Posted by: Ross Gardner | December 11, 2013

An unlikely resolve

Looking at some of the moths that fly through the coldest months of the year and one can’t help but wonder at how such seemingly frail creatures can possible cope with the challenges of winter.  Yet, the mere fact that many species have evolved such a strategy over a great deal of time demonstrates that they do not merely cope, but thrive.

Winter Moth (Operophtera brumata).  Copyright 2011 Ross Gardner

Winter Moth (Operophtera brumata). Copyright 2011 Ross Gardner

I have mentioned the Winter Moth (Operophtera brumata) on these pages before.  It is a slender species, rarely more than 3cm from wing tip to wing tip.  Any seen on the wing are sure to be males as the female is flightless and bears the merest vestiges of wings.  They fly throughout the autumn and into January; I found one a few days ago at rest inside a marquee.  I expect that during the very coldest of times the males go to ground, as it were, yet I have seen these little moths attracted to outdoor lights in number on decidedly sharp, frosty nights.  And there is a micro-moth (by name, but less so by nature – is has a wing-span of some two and a half centimetres) that can be seen during any month of the year, including those of the seasonal cold.  The spindly demeanour of the Common Plume (Emmelina monodactyla) looks like it would more readily snap than fly during the winter months.

Common Plume (Emmelina monodactyla).  Copyright 2013 Ross Gardner

Common Plume (Emmelina monodactyla). Copyright 2013 Ross Gardner

There are others.  The 11th and 12th months of the year have their own.  The former has two – the November and Pale November Moth (Epirrita dilutata and E. christyi) relations of the Winter Moth.  The December Moth (Poecilocampa populi) is perhaps what one might be more likely to expect from a winter-flying insect.  Although quite small it is a stocky and rather hairy little thing.  And come January the likes of the Mottled Umber (Erannis defoliaria) and Spring Usher (Agriopis leucophaearia) will also be around to welcome in the New Year.

As frail as some of these creatures may appear, they would appear to exhibit something of an unlikely resolve.

 

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