Sunday, June 7, 2009

Chandos Road, Ampthill

Imagine my excitement looking into the moth-trap this morning after a cold and wet night to find a new species amongst the paltry sum of 4 individual moths - my first ever Peppered Moth (Biston betularia)! It's the large white speckled specimen in the photo to the right of the Dark Arches.

OK, so it's common....but this was the first time I'd come across a moth in the flesh that I'd studied on the page for years! You, too, probably remember examining photos of light moths and dark moths in your biology textbooks, dramatically illustrating so-called natural selection. The moth in my photo is the form typica which was common hundreds of years ago, its speckled colouration helping it to blend in with crustose lichens on the trees where it spends its days resting and, thus, out of sight of hungry birds searching for a tasty morsel! But, as the Industrial Revolution progressed and trees became covered in soot and the like, these moths were easily spotted and consumed with relish. And so the typica form declined but, conversely, the dark carbonaria form flourished.

These days morpha typica far outnumbers morpha carbonaria once more, a sign that, in the midst of our fears regarding the environment, things really can change. And so it was with a sense of hope that I released Biston betularia f. typica back into the garden this evening.

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