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Welcome to my blog

This is where I post various musings about wildlife and ecology, observations of interesting species (often invertebrates)
and bits of research that grab my attention. As well as blogging, I undertake professional ecological & wildlife surveys
covering invertebrates, plants, birds, reptiles, amphibians and some mammals, plus habitat assessment and management
advice
. I don't work on planning applications/for developers. The pages on the right will tell you more about my work,
main interests and key projects, and you can follow my academic work here.

Tuesday, 9 July 2013

Bindweed beauty

I like gardening. I like invertebrates. Most invertebrates are either neutral (from a simplistic human perspective) or beneficial. Some of the latter are also beautiful, and this is a fairly common example, the White Plume moth Pterophorus pentadactylus.

White Plume moth Pterophorus pentadactylus
The plume moths (family Pterophoridae, plus in Britain, one species in the Alucitidae) are easily recognisable as adults by their deeply lobed wings. Most are camouflaged as mottled greys and browns, but this species is very different, being unmistakably bright white, possibly mimicing a discarded (and of course inedible) downy feather. Certainly they rest on the tops of leaves where a feather might land, but scuttle out of sight if disturbed.

So, why is it beneficial in gardens? The answer lies in the larva which feeds on the leaves and flowers of bindweeds (Convolvulus spp. & Calystegia spp.) which gardeners otherwise spend a lot of time untangling and uprooting. Personally, I leave it most of the time (it covers some bare areas with greenery) which may be one reason the moth has colonised our garden - plenty of undisturbed food.

If you want to know more about this and other British plume moths, Hart (2011) is excellent, including dissections of genitalia used to separate difficult specimens, and photos of juvenile stages. Well worth getting hold of.

Reference

Hart, C. (2011). British Plume Moths. BENHS, Hurst, Reading.

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