Four common moths of various sizes

Moths are a fascinating group of insects, most of which, fly during the hours of darkness. There are some species that are diurnal, such as the Humming bird hawkmoth { see associated pages below}

 In the UK, there are 2,500 species recorded. They are a vital food source, both adults and caterpillars, for birds, bats and other animals. Some species are known to be important pollinators. Many have specialised habitat or are restricted in their distribution. Some are very rare.

Here we review four common moths,two small, two large, that are widely distributed throughout Britain.

Garden carpet moth  Xanthorhoe fluctuata

Photograph courtesy of brewbooks CC BY-SA 2.0 Licenseurtesy of copyright entomart


Garden carpet moth

We commence this review with the garden carpet moth,Xanthorhoe fluctuata, which is a familiar moth of the Lepidoptera and the family Geometridae, they are placed in the genus Xanthorhoe. It is probably one of the commonest of the Geometridae that frequent gardens.

The forewings are a pale grey or brownish, with a patch of greyish brown at the base, another large one on the middle of the costa and a third near the tip. The wing is usually cloded between the blotch and the inner margins, and numerous finy wavy lines, more or less distinct across the wings. When at rest it looks like a grey patch on the whatever backgound it chooses.

the wing span is 27-31mm. They are seen throughout the summer, from May to September, but tend to be most abundant in June and July. It must be noted that this species tend to be very variant in its colouring.

The caterpillar is extremely variable in colour the variant colours being either green, brown or grey, or, some individuals have an intermediate hint, and is marbled and dotted with dark brown or black. They feed on nasturtium, rape and other crucifer plants of the cabbage family. They may be encountered from April until August.

Mother of pearl moth

photograph courtesy of charlesjsharp {Sharp photography } CC BY-SA 3.0 License.

Mother of pearl moth, Plueroptya ruralis

This is a moth that rests with all four wings on display which show a colourful rainbow like lustre in certain lights, as its common name suggests. the wingspan is 26-40mm.

Adults fly from dusk onwards, often attracted to light. they appear on the wing from June until September.

The caterpillars feed on nettles, rolled up in a leaf. 

Poplar hawk moth -top Photograph courtesy of Pekka Raukko--Below a darker variety, Photograph  and copyright of site memberPhilip Murray.

The Poplar hawk moth, Laothoe populi

This group of moths were once known as Sphinx moths { see Humming bird hawk moth. Associated pages below}. 

The poplar hawk moth of the Family Sphingidae, is probably the commonest of our hawk moths.The fore wings are ash grey or greyish brown, marbled with darker tints, with a conspicuous white spot in the centre. 

Poplar hawk moth caterpillar

}Courtesy of Alastair Rae {UK} CC by-SA 2.0 License.

Elephant hawk moth. Deilephela elpener

Finally in this review of four common moths we look at the Elephant hawk moth. This beautifully coloured moth feeds at night, often on garden flowers such as honeysuckle and petunias.

The elephant hawk moth.

Photograph and copyright courtesy of site member -Ste Bond.

The wingspan is 50-70mm, the colour is pink with various shades of green intermixed and a pink stripe along the abdomen. The overall form is stream lined. It ia another moth that is easily attracted to light.

It is from the caterpillar that this moth takes its common name for it is said to resemble in appearance an elephant's trunk. It is an unattractive creature which is adorned with two eye-like spots on the 5th and 6th segments, which at first glance might be taken for eyes. Cocoons are formed among vegetation on the ground or just below the surface.

This species is found throughout Britain and Ireland. The caterpillars feed on species of Willowherbs, especially the Rosebay willowherb, and species of Galium {bedstraws and cleavers}

Plate--hawk moths and their caterpillars

From the  British Butterflies and Moths { 1894] W. Furneaux. 

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