Clouded Silver, and the one below, which privately I call the Bird Poo Moth, is a Chinese Character, a curiously-shaped insect which reminds me of the counters representing ten armies in old versions of the board game Risk.

Next in this long and diverse parade comes a dainty Small White Wave, I think - below:


and after that - below - what I believe to be a Treble-bar.

Then here's the Fag-end Moth, properly known as the Flame, which has been known to fly into entomologists' ears during light-trap inspections or vigils at night (not a habit of mine) and after him or her, a Shears, a Waved Umber, a Knot Grass (I think) and a Bright-line, Brown-eye.

Finally in the moth section of this compendious post (ARACHNOPHOBIA WARNING - a spider is coming. AND a hornet), here are a couple of neat little micro moths which I will sort out later.

A good collection, then - and there were plenty of others already featured in previous posts, such as an iron Prominent, a Brimstone Moth, more than a dozen common Swifts and several Flame Shoulders. But on to the spider and hornet.

I was digging weeds out of the veg patch when I saw the spider, quite an ordinary-looking one but scuttling away from my trowel which had unearthed it with what initially looked like a Mint Imperial.  Googling such phrases as 'spider with white ball' establishes that this is an egg sac, probably containing at least 100 eggs. One of the entertaining things about the internet is the way it links articles to supposedly related products and because this one referred to spiders moulting and shedding their skin, the ad link was to 'the best 2015 products for tightening loose, sagging face skin.'

I am happy with my face skin and indeed my wrinkles are said to give me kindly eyes; an advantage of age. My venerable years also left me unafraid when, cutting grass a little later, I disturbed this extremely large hornet with that evil-looking head borrowed by hundreds of creators of space aliens. It is now an ex-hornet, I am afraid. Pensioners rule!

Friday, 22 May 2015

A Tussocky shade of pale

I'm rather late in reporting today. Retirement life seems busier than when I was working. At all events, it was a great relief when I turned the lamp on this evening and the electrics gave their familiar hum. I'd been worried that I might have broken the bulb when I went to inspect the trap this morning. The reason? I was so startled to see a really nice big moth in residence, after a long spell of meagre catches, that my spectacles fell off my nose and crashed into the mercury vapour bulb.

All is well, thank goodness. And the big moth was a very fine female Pale Tussock - both pics above - a species whose fine size is augmented by outstanding woolly breeches on its forelegs. It isn't rare but how many people ever encounter one?

It shared the trap with my first Cinnabar of the year, above, and the grass around the lamp was also home to a number of slumbering visitors, including this Brimstone Moth, below.

Also new for the year was a Shears moth, known to me as the Secateurs because that is what the little pincer marks on its wings more closely resemble.

As ever, I have a number of browny creatures awaiting identification, below, but I'm prepared to hazard a guess at the nice little micro in the last picture of this post, with its cappuccino colours. I reckon that it's Argyresthia retinella. Please correct me if I'm wrong.

Sunday, 17 May 2015

I shall go cross-gartered

Last night I put the trap in a corner of the garden which seems to be the favourite meeting place of Common Swifts, pretty little moths with variable markings and a pronounced quiff of hair like Tommy Steele's.  He was my pop hero when I was small, especially when I spent a week in Leeds General Infirmary after shooting an arrow into the sky with my home-made bow and watching it come all the way down until, Harold-like, it hit me in the eye. The boy in the bed next to mine was an Elvis Presley supporter and our vigorous battles definitely helped my full recovery.

At the risk of diverting wildly from moths, I must just add that I was discharged three days before Christmas, to my great regret. Why? My home was happy and loving, but you should have seen the pile of presents donated by kind-hearted souls and institutions to the children's ward. If you weren't there at Christmas, you didn't get one.

Anyway, above are three differently marked Common Swifts from the dozen or so in the eggboxes. The species is reckoned to be 'primitive' by the moth authorities because it has no means of eating and therefore cannot live long. Yet its pre-adult life cycle lasts for two years, with the caterpillar pupating and spending two years underground.

I've featured the smartly-dressed Muslin moth twice here in the last week and this morning there was another one in the trap and a second lying casually in the nearby grass. The latter's languid stance reminded me of yesterday's White Ermine moth and the pictures are usefully compared to see how these two species - very different from above or at a casual glance, are related. They share the same spotted and dotted bodies - and look: while complementing the Muslin moth on its tasteful appearance, I quite forgot to mention its startling yellow leggings. Veritably the Malvolio of the tribe.