I thought it was about time I blogged about a critter. I was therefore delighted to spot this rather pretty moth. After snapping off one of my claws, smashing my toe and teetering on top of a step-ladder, I managed to get these photos. Not the full face macro shot of my dreams but you get the gist. Yes it has lost one of its antennae.
I believe it to be a Barred Hook-Tip, with rather splendid spots. It is a double-brooded variety, which means that adults appear in May and again in late July and August. They generally hang around beech trees. In the UK they tend to be distributed mainly in the southern half.
Being creatures of the night there are of course various myths surrounding moths. People used to think that they were witches or restless souls of the departed. What they are, in moth or caterpillar form, is a rich food source for birds, bats, amphibians, other insects and of course cute little rodents. They are also useful pollinators. There are 2,500 species of moth in the UK and only a small number of species, specifically their caterpillars, are responsible for eating clothes; so don’t splat them!
As climate change effects the life cycle of plants this has a knock-on effect on moths, which in turn effects birds that rely on moth caterpillars to feed their young. However, due to their relatively fast life cycle, moths are adaptable and will hopefully be able to evolve in time. During the Industrial Revolution of the 1800’s the smoky pollution killed lichen on trees, so tree trunks became darker. The peppered moth which had been predominantly pale and therefore well camouflaged on the lichen now became easy pickings for birds. Natural selection favoured those peppered moths who were predominantly darker and so the peppered moth evolved into a species with predominantly dark markings. The gene for lighter markings still existed within the species and the number of paler moths are increasing again as smoke pollution has decreased.
Update: Thanks to Cheryl Haidon @LilyLouHart on Twitter, I now know that it is NOT a Barred Hook-Tip, but a Scalloped Oak. To further egg Rambling Ratz’s face it is a common species! It feeds on a wide variety of trees and shrubs and is a single generation moth.