A Visitor

Dear Readers, I was plugging through my project reports yesterday when the little moth on the right hand side of the photo above appeared and started to trot across my copy of ‘The Journal of the British Arachnological Society ‘ (hence the enormous, and fortunately printed rather than real, hairy leg). I am easily distracted, as you know, and so of course I had to take a photo and call on my good friend Leo, moth expert extraordinaire, to see if he knew what it was.

Not only did he know, but he got the same species of moth in his moth trap that very evening.

Marbled Beauty (Cryphia domestica) Photo by Leo Smith

This is a Marbled Beauty, and is one of the most well-camouflaged moths that I know – on a white wall (or indeed a glossy magazine) you can see the extraordinary complexity of its pattern, but when plonked on a tree trunk, preferably one with lots of moss and lichen, it disappears completely. It is unusual in that its caterpillars feed not on plants, but on lichens, particularly ones that grow on rocks. The caterpillar feeds at night and overwinters as a larva, spending the day hiding out amongst the rubble, before finally pupating and emerging as an adult moth in late summer, so ‘my’ moth was right on time!

Marbled Beauty Caterpillar: by Mark Skevington, photo from https://ukmoths.org.uk/species/bryophila-domestica/larva/)

I love the way that the moth looks almost as if it’s corrugated, and the one in my office was a very busy little creature, eager to be off and about its business. Of course, when I opened the window it hid under my in-tray (full to overflowing as you can imagine) but eventually it snuck out and hid in a corner of the windowsill. Let’s hope that it managed to evade the many, many spiders that are appearing at the moment.

Photo by Entomart

What’s also interesting about this moth is the wide range of colours that it comes in – the one in the photo above is distinctly grey, but there are yellowish ones and beige-ish ones and even green-ish ones. No wonder moths are such a tricky bunch to identify. In the photo above, I love that you can see the individual overlapping scales on the wings and the crisp variations in hue – this one looks very wintry to me, as if wearing some cloak made out of smoke and cloud.

Compare the one below, which is much more of a brown and cream and beige individual.

Or this one, which looks almost leopard-spotted…

Photo by Ben Sale from UK, CC BY 2.0 <https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0>, via Wikimedia Commons

So, all in all this is a splendid moth which is on the wing right now, is common and widespread, and is well worth a closer look. Give me a shout if you’ve seen one!



4 thoughts on “A Visitor

  1. Ann Bronkhorst

    Splendid indeed and surprisingly varied in colourways. And, let’s remind ourselves, NOT likely as adults or larvae to damage our woollens. Sadly, there is a notion that all moths do that.

  2. Rosie

    Thank you so much for that, I’ve been trying to identify a moth very like the first one. Had thought Puss Moth but not fluffy enough. Moths are Tricky! But fascinating..


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