4 July 2017 - National Garden Scheme Mothing

Peach Blossom (Thyatira batis)

Friday night was National Garden Scheme open evening - with moth identification by Dr Dave Chesmore. The uncooperative weather was discouraging, but we still had a good number, including children. The turnout for moth species was higher than the session earlier in the month. Everyone seemed very interested in the moths and some were surprised by the different colorations and variations. I would say the most popular moth of the group were the Poplar hawk-moths. Their docile nature allowed for some light handling which the children liked a lot.

We had put out two traps the night before, one in the quarry and one in the top garden, to allow for more moths to be caught. It also allowed for a wider variety of species as the plants close to the traps differ. The method worked as we recorded a total of 51 different moth species. Along with the more common species, we had some scarcer ones as well.

The Peach Blossom (Thyatira batis) was one of the many species caught in the trap. It is unique and its pattern is easily recognizable by the pinkish spots, which look almost like mini peaches, on its wings. I however, think it also resembles a burnt marshmallow. Thyatira is the name of one of the seven churches in the Book of Revelation, and batis refers to the larval foodplant of bramble (Rubus).

Peach Blossom (illustration)

Another moth caught in our trap was the Beautiful Hook-tip (Laspeyria flexula). It is an uncommon moth but it is not new to Shandy Hall. Its shape is striking and sharply defined compared to other species. From the scientific name, Laspeyria refers to a German entomologist, J.H. Laspeyres who died during the discovery and naming of the moth in 1811. The second half of the binomial, flexula, means ‘bent’ and describes the undulate termen, or the wavy triangular shaped wing, of the moth. 

Beautiful Hook-tip (Laspeyria flexula)

The larvae of Laspeyria flexula feed on lichen.

Burnished Brass (Diachrysia chrysitis)

A third moth found in our trap is the Burnished Brass (Diachrysia chrysitis). Like the name implies, the moth’s wings have a similar color to brass and the most beautiful aspect of it is when held at certain angles the scales shine like metal. Its name describes the moth’s glamour perfectly as Diachrysia means ‘interwoven with gold’ and chrysitis means ‘like gold’, pointing to its metallic forewing.

Diachrysia chrysitis is a common moth and its larvae feed on nettle (Urtica dioica).

PS. Watercolour brushes are useful when moths are being persuaded to move from one place to another - this method helped us to show the metallic sheen on the wings. 

Post : Walter Chen [UPenn intern]