Posted by: Ross Gardner | October 13, 2013

Moths with Immunity

What might be a nightmare for one, is a dream for another.  A case in point is one small moth by the name of Agonopterix alstromeriana (a bit of a mouthful, I’m afraid, but as is the case with so many of the micro-moths, one without an English alternative).  I had never noticed this moth before this autumn, despite it being a common and widespread British species and which can possibly be seen at any time of year.  A question, I suppose, of being attuned to look into  the right spaces; autumn and winter is not necessarily a time when one is seeking out small insects.

Agonopterix alstromeriana.  Copyright 2013 Ross Gardner.

Agonopterix alstromeriana. Copyright 2013 Ross Gardner.

They are one of the few moths that I have come across that has Hemlock as a larval foodplant.  Hemlock is a hugely poisonous member of the carrot family (Apiaceae), infamously used to execute Socrates, the Ancient Greek philosopher tried and found guilty on charges of ‘corrupting the youth’ and ‘impiety’.  It is a species known to fly in a great variety of habitats, from marshland to hedgerows to wasteground and woodland – anywhere, it might be supposed, that the foodplant occurs.  In my recent experience of them they seem to have something of a liking for the shelter of the bird-hides at Wat Tyler Country Park!

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