Friday, 18 February 2011


For the last few nights we have had freezing fog and temperatures that hover around the -1, -2 mark, but when I'm driving along I can see plenty of moths caught in the glare of the headlights. I made a quick check at the front of the house last night, just in case some crazy moth had decided to hatch in these freezing conditions, and this male Early Moth - Theria primaria - obligingly flew up from the ground and landed on the windowsill:

Theria primaria - Early Moth (male)
The Early Moth is one of the species which is resistant to frost and will emerge in sub-zero temperatures. It has only been recorded a few times in Co. Donegal, which is strange, because it's a Hawthorn and Blackthorn associate, and those plants are very abundant here.

The above specimen is clearly a male, since the female is flightless.

Pussy Willow catkins are appearing on many trees, now and I caught a glimpse of a couple of flies moving along the hedgerow, so we're clearly emerging from the depths of winter.


The Weaver of Grass said...

If you have looked at my blog lately you will see that our hazel catkins are beginning to show yellow Stuart but I have yet to see the first celandine or the first marsh marigold - I know where to look for both but no sign yet and snow forecast for tomorrow.

Gill said...

Interesting about the moth (I'm also seeing lots in the headlights in the evenings, but very few in daylight.

Presumably the females lie in wait in the thorn bush wafting pheromones out for the males to home in on?

Stuart said...

Weaver, I have Celandines about to open, but I don't usually see Marsh Marigolds in flower until late April around here. Marsh Marigolds are locally known as 'Mayflower' and the tradition is to throw petals on the roof of your house on the first of May for good luck.

Gill, that's exactly what happens with the flightless females in a number of moth species. The males often have strongly feathered antennae to aid that homing-in process. The females of those moth species tend to have bloated bodies which leads to two main implications:

1) she can lay more eggs
2) the species can only spread at the rate at which the caterpillars can walk, since the females never move far from where they hatch.