Chimney Sweeper, Maiden’s Blush, Peach Blossom. British moths have some fantastic English names. There’s also the Drinker, the Conformist, the Sprawler, the Phoenix, and the Saxon.
Such enchanting names are at the root of the ever-growing
popularity of moth trapping. They capture our imagination and stick in our
minds. Who wouldn’t be fascinated by creatures with names like Brindled Beauty,
Plumed Prominent, Feathered Footman, or Marbled Minor?
But not all are blessed with a common name. The majority of British Lepidoptera are known only by their scientific denomination. Many of these don’t exactly roll off the tongue (try Schreckensteinia festaliella or Ptycholomoides aeriferanus). Some are even longer than the insect itself. So why do so many species lack an English name? Is this something we should rush to rectify?
Why do we do it? It consumes countless hours of our lives. It must cost millions. Every hedge neatly trimmed, every verge carefully mown, every ‘weed’ meticulously eradicated. Obsessive Tidiness Disorder (OTD) is everywhere – and it’s choking our wildlife.
Serendipity plays a pretty important role in scientific advances. It was involved in the discovery of penicillin, microwaves and x-rays. And now, it seems a bunch of old moth scales can be added to that list.
Scientists drilling cores from lake sediments in Germany – hoping to learn about past ecosystems from ancient pollen grains – recently stumbled across a profusion of tiny scales from moth wings. This is significant as the sediments are a whopping 200 million years old, making it the earliest appearance of moths and butterflies in the fossil record.
Widely-reported research has led some to suggest we are “on course for ecological Armageddon”. Behind these headlines: an analysis of a German dataset spanning nearly three decades, which detected a 76 percent plummet in biomass of flying insects. So is now the time to build our apocalypse bunkers?
Insects play a unique role across terrestrial habitats. They form the base of most food chains and provide vital services, such as pollination. Their sensitivity to environmental change makes them the ‘canary in the coal mine’.
If the research findings from Germany are representative of wider insect populations across Europe, the implications for ecosystems and human wellbeing are likely to be catastrophic.
Phew! After a couple of days battling with PHP and trawling through CSS code, I have finally added a blog to my website. Please let me know if you spot any awry formatting or if something doesn’t work as it should!
I’m not exactly sure how I’m going to use this space yet but do check back – I’ll try to post something once every month or two.
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