Friday 29 August 2014

And a Moth

I spent some while last night trying to identify a moth - a fool's errand, of course.
 The moth had settled on the bathroom wall, and what piqued my interest was that its wings were held in a decidedly butterfly-like pose, half-way between flat and folded, much like a Blue butterfly - and indeed, in size it was on just that scale. The colour, however, could hardly have been less blue: a wheaten ground, with three wavy brown bars across the forewings, two very thin and one thicker and darker. What, I wondered, could it be? Foolishly I thought the butterfly-like pose might narrow down the field - not by much, I discovered, and, after a fruitless on-line search, I was soon forlornly rifling through my ancient, but notably compendious and well illustrated, book of British butterflies and moths, written by W.E. Kirby around a century ago. In the end, I had it narrowed down to some kind of Thorn moth - indeed, with its small size, it really should have been the Little Thorn (Cepphis advenaria) - but that one, I discovered, flies in May and June (and the August Thorn is too large).
 That's the trouble with moths - there are just too many of them. Whereas we British butterfly fanciers have barely 60 species to identify - in practice far fewer, unless we're making a point of travelling around the country ticking them all off the list - moth species add up to a daunting 2,400-plus, of which more than 800 are macro-lepidoptera (i.e. easily visible). The genus that includes the Thorns (Ennominae) alone includes more than 80 British species. Moths are undeniably beautiful, often in a subtle and understated way (as with my Thorny enigma), but really it is far easier just to say 'Oh - a moth', to look and enjoy, than it is to identify the little beauties (there are several species of Beauty moth in the genus Ennominae).
 As for the stranger on my bathroom wall, when I last saw it, it was resting in a much more moth-like pose, its banded wings spread flat. And this morning it was gone.


  1. I've found Martin's Moths - - a useful port of call.

  2. Summer brood of Early Thorn?

  3. Thanks both - I' ve bookmarked Martin's Moths (even though he's wrong about the 'Red Admirable' - as was Nabokov - good company).
    Early Thorn it might well have been Waldonymous - thanks!