large_emerals250615aIt is wonderful how each week in the pursuit of scientific understanding brings ever increasing knowledge, and as a consequence, ever more questions. And it is the questions that keeps science an oiled and working machine, for if you stop asking them, even of things you think already to be true, science stops dead in its tracks seized and motionless.

Apart from three new moths and one new bee (new for me that is not new to science), I have read a great book by Prof Alice Roberts, ‘The Incredible Unlikeliness of Being: Evolution and the Making of Us’. ISBN-10: 1848664796, ISBN-13: 978-1848664791.

The moths in question were, Large Emerald (Geometra papilionaria), Four Spotted Footman (Lithosia quadra) and The Box Tree Moth (Cydalima perspectalis). Large emerald is the largest of the Emerald moths and is, as its name suggests, a vivid emerald green with pale lines running through the wings and pale delicate borders, and in the case of the individual in my trap on Friday morning, was sitting next to Orange Moth (Angerona prunaria), a photo I wish I had taken while in situ, to catch the striking contrast between the two, as the Orange moth promptly flew off once the trap was opened.

four_spotted_foot280615aThe second moth is the Four Spotted footman, again the largest of the Footman moths and with is striking yellow upper areas flanks with black lines and long brownish grey wings, it really is a good looking moth. Only the females have the spots and in some cases only three spots not four.








boxtree_moth250615aThe last moth, the Box Tree Moth, is the one that really relates to my opening comments in this post. When I first saw this moth in the trap, my thought was Clouded Border (Lomaspilis marginata). This conclusion although incorrect was based on what I already knew, which is why asking questions can provide you with some wonderful revelations.

The Clouded Border (if you do a quick google) is a varied moth and its border that gives the moth it’s name can be so different from moth to moth that you may think that you have two different species, its size too, but to a lesser degree, can vary, which also added to my initial mistake.

I popped the moth in one of my holding tubs, so I could photograph it later, and it was when putting the moth under the lens to snap, that I noticed the part of the moth that nudged me to check its credentials. The thorax and most of the abdomen were white and not black, and although I have said that the size can vary, but not to this degree. So I decided to check images online of Clouded Border to see if any individuals had white thorax and body, but there were none.


Identifying this moth was more down to luck than considered research. I just entered “white moth with black border europe” in google and scanned through the images. It was four rows down and two in from the left…”There it is”, I duly clicked on the image to take me to the source page.

It was made clear to me on this page, why I had not recognised the moth. It is an introduction from Asia, that first appeared in Europe (Germany) in 2006 and not in France or the UK till 2007.

So there is the lesson for us all. Ask questions!

Megachilidae280615bThe bee in question was one of the Leaf Cutter Bees ((Family: Megachilidae), not sure which one but will update when I am more sure. This was first heard by my wife as we sat in our garden, enjoying a jug of Pimm’s between us. She heard a crunching sound coming from our Juneberry Bush and turned to see this little critter cutting (and quickly too) a circle out of the leaf. It then turns on its back gathers the cut segment close to its body and wraps its legs round it, then it falls away to fly off with the piece of leaf.

After reading up on the Bee, I found that if we had caught it on an early trip, it would return for more, this being the case gave me the opportunity to photograph the bee on its return. These bees make a nest in tube like spaces in trees or buildings and create individual cells using the leaf segments for the young to develop in, and will make as many as the space will allow. If you get the chance to see this, it will not be time wasted, it is absolutely fascinating.

And now onto Prof Alice Robert’s book.

Writing science books must be one of the most difficult genres and writing them for the general public more so. But Alice Roberts has made it look easy. There are many books on evolution out there but this one takes you on the journey using the development of the human embryo and relating our evolutionary ancestry to each stage of that development.

Alice Robert’s book also put forward questions to us that the science community are too asking of existing hypothesise, which again echo’s my opening remarks. We must continue to question what we already think we know to be true.

If you have over the last week been watching and enjoyed ‘Your Inner Fish’ with Neil Shubin on BBC Four or BBC iPlayer you will enjoy this book.

Happy birding,

an english birder in france

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