Sunday, June 26, 2016

Ghost moth


We found this ghost moth Hepialus humuli on the cliff-top path at Dawdon on the Durham coast this morning.



































Ghost moths are unusual in engaging in communal courtship displays at dusk, drawn together in "leks" of a dozen or more by emitting come-hither scents that are said to be reminiscent of the aroma of goats. They hover just above the vegetation, swaying from side to side "as if dangling on the end of a string", according to a 50-year-old account by the eminent entomologist E.B. Ford.


Their ghostly appearance is enhanced by the fact that the undersides of their chalk-white wings are dark brown, so with every upstroke they seem to disappear in the moonlight, then reappear on the downstroke. According to Ford's account their pheromones incite receptive females to fly straight into the swarm of suitors and collide with a chosen male; then both fall to the ground to mate. It's a performance many have described and few have witnessed but one who has is Stephen Cumming, who has posted a video on YouTube that you can watch by clicking here.

6 comments:

  1. A fascinating story, thanks for the video link. The poor things, one day on earth and nothing to eat or drink.

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    1. I'd really like to see that mating dance...

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  2. What a good find and thank you for the link.

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    1. One of the few moths I can identify!

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  3. Replies
    1. Those white scales on the wing seem unusually large

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