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MONTHLY COLUMN: How moths are real 'masters of disguise'


By Spalding Today Columnist


Angle shades moth. Photo by Rachel Scopes. (3971851)
Angle shades moth. Photo by Rachel Scopes. (3971851)

In her monthly column, Lincolnshire Wildlife Trust Communications Officer Rachel Shaw looks at moths....

Whilst the sight of a butterfly brings a smile to the face, for some, the thought of moths results in shudders rather than smiles.

The word alone can evoke words such as dull, brown and moth-eaten. It is true that there are small, brown moths but there are also moths that are as pretty as butterflies. When we do see them, the diversity of colours and patterns can be quite a surprise.

An incredible 1,640 different species of moth have been recorded in Lincolnshire. Their typically nocturnal habits mean that our paths only occasionally cross but there could be a variety of different species living in your garden. Some can even be spotted during the day and look more like butterflies than the traditional images of a moth. A warm evening will draw moths out of their day-time hiding places - particularly if you have night-scented plants growing in your garden.

Buff-tip moth (3971855)
Buff-tip moth (3971855)

The cinnabar is named after the red mineral, cinnabar, an ore of the metal mercury. They are slate-black with two red spots and two red stripes on the rounded forewings. Its hindwings are red, bordered with black. Adults are on the wing during the summer, flying in the sunshine, but also at night.

The striking elephant hawk-moth is green with shocking pink bars on the wings and body. It’s named after its caterpillars which look like elephant's trunks and have black eyespots. When disturbed, they swell up to show these spots and scare off predators.

Cinnabar moth. (3971859)
Cinnabar moth. (3971859)

With its intricate patterning of pinky-brown, cream and greyish-green, the angle shades moth is perfectly camouflaged as a curled-up, dead leaf. Often found among the leaf litter, it folds its wings back to emphasise its camouflage.

The buff-tip is mainly silvery-grey in colour, with a square-cut, buffy head, and a buff patch at the end of the wings which gives it the common name. When it sits motionless, its colouring, shape and buff-coloured wingtips make it perfectly camouflaged: it looks just like a broken birch twig.

Garden tiger moth. Photo by Margaret Holland. (3971864)
Garden tiger moth. Photo by Margaret Holland. (3971864)

The garden tiger is has a chocolate-brown, furry body, brown-and white-patterned forewings, and bright red hindwings with four or five large black spots. It’s well-protected against predators: the hairs on the caterpillar are irritating; the bright colours on the adult warn that it is unpalatable; and adults can rub their wings together to create a rasping noise.

Rather than dull, brown and moth-eaten perhaps more appropriate word association with ‘moth’ would be striking, vibrant, flamboyant or master of disguise.

Elephant hawk-moth. Photo by Richard Burkmar. (3971862)
Elephant hawk-moth. Photo by Richard Burkmar. (3971862)


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