Monday, September 13, 2010


I found this very attractively marked herald moth Scoliopteryx libatrix resting on a leaf while I was picking broad beans at the weekend. According to the entomologist L. High Newman in his British Moths and their Haunts (1952) it was given its common name in 1782 by Moses Harris, author of several exquisitely illustrated and much sought-after entomological works. Newman wrote "It is fairly obvious how the association grew in his mind as he studied the pattern and coloration of the moth; there is something reminiscent of the intricate combination of rich colours, red, purplish brown and gold, that one expects in the design of a heraldic emblem". I'd always assumed that it was called the herald for a quite different reason - this is one of the very few moths that hibernates as an adult and emerges again in March, as a herald of spring. Martin Wainwright, in his blog Martin's Moths, recently speculated as to which might be the longest-lived moth in Britain. The herald must surely be a contender. It hatches from the pupa in late August, feeds on autumn flowers like ivy, overwinters in some sheltered place (Newman cited 'nooks and crannies in old brickwork under bridges' as a good place to look for it), breeds in Spring and can still be found at the end of May - nine months in total.

For a tenuous link between this moth and the pointillist painter Georges Seurat, click here.

1 comment:

  1. Yes, I can see the connection! When I first looked at the picture of the moth, it just seemed to be a yellowy-brown. Gazing at it for a little longer and the purple became evident. By just taking a little more time to look, much more is revealed to us. I love how science, creation and the arts are all bound together, providing a neverending source of inspiration.