Muslin Moth

I saw this unusual moth resting on a wall as I walked around Greenwood House. I have never seen one before and it took me a while to identify it. My first thought was that it was a melanistic form of the Peppered Moth (Biston betularia) which is well known because early descriptions of the form were considered an adaption to living on the grimier surfaces of industrial locations. In fact, the moth at Greenwood is a male Muslin Moth (Diaphora or Cycnia mendica). The male is dark with wonderful feathered antennae (bipectinate I think they are called). This particular specimen has a brown to almost black coloration with a few almost indiscernible black spots on the wings. The thorax looks as if it is covered in deep brown fur with yellower hairs underneath . There are not many British moths this dark. [The female Muslin Moth, in contrast, is white with more spots on her wings, and the antennae are long and slender].

The caterpillars are said to feed in July, sometimes earlier, and August, and seem to thrive on the foliage of many kinds of low growing plants, such as dandelion, dock, plantain, chickweed, and also the leaves of birch and rose. In the village right now there are lots of low growing plants of this kind on which the female moth can lay eggs because of the “no mow May” campaign that has led to some wilder patches of ground being left untouched for the time being. Unfortunately, most of these temporarily thriving habitats will be cut down before the caterpillars emerge.

Beside the Path 6

This shady place beneath a horse chestnut tree on a sunny day looks a little magical to me with the sun shining through the leaves.

Best seen full size.

Beside the Path 5

The bright yellow flower heads of Winter Cress (Barbarea vulgaris) make a bright splash of colour now the Dandelions are ending their first blooming. The day I went for the walk they had attracted dozens of flying insects that were competing for mates among the petals – all small Ichneumon wasps (Amblyteles armatorius) which are solitary parasites that inject their eggs in other species to develop. Online close-up image below.

Beside the Path 4

Flowering white dead-nettle amongst the leaves of cleavers, common nettles, and hogweed by the side of the path as I walked around the village (17th May 2022).

Beside the Path 3

The new unblemished horse chestnut leaves reach down low towards the waist-high white cow parsley flowers beside the path. Later in the year, the leaves will develop the brown blemishes caused by the larvae of the chestnut leaf miner moth, which is a species that has been accidentally introduced to Britain from Spain.

Beside the Path 2

Flowering grasses and cow parsley by the side of the path as I walked around the village (17th May 2022).

The main grass in the foreground above is Cock’s-foot. The flowers are not yet open and all is still green. – see image below. It’s appearance will change delightfully as the flowers open in a few weeks’ time

Beside the Path 1

Luxuriant foliage and White Dead-nettle by the side of the path as I walked around the village (17th May 2022).

Click on image or expand to see the detail.

Spring Flowers at Charlton Down

Images from a walk around my Dorset village this late Spring (7th May). Sycamore, field maple, copper beech, ash, oak and chestnut were in flower. Shrubbier plants like hawthorn, holly, wayfarer, and guelder rose were blossoming in hedgerows. Dandelions gone to seed already, with daisies, self heal, blue speedwell, red clover, and chickweed flourishing where the lawns have not been cut for “no mow May”. Bog bean flowers surviving in the muddy margins of our fast-shrinking pond. And the white froth of cow parsley in great abundance everywhere.

Sunrise Today

View of the sunrise from my window this morning

Happy Christmas

A Safe, Healthy, and Happy Christmas to you all.