28 July 2017 - Heralding the End

Phoenix (Eulithis prunata)

I started this internship with rain and the forecast tells me I will probably end with it as well. There’s still a few more days left so hopefully I can get in another moth trap before my departure. The past few traps have unfortunately been disappointing. The number of moths has decreased and subsequently the number of species. I believe it might be due to the change in the weather. 

The Phoenix (Eulithis prunata) arrived in our trap set on Tuesday night. The moth was upside down when I first saw it so I didn’t know what it was. I took one of our jars used for larger moths and carefully captured it. As it flew into the jar it quickly attached itself to the side of the container and slowly lifted its tail, creating a 90-degree curve.

Phoenix (illustration)
Eulithis meaning ‘goodly stone’, refers to the species of this genus having a yellowish color similar to sandstone, while prunata makes reference to the plum fruit although in Britain, it is not the food plant for the larvae.

Redcurrant fruit
The larvae of the Phoenix feed on blackcurrant (Ribes nigrum) and redcurrant (Ribes rubrum) which is in abundance just outside the kitchen window of my flat. As I write this the redcurrants are currently ripening and are quickly being devoured by birds.

The Herald (Scoliopteryx libatrix)

Bringing the rain with it, the Herald (Scoliopteryx libatrix) made an appearance in the trap. Its shape and pattern makes it seem to belong in a fantasy novel. The longitudinal red streaks shine and look like embers emanating from its wings. Its scientific name, Scoliopteryx, means ‘crooked wing’ which is a description of the curvy edge of the wings. 

The second half, libatrix, means ‘one who makes a libation to the gods’. There is no explanation to the reasoning behind this name but one theory states Linnaeus might have thought the naming of the Herald deserved a drink. Interestingly, the Herald overwinters as an adult and can be found hibernating in barns and caves. 

The Herald (Scolopteryx libatrix)

Larvae of Scolopteryx libatrix feed on Willow (Salix) and Poplar (Populus). In our quarry, we do have a White Poplar (Populus alba) which can be easily distinguished when compared with other trees as its leaves are white and grey. It may even appear to be covered in snow when viewed from a distance.

White Poplar (Populus alba)