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A moth in my room - a guest blog

Most people just sweep up dead moths, maybe after a cursory glance. I tend to look a bit closer and maybe keep it for some photos. A very rare few with a highly curious nature look much, much closer. Here we have this great guest post from Andre Jagger, who normally submits deep dive articles on Botany and Mycology. Fascinating stuff. I hope he finds more dead animals soon!

Quite a few nights ago I had the usual experience of observing a moth flying around the room in the apartment. It was very attracted to various lights. I didn't pay much attention as I have been busy and the next I saw of it was when I came to vacuum the living room. It was definitely dead ... Sometimes, if I remember I let insects or animals out of the apartment but they have to remind me ... This one didn't! It was in a moderately to very good state of preservation. I decided not to allow the vacuum cleaner to do the needful, I would keep it aside for photography and see if I could immortalise it in some small way that might be beneficial to science and others. To that end, this picture emerged.

I am normally interested in Botany and Mycology with copious amounts of Chemistry. Insects often appear when I collect specimens for examination and dissection and sometimes they too get examined ... However, I normally refrain from being overly zoological leaving that to Robert!

What was really gobsmacking was just how quickly I found the name of the moth. I am not an expert at insects even though I am a scientist. I was looking at various websites and observed that the Superfamily of this moth ought to be Geometroidea. However, that Superfamily has quite a few families that have a large number of Genera in them. So how to narrow it all down?

Again, pictures, this time I was fortunate enough to find other Scoopwing moths, that is what it is called! The family was Uraniidae and the subfamily for the scoopwings was Epipleminae. This one doesn't portray its namesake quite to the extent that some of its slightly more colourful and way more elaborate sister genera do. When resting this moth has its forewings at right angles to its body length and its hindwings tucked gently in towards the abdomen. That gap between the wings maybe the reason for the name "scoopwing" and more obviously so in some of the other genera.

If it wasn't for Korean and Taiwanese zoologists I may never have found the actual, Genus, Species, or even the sex, of this scoopwing. The wonderful pictures in the paper "A Taxonomic Revision of the Korean Epipleminae (Lepidoptera:Uraniidae), with Phylogenetic Comments on the Involved Genera. Jae-Cheon Sohn and Shen-Horn Yen Zoological Studies 44(1): p. 44-70 (2005)" gave this beauty away. This scoopwing having been found in Taiwan and Hong Kong before by others probably isn't that uncommon. It was an education to find out that Scoopwing moths even existed and that whilst they aren't the most colourful moths they do have slightly unusual wings, patterning and resting wing folding behaviour. As expected, they are nocturnal moths and the attraction to light is what brings them indoors.

The zoological paper above provides a lot more detail about these moths. It is certainly downloadble so have a browse if Scoopwings are your cup of tea.


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