Species Of The Week Number 50: Dusky Thorn

As we approach the end of the year-long Meanwood Valley Bioblitz, where 60 citizen-scientist volunteers have tried to map the fauna and flora of our Valley, we have so far identified a remarkable 872 species! 131 of those species are moths. We have a lot of Meanwood moths.

Recently we have added Rosy Rustic, Sycamore Moth, Ground-Moss Grey and this one, the Dusky Thorn, to the list. The Dusky Thorn generally lives in woods and is particularly fond of Ash trees. If you were here in 1968 then you would have seen a fair few more of them but Dusky Thorns declined by 98% between then and 2013. This might be related to the impact of die-back on Ash trees, or to other environmental issues.

The moth in the picture is male - we know this because of its cool feathery antennae. The male moth uses its antennae to sniff out the pheromones which female moths produce. Now get this astonishing yet true fact: some male moths can identify a single molecule of female moth pheromone within a cubic yard of air - despite being 11km away from the female that made the smell.

Moth antennae really are remarkable organs. Not only do the sniff out partners from miles away but they also are used to stabilise the moth in flight - acting like tiny gyroscopes which send messages to the wings to make miniscule adjustments to account for changes in air movements, or to help escape their arch nemesis - bats. Whilst we have managed to replicate this moth-technology for airplane gyroscopes we can only do it with really big planes, the moths have us beat at the small scale.

By the way, the antennae are also a top way of separating moths from butterflies. Butterflies have a little club shape at the end of the antennae whilst moths don't.

I have no idea how many more moth species there are in Meanwood that we haven't yet identified, but I am pretty confident we have photographed all the common birds for the Bioblitz. The exception is a picture of a Pied Wagtail so if anyone knows a good place where they are regularly seen please let me know before October!

Publicado el 11 de septiembre de 2023 por clunym clunym


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